The Hartung-Knapp modification for random-effects meta-analysis: A useful refinement but are there any residual concerns?

04 Sep 2017

The modified method for random-effects meta-analysis, usually attributed to Hartung andKnapp and also proposed by Sidik and Jonkman, is easy to implement and is becoming advocated for general use. Here, we examine a range of potential concerns about the widespread adoption of this method. Motivated by these issues, a variety of different conventions can be adopted when using the modified method in practice. We describe and investigate the use of a variety of these conventions using a new taxonomy ofmeta-analysis datasets.We conclude that the Hartung and Knapp modificationmay be a suitable replacement for the standard method. Despite this, analysts who advocate the modified method should be ready to defend its use against the possible objections to it that we present. We further recommend that the results from more conventional approaches should be used as sensitivity analyses when using the modified method. It has previously been suggested that a common-effect analysis should be used for this purpose but we suggest amending this recommendation and argue that a standard random-effects analysis should be used instead.