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The policy for withdrawing published Cochrane Reviews was updated on 19 August 2019.

What has been updated?

Cochrane’s policy on withdrawing published Cochrane Reviews has been updated and now makes it clear that Cochrane Reviews should be withdrawn only in exceptional circumstances, for example, if there is a concern about the conduct or reporting of the Cochrane Review. These include: serious error(s) in the review; confirmed serious error as a direct result of the retraction of an included study; scientific misconduct in the review; or a serious breach of Cochrane’s conflict of interest policy.

Protocols for Cochrane Reviews may be withdrawn for the above reasons or because it is out of date, new authors are needed to progress the protocol and review, or because the protocol has been split into or merged with other protocols.

Why was the policy changed?

The previous version of the policy allowed for published Cochrane Reviews to be withdrawn for many different reasons, ranging from the review being split into two or more reviews, to notifying that the review is being updated, and to investigate errors in the review. Reflecting on these reasons and the fact that each withdrawal generates a new citation (and therefore a new entry in PubMed, for example), it became clear that we needed to restrict the use of withdrawal for particular reasons and only as an exception. There are other approaches that editorial teams can use to manage situations not covered by the new policy, such as the Updating Classification System that is being rolled out.

The updated policy has a complementary section on editorial management of withdrawing published Cochrane Reviews, which includes both the new steps to follow and information about the display of published withdrawn Cochrane Reviews.

What does this mean for editorial teams?

Editorial teams need to be familiar with the updated policy and when to use the withdrawn status for Cochrane Reviews. There is a new section in the EPPR specifically for editorial teams. A key change in this section is that there are now five steps that must be followed when considering withdrawing a Cochrane Review: (1) notify authors; (2) draft the withdrawn statement; (3) approval from Network Senior Editor; and (4) notify the Editorial & Methods Department; and (5) withdraw the review.

All five steps apply for Cochrane Reviews and protocols for Cochrane Reviews, although editorial teams can apply only steps 1, 2, and 5 if a protocol is withdrawn because it is out of date, new authors are needed, or because the protocol has been split into or merged with other protocols.

What does this mean for authors?

Authors should be familiar with the new policy and understand the reasons for withdrawing Cochrane Reviews. As set out in the steps for withdrawing a published Cochrane Review, the author team (via the contact author and copied to all co-authors) will be notified of the intention to withdraw the Cochrane Review – and be given the opportunity for discussion (unless authors are not contactable) before proceeding with publication of the withdrawn statement.

Where can I find more information?

There are three section of the Cochrane Editorial and Publishing Policy Resource relevant to withdrawing published Cochrane Reviews, and these should be checked for the latest updates:

The policy also includes additional information about withdrawing protocols for Cochrane Reviews

The Cochrane Editorial and Publishing Policy Resource (EPPR) has moved to new site and has been reorganized and updated. It is available to view this new URL: https://documentation.cochrane.org/display/EPPR.

What’s new?

The scope of the EPPR was broad (with information about the Cochrane Library, Archie, etc), and this has been modified to focus on the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews only. This means that following the content audit (and decision to keep, delete, update, or move each page), we made several changes to the EPPR. Changes – current and going forward – are logged in the new version histories page.

The new structure brings in some changes:

  • Policies are separated into five groups:
    • Pre-submission: those policies that apply to proposals for Cochrane Reviews and the preparation of Cochrane Reviews and other Cochrane content before the articles are submitted for editorial review.
    • Submission to publication: those policies relevant to Cochrane content between submission for editorial review and up to publication.
    • After publication: those policies relevant to articles after publication.
    • General editorial policies: those policies applicable throughout the preparation of articles before publication.
    • General publishing policies: general publishing policies and related information.
  • Editorial management information is in a separate section: we have separated out all policy information from supporting implementation guidance information specific to Cochrane editorial teams.

The more substantive content changes are as follows:

  • Policy for withdrawing Cochrane Reviews: updated to reflect that Cochrane Reviews should only be withdrawn under exceptional circumstances (i.e. for reasons other than those that can be described using the Updating Classification System), for example, if there is a concern about the conduct or reporting of the Cochrane Review.
  • Serious errors policy: definition of serious errors revised to include factual errors in describing one or more included studies; the process has been revised to direct notification to the Editor in Chief who will work with the Co-ordinating Editor and Network Senior Editor concerned.  
  • Peer review policy: all information relating to the implementation phase has been removed; and a new section on the process for exceptions to named peer review has been added.
  • Network Senior Editors are now included in policies: following the review of the EPPR content, we identified those policies and pages where Network Senior Editors (or Associate Editors) needed to be included, for example, to escalate issues instead of escalating directly to the Editor in Chief.
  • Review proposal forms: updated and revised to include information on conflict of interest declarations, data protection, and storage of forms.

Redirects

Redirects have been put in place for all pages from the previous site so users will be moved to the current location if they have a link on a website or use a bookmark, for example.

Queries and support

For comments, queries, or suggestions for changes, contact Harriet MacLehose (hmaclehose@cochrane.org), Senior Editor and Head of Editorial Policy and Publication Unit, Editorial & Methods Department.

For support in implementing the policies and practices, Managing Editors can contact the Managing Editor Support team (mesupport@cochrane.org).