Survey and consultations policy

An official Cochrane policy. Last updated September 2016.

Introduction

This survey policy ensures that surveys and virtual consultations conducted in Cochrane do not over-burden Cochrane’s core stakeholders; do not duplicate data collection conducted through other surveys and consultations; and that outcomes are disseminated and used appropriately.

The guiding principle is that surveys and consultations will be approved if they support Cochrane’s mission, and do not duplicate information that has been sought elsewhere.

Definitions

Survey
A survey is a defined set of questions in order to gather information about a particular topic.

Virtual consultation
In Cochrane’s context, a virtual consultation is an invitation to review a document or proposal sent via email or published online, and provide feedback by email, online, at a teleconference and/or webinar.

Rationale for developing this policy

Cochrane – its contributors, Groups, and Central Executive Team – undertake and participate in numerous surveys and consultations. These help to provide an empirical basis for management initiatives, strategic planning, decision-making, and research projects. To date they have been conducted on an ad-hoc basis and no formal coordination has existed. However, an increase in their number and the associated impact on people’s time in responding to them, the importance of the correct dissemination of results, and interrelationships between them, has resulted in a requirement for centralized coordination and the development of a formal survey policy.

Scope of the policy

Surveys and consultations within the scope of this policy

All surveys and virtual consultations created or sponsored by registered Cochrane contributors, Groups, Committees, Executives and/or the Central Executive Team that are designed for the Cochrane Community are within the scope of this policy. This includes requests for respondents to comment on things like new documents or policies. Exemptions are listed below.

Please note that surveys to other members of a Cochrane email list (e.g. centres@lists.cochrane.org) are within the scope of this policy.

Surveys and consultations outside the scope of this policy

  • Surveys to, or consultations with, other members of the same Cochrane Group, Committee or Executive. In those cases, the head of the relevant Group, Committee, or Executive must approve the survey.
  • Surveys to, or consultations with, other members of the same informal working group, consultation group, or project team.
  • Feedback surveys from participants of training courses and other Cochrane events.
  • Face-to-face consultations at Cochrane events (although virtual consultations in preparation for these events are within scope).

Market research surveys from external parties are not permitted in Cochrane.

Permission to release a survey or virtual consultation

How to seek approval

All surveys and consultations within the scope of this policy must now be registered and approved by the Communications and External Affairs Department of the Cochrane Central Executive.

Requests should be submitted at least five (5) working days before you wish your survey or consultation to be released, including the following information about it:

  • Short summary of what it is about
  • Information about who is running it
  • Information about who should complete it
  • Information about where and when the results or outcomes will be made available
  • Closing date
  • Links to supporting documents and the survey or consultation itself


Decisions to approve, reject, or delay

Surveys and consultations will generally be approved if they support Cochrane’s mission and are within the scope of this policy. However, they may be rejected if they duplicate information requested from respondents elsewhere. They may also be delayed if there are too many concurrent surveys and consultations active in the community. Decisions will be taken by the Communications & External Affairs Department in consultation with the survey applicant. The final decision rests with the Chief Executive Officer.

Only surveys or consultations that are issued on behalf of the Governing Board (formerly the Steering Group), CEO, and/or Editor in Chief, relating to Cochrane’s governance or core business, can be categorized as mandatory for respondents to complete.

Communication routes

Communication of all surveys and virtual consultations will now be coordinated by the Communications and External Affairs Department (CEAD). Emails are not permitted to be sent individually to the Group email lists (e.g. centres@lists.cochrane.org). From now on, only surveys or consultations that are issued on behalf of the Board of Trustees, CEO, and/or Editor in Chief, relating to Cochrane’s governance or core business, will occasionally feature on the Group email lists if deemed necessary.

Instead, your survey or consultation will be published on the Cochrane Community site as a news item and/or will feature in the monthly round-up of surveys on the site, and on Cochrane’s social media channels. Depending on the targeted audience, it may also be published in the Review & Methods Digest and/or Centre & Fields Digest, and one of Cochrane’s various newsletters.