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Table 1 Advantages and disadvantages of the main database formats for evidence syntheses

From: Novel tools and methods for designing and wrangling multifunctional, machine-readable evidence synthesis databases

data.format Advantages Disadvantages
Condensed Easier to read and navigate (smaller, easier to scan, fits in a manuscript)
Easy to enter data into
Easy to understand (nested columns show relationships)
No unnecessary blank spaces (avoids confusion)
Cannot be fed directly into visualisation or analysis
Difficult to convert to wide or long format
Easier to make/mask errors because of compressed information
Cannot link multiple values across columns
Cannot filter by multiple cell values
Wide Avoids repeated information
Easier to understand from a review perspective (one line per study)
May feel easier to fill in (left-to-right)
Easy to filter
Easy to convert to long format
Requires careful naming conventions to demonstrate column nesting
May be difficult to understand columns
Lots of blank spaces
Difficult to read on a landscape screen
Requires wrangling for most visualisations and data analysis
Long Easier to read than wide
Designed for immediate visualisation and data analysis
Easy to filter
Easier to understand columns than wide format
Easy to convert to wide format
Contains considerable repetition
Difficult to read and navigate
May be harder to fill in (requires a lot of scrolling)
Does not require complex naming conventions (no nesting)
No unnecessary blank spaces
Wide-and-long Combines the advantages of both wide and long
Enables between and within variable comparison
Computationally efficient
Closer to a conventional human readable table, as shown in Fig. 1
Embedded variables can be difficult to extract
Embedded variables are frequently time consuming to extract