A rapid review of meta-analyses and systematic reviews of environmental footprints of food commodities and diets

Systematic reviews, sometimes including meta-analyses, are often presented as an approach for identifying healthy and sustainable diets. Here we explore to which extent systematic review protocols have been adopted by studies comparing environmental impacts of foods based on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) results, and to which extent they comply with the PRISMA protocol for transparent reporting. Out of 224 studies screened, seven explicitly define themselves…

Measures of difference and significance in the era of computer simulations, meta-analysis, and big data

In traditional research, repeated measurements lead to a sample of results, and inferential statistics can be used to not only estimate parameters, but also to test statistical hypotheses concerning these parameters. In many cases, the standard error of the estimates decreases (asymptotically) with the square root of the sample size, which provides a stimulus to probe large samples. In simulation models, the situation is entirely…

Spurious Certainty: How Ignoring Measurement Error and Environmental Heterogeneity May Contribute to Environmental Controversies

Disputes over conflicting information from different studies play a prominent role in many environmental controversies. Rather than resulting from flawed or fraudulent science, we suggest that conflicting findings may often result from the complex nature of environmental systems and the limitations of our analytical tools. Using heuristic simulation examples, we show how environmental heterogeneity and limitations in our ability to measure and model environmental systems…

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