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In this blog interview Dr Nicola Lindson shares with us which living systematic review that she’s led or been involved in she would choose to take with her to read, if she was stranded on a desert island.

A photograph of a beautiful desert island with palm trees, white sands, turquoise sea and deep blue sea, superimposed with a close-up picture of a woman smoking an e-cigarette. Only part of her face is showing.

Can you introduce yourself and share your role in the MSc EBHC (Systematic Reviews) programme?

Hi my name is Nicola Lindson and I’m the lead of the Oxford Tobacco Addiction Group (OxTAG), based within the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences. I am the module coordinator for the in-person runs of the Systematic Reviews module of the MSc in Evidence-Based Health Care. I am a member of the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group and was their managing editor between 2015 and 2023. I have also been a trainer for Cochrane UK. Therefore, I have a long history of carrying out systematic reviews and helping others to complete theirs.

If you were stranded on a "Desert Island", which systematic review that you have led or been involved in might you take with you to read?
I would take the Cochrane Review ‘Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation’, published in the Cochrane Library.

What type of review is it?
This review is a living systematic intervention review. The review was first published in the Cochrane Library in 2014 (before I was part of the author team) and in 2020 our team converted the review to a living systematic review (LSR). This means that we now conduct our searches and screening monthly and trigger a full update of the review when we find evidence that will change the interpretation of our conclusions. We have published four updates of the review in the last three and a half years and are in the process of drafting another update.

Why did you choose this review?
In large part because I wouldn’t get bored. If my amazing team mates could keep updating and screening the searches each month and get the monthly results through to me somehow (satellite phone? sky writing? carrier pigeon? presuming I wouldn’t have Wi-Fi to access our website) then I could keep on top of the new evidence.

What does your review show?
Our review provides high certainty evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes (or vapes) can help more people stop smoking for at least six months than nicotine replacement therapy. There is not clear evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes are associated with serious unwanted effects, but more data is needed at longer follow-ups (current longest follow-up two years).

What do you particularly enjoy about the review?
I really enjoy working with the other members of the review team (both here in the department and elsewhere). We are a team that are passionate about what we do and have developed clear strategies for managing the LSR process quickly and smoothly (we even published a paper on our experiences).

Due to the high clinical and policy relevance of the topic the findings are always in high demand and have generated substantial impact. It is great to work on something with such quick and important influence. It reminds me of the importance of the work we do.

Reflecting on your review, what one learning would you offer individuals completing a systematic review for the first time?
Think through why you are doing the review, who your audience are and how you are going to communicate the findings. Our LSR is funded by Cancer Research UK and a whole section of our project proposal was dedicated to dissemination. One of the things we proposed at the application stage was a monthly podcast, ‘Let’s Talk E-cigarettes’. When we were awarded the grant we had a momentary panic about needing to deliver it, but we worked it out (Jamie Hartmann-Boyce has become a great interviewer and Ailsa Butler a slick podcast producer) and it has become a really useful way to get the message out to members of the public, with over 9,000 listeners in more than 53 countries.

Finally, if you were stranded on a "Desert Island" and about to read your review, what one food or drink treat would you bring with you?
I think I would really struggle to live without pasta and a good cup of tea. There are definitely fancier things I could choose but when stranded on a desert island it’s got to be all about the home comforts!

You can learn more about the MSc EBHC (Systematic Reviews) programme through the dedicated webpage or by contacting

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CEBM as a group.