Social network analysis identified central outcomes for core outcome sets using systematic reviews of HIV/AIDS

Ian J. Saldanha, Tianjing Li, Cui Yang, Cesar Ugarte-Gil, George W. Rutherford, Kay Dickersin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives Methods to develop core outcome sets, the minimum outcomes that should be measured in research in a topic area, vary. We applied social network analysis methods to understand outcome co-occurrence patterns in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/AIDS systematic reviews and identify outcomes central to the network of outcomes in HIV/AIDS. Study Design and Setting We examined all Cochrane reviews of HIV/AIDS as of June 2013. We defined a tie as two outcomes (nodes) co-occurring in ≥2 reviews. To identify central outcomes, we used normalized node betweenness centrality (nNBC) (the extent to which connections between other outcomes in a network rely on that outcome as an intermediary). We conducted a subgroup analysis by HIV/AIDS intervention type (i.e., clinical management, biomedical prevention, behavioral prevention, and health services). Results The 140 included reviews examined 1,140 outcomes, 294 of which were unique. The most central outcome overall was all-cause mortality (nNBC = 23.9). The most central and most frequent outcomes differed overall and within subgroups. For example, "adverse events (specified)" was among the most central but not among the most frequent outcomes, overall. Conclusion Social network analysis methods are a novel application to identify central outcomes, which provides additional information potentially useful for developing core outcome sets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-175
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Core outcome sets
  • Outcomes
  • Randomized controlled trials
  • Social network analysis
  • Systematic reviews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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