The preparation and maintenance of high quality systematic reviews requires contributors with diverse competencies and skills, supported by staff from the editorial bases of Cochrane Review Groups (CRGs) and Centres. Cochrane is committed to encouraging wide participation in which the opportunities to contribute should be equally available to all. In practice, reconciling the Cochrane’s principles of inclusivity with the limited capacity of CRGs and Centres to offer open-ended support necessarily means that the CRGs have to be pragmatic when considering approaches from new review teams. For authors who are thinking about preparing a Cochrane Review, there needs to be clear information about what is expected of them in terms of skills and competencies, and in return what they can expect from CRGs and Centres by way of training and support.
Accepting that there are considerable variations across CRGs and Centres and international settings, the following policy sets out the broad expectations of author teams, CRGs and Centres, and forms the basis of a ‘contract’ between authors, CRGs and Centres.
Cochrane Reviews have to be prepared by at least two people, and often may require more than two. A team must have among its members the range of skills and experience in order to complete a Cochrane Review to the standard required by Cochrane and that the users of Cochrane Reviews have come to expect. These skills and experience include:
In addition, all authors of a review team should:
The named Contact Person should:
The review team should be aware of its limitations, be willing to receive and respond to suggestions from the CRG editorial team and referees, be willing and able to see the review through to completion, and to address updates.
To help authors, once a title has been accepted and registered, Cochrane provides a range of training covering the steps involved in preparing a Cochrane Review (e.g. online learning, workshops and webinars). This does not mean Cochrane has the resources or capacity to provide open-ended support to teams of novice review authors; authors are still expected to be familiar with the principles of systematic reviewing and to demonstrate that they have the capacity to complete a review.
Despite support and encouragement, sometimes review teams struggle to make sufficient progress with their review, or they submit draft versions that would require too much input from the CRG editorial team to meet acceptable standards. In these circumstances, the CRG may decide to withdraw the review from the authors, citing concerns over quality and the capacity of the review team to complete the review.
It should be recognized that throughout the process of review preparation (be it at the title registration, protocol or review stage) the review could be taken out of the editorial process due to concerns about quality that cannot be resolved.
CRG editorial teams should provide details on their website of the support they can provide to their review teams. The support provided may vary from CRG to CRG and may change over time as the CRG matures or circumstances change. CRGs need to ensure that their limited resources are used to the maximum benefit of the users and funders of the CRG, so that decisions in relation to prioritization of reviews are inevitable.
CRG editorial teams should:
Cochrane Centres and Associate Centres provide different types of training to review authors, either formally through courses, workshops and webinars, or informally through individual support. Differences in the resources available at Centres and Associate Centres mean that the level and volume of training and support on offer varies considerably. Despite these differences in capacity, Centres and Associate Centres are expected to provide a minimum level of support. For example, some authors may require additional help in navigating Cochrane processes, especially if they are from countries where systematic reviews are less familiar or English is not their first language. Likewise, if there are communication issues or disputes between author teams and CRGs, then Centres and Associate Centres should offer to mediate.
In respect of training and support, as a minimum Centres and Associate Centres should: