The Cochrane Collaboration’s mission statement is to make up-to-date, accurate information about the effects of health care readily available worldwide. In pursuit of this, there may be circumstances where in order to achieve the widest possible dissemination and impact of review findings it is desirable to pursue ‘co-publication’ in other and appropriate journals. The co-publication of Cochrane Reviews in journals should, however, be the exception rather than the rule and, as such, this policy document details the steps that need to be taken to ensure acceptable co-publication.
The underlying principles that need to govern this include the following:
Honesty and transparency are crucial, both in relation to the editorial teams of the Cochrane Review Group (CRG), the review authors, and other journals, and also to inform the reader that different versions of the same data exist.
The needs of end users are the prevailing consideration but the wellbeing of the Collaboration, the Cochrane brand, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) are also crucial to any decision.
Cochrane Review authors and CRG editorial teams who have contributed to the development of a Cochrane Review should be involved in any decision-making in relation to co-publication.
The primary publication of a Cochrane Review (and subsequent updates) is usually in the CDSR; any exception to this would need agreement from the Editor in Chief.
Co-publication requires the permission of all the authors on the by-line of the Cochrane Review.
Solutions need to be consistent with the guidance of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), particularly the section on overlapping publication (accessed 18 September 2017).
When is a Cochrane Review submitted for publication in the CDSR?
The ICMJE considers it to be unethical to submit an article to a journal when it is already being considered for publication elsewhere. Cochrane Reviews are considered as submitted for publication in the CDSR once the decision has been made to publish the Protocol. This is made clear in the formal letter sent to authors upon signing the ‘licence for publication’ form for the Protocol (letters to be sent from 1 January 2011). This letter, from the Editor in Chief of the Cochrane Library, indicates that authors are not free from that point to send their Cochrane Review to another journal without permission from the CRG’s Co-ordinating Editor and the Editor in Chief of the Cochrane Library. CRGs commit to keeping authors in touch with the development and editorial processing of their Cochrane Review when it has been submitted to the editorial team, and to responding to queries from authors in a timely fashion. If CRGs fail to meet this commitment to communicate appropriately, then authors may be in the position to justify a release from the agreement to publish in CDSR.
Format of a co-published article
The standard format for co-publication of a Cochrane Review is an abridged version, and the co-publication of a complete Cochrane Review would be an exceptional circumstance. It is likely that a co-publishing journal will request that the abridged version of the Cochrane Review is peer reviewed and edited according to the journal’s editorial process, and it is possible that the authors will receive additional edits or feedback as part of this process. If appropriate, authors of the Cochrane Review should take these changes into account in the next update of the Cochrane Review. If, during the journal peer review process, authors are asked to change the way they present the review data (e.g. the results and/or conclusions change) in comparison to the CDSR version, the authors should discuss this with the CRG (and Editor in Chief of the Cochrane Library, if necessary).