Project news Meet the people behind the systematic literature review
The purpose of the first Work Package within EUROqCHARM is to review state-of-the-art procedures for sample collection, sample preparation, analysis and quantification of plastics from environmental samples. The review will lead to identifying the best repeatable matrix- and size- adapted methods for each of the steps named above, or Reproducible Analytical Pipelines (RAPs) in EUROqCHARM jargon. The data needed to reach these goals come from a systematic literature review, covering all studies related to monitoring plastic pollution across the globe. Given the extent of plastic pollution, and the steep increase in public and scientific interest during the last decade, that turned out to be a gargantuan task.
During a workshop in Copenhagen at the beginning of October, some of the scientists involved in the literature review shared their progress, challenges and plans for further work.
Meet the scientists who are reviewing the literature and the topics they are focussing on:
Macrolitter on shorelines and microplastics in sediments
Jakob Strand and his team focused on macrolitter on shorelines and microplastics in sediments, which accounted for about 660 papers. From these papers, all methodological information was meticulously extracted and compiled in a database. That process required coordination within the group of 10 readers, and with the other groups of readers working with other compartments. The bigger the amount of papers and readers, the more reader bias that had to be - and was - avoided. Remaining issues were addressed during the workshop, but the database is essentially ready for statistical analyses. Even without statistics, the inventory of this subset of papers already uncovers one methodological element that will definitely impact EUROqCHARM and its outcomes: the need for an unequivocal and logical definition of size classes. Some papers use mesh sizes of sieves, others use actual measurements, and in some cases the lower size limit is not defined. These comparisons need to be aligned, and this will undoubtedly constitute an important element in the analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) associated to each of the identified Reproducible Analytical Pipelines and development of recommendations to policy makers and standardization bodies.