Cochrane announces a pilot fast-track service
The research landscape has changed since Cochrane’s inception in 1993, and there are now many more experienced evidence synthesis researchers. The lengthy review development process is sometimes cited as a key reason why such researchers publish their reviews elsewhere, rather than with Cochrane. As part of the Structure & Function Review, the Governing Board has asked the Cochrane Editorial Unit (CEU) to look at ways to speed up publication of high-quality, high-impact reviews, written by capable and experienced Cochrane author teams. We will do this by piloting a fast track editorial process for specific, high-quality review submissions. We also hope that this approach will reduce Cochrane Review Group (CRG) workload, and improve author experience for our strongest author teams.
For more information, please read further below or contact Karla Soares-Weiser, Deputy Editor in Chief
Who are our target participants?
We plan to work with experienced author teams who are familiar with the Cochrane standards and processes. Editorial tasks will be managed centrally, in collaboration with CRGs.
Criteria for reviews
Standard intervention reviews are our main target, but we will accept other types of reviews as long as the author team have the required methodological expertise. Reviews must be written in English, submitted in RevMan, adhere to the Cochrane Style Manual and comply fully with the MECIR standards. Author teams should include methodologists and content experts in the field of the review topic (for example health professionals or informed consumers). At least one member of the team, either the lead or contact author, should be an experienced Cochrane author. Submitted reviews should be accompanied by a research protocol, which may be - but does not need to be - a published Cochrane protocol. Non-Cochrane protocols must clearly state the research question, inclusion criteria and methods to conduct the review and provide sufficient detail to demonstrate that the protocol is consistent with the MECIR conduct standards for protocols. Non-Cochrane protocols must be pre-registered in PROSPERO and may have been published elsewhere. The review topic area must be relevant for Cochrane, with clear justification of relevance to one or more external stakeholders. Submitted reviews should require minor or no amendments. Any review requiring significant methodological revisions will be rejected.
The Cochrane Fast-Track Service proposal contains more information about the pilot, including further detail on the author and review criteria, workflow, timeline and planned evaluation.
Questions & Answers
1. Who is going to do the work of reviewing and vetting submitted reviews?
There will be an initial in-house screening by the CEU screening team. If the manuscript is of publishable standard and high methodological quality, it will be submitted for peer review.
Peer review will be coordinated centrally. Peer review for methods will be conducted by a consultant methodologist for the pilot, and peer review for content will be conducted externally and in consultation with CRGs (see Q5).
2. Who will establish the criteria for acceptance/rejection?
The CEU has established a rejection policy for reviews entering this pilot, which can be found in Appendix 3 of the proposal. The threshold for acceptance of these reviews is be high, and submitted reviews should require minor or no revision in order to be accepted for peer review. Any review requiring significant methodological revisions will be rejected.
3. Who has final authority to accept or reject a review (i.e. the CEU or the CRG)?
At each stage of the editorial process the CEU and CRG will reach a decision to accept or reject a review collaboratively, based on the recommendations of the CEU screening team or peer referees. The final decision on acceptance or rejection of a review will usually rest with the Co-ordinating Editor of the CRG although as for all Cochrane Reviews final responsibility sits with the Editor in Chief, who retains the right to veto publication if the manuscript does not meet the required standard.
4. Who will lead on working with author teams to make any required revisions?
The CRG will lead on working with author teams to make any amendments proposed by the methodological or content peer referees.
5. Who will oversee peer review?
The editorial process, including peer review, will be managed through the Review Development workflow in Archie by Helen Wakeford (CEU Editor). However, content peer referees will be selected in collaboration with the CRG, who may wish to identify suitable peer referees or vet those selected by the CEU.
6. What are the expected qualifications of author teams?
Author teams should include methodologists and content experts in the field of the review topic (for example health professionals or informed consumers). At least one member of the team, including either the lead or contact author, should be an experienced Cochrane author.
7. How will the editorial process work?
The editorial process for each pilot review will be managed centrally, in close collaboration with the relevant CRG. For a detailed description of the editorial process, please see the full proposal, including the Terms of Reference in Appendix 2.
8. What happens to a review that is rejected from the Fast-Track pilot?
This is a decision for the CRG. The CRG may decide that they want to continue working with the author team and publish through the standard editorial process. They may also decide to reject the review.
9. Can a review that already has a published Cochrane protocol enter the Fast-Track Service?
Yes, we accept reviews with both Cochrane and non-Cochrane protocols, as long as they meet the criteria described in the Fast-Track Service paper.