Cochrane Collaboration

Steering Group Minutes, March 1999


Minutes of Meeting of Cochrane Collaboration Steering Group
Freiburg, 14-15 March 1999

[These minutes were approved by the Steering Group Executive on 23rd April 1999]

Index to Minutes (alphabetical)

Ambassador, Proposal for a CCSG
Business Development Manager/Director of Development
CENTRAL/CCTR management plan
Cochrane journal, proposal for a
Cochrane Library, permission for SAFRICC to be a subscription agent
Cochrane Manual Group
Cochrane Reviews, titles
Cochrane Reviews, abstracts
Cochrane Reviews, citation for
Cochrane Reviews, conflict and ownership of
Cochrane Reviews, copy editing
Contact Directory
Co-ordinating Editors
CRGs, workload at editorial bases
Criticism Management Group
Consumer synopses
CRG modules, new
Entities, changing names of
Entities, charitable status for
Entities, modules for those that cease to exist
Entities, monitoring
Fields, changing name to Networks
Finances, Collaboration
Methods Groups, changing name to Methods Groups
Module deadlines
RevMan 4.0, beta testing of
Software Development Group
Steering Group, elections to
Steering Group, report from the Chair of
Steering Group, role of
Steering Group, structure, remit and membership of its sub-groups
Targets for the next two years
Update Software, agreement with

APPENDIX to Item 14 [Targets for the next two years]

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Minutes of Meeting of Cochrane Collaboration Steering Group,
Freiburg, 14-15 March 1999

Present: Zarko Alfirevic, Gerd Antes, Hilda Bastian, Mike Clarke (afternoon of 15th March only), Monica Fischer, Gill Gyte, Jini Hetherington (minutes), Peter Langhorne, Mark Lodge, Andy Oxman (Chair), Bev Shea, Jimmy Volmink, Chris Williams (14th March only).

In attendance: Phil Alderson (afternoon of 15th March only), Malcolm Newdick, Mark Starr (afternoon of 15th March only).

1. Welcomes, apologies, agreement on agenda: Andy welcomed everyone to the meeting. Apologies for absence had been received from Lisa Bero, Mike Clarke, and Paul Jones.

2. Matters arising from previous minutes of 20-25 October 1998: None.

3. The Structure, remit and membership of the Steering Group's sub-groups: The tabled document was amended, and should be included in the Cochrane Manual.
Action: Andy, Jini

4. Role of the Steering Group: It was reconfirmed that the Steering Group's remit is taking policy and strategic decisions, and it should devolve as much responsibility as possible for implementation and management. Chris was thanked for his paper, reminding the Steering Group of their remit.

5. Proposal for a CCSG Ambassador: Andy agreed to ask Muir to act as an Ambassador for the Collaboration. Both this and the position of Ombudsman are not time-limited. Jini agreed to check into Muir's role as Company Secretary, to ensure that there is no conflict between these two roles.
Action: Andy, Jini

6. Titles, abstracts, copy editing, methodological editing and RevMan 4.0:

6.1 Titles: It was agreed that Iain Chalmers' suggestions for improving the titles of reviews should become policy. Ensuring that titles adhere to the guidelines is an editorial team responsibility and titles should be got right prospectively. Hilda agreed to check with Rachel Stancliffe about looking at whether the recommended title changes have been implemented. Andy will ask Iain Chalmers if he would be willing to check the suitability of titles prospectively.
Action: Hilda, Andy

6.2 Abstracts: There was a vote of thanks to those who contributed to the effort to edit all of the abstracts for completed reviews for Issue 2 of this year, particularly Philippa Middleton and Hilda Bastian, and staff at the Norwegian branch of the Nordic Cochrane Centre. The Australasian Cochrane Centre's offer to complete retrospective editing of abstracts for already published reviews was gratefully acknowledged. It was agreed that this offer should be presented to each CRG before editing a CRG's abstracts and that agreement should be reached between the CRG and the Australasian Centre regarding the editing process and its timing before proceeding. If major problems are identified in the abstracts of CRGs that do not accept the Australasian Centre's offer, this should be brought up with the appropriate Centre Director or the Comments and Criticisms system should be used. The guidelines for editing abstracts should be finalised and included in the Reviewers' Handbook, after Mike Clarke has checked that they are consistent with the guidelines for copy editing reviews.
Action: Andy, Mike

6.3.1 Copy editing: Andy reported that he had surveyed CRG co-ordinating editors and review group co-ordinators and that the feedback on whether to centralise this process had been positive. There is a possibility that funding for this might come out of the proposal to have a Cochrane Journal, and the selling of reprints of Cochrane Reviews. Two processes have been proposed for implementing centralised editing. It was agreed that either one or both of these processes should be pilot tested. Andy was asked to pursue this with Update Software and the BMJ.
Action: Andy

6.3.2 Module deadlines: Chris and Bev agreed to draft a paper outlining the pros and cons of keeping or abandoning the module submission deadlines, consulting with CRGs and Lois Sims at Update Software. This should be on the agenda for the CCSG meeting in Rome.
Action: Chris, Bev

6.4 Methodological editing: Andy described the process undertaken by Ole Olsen and others, looking at methodological problems in reviews, which will be reported on in Rome. Bev has also been looking at the methodological quality of Cochrane Reviews and will report her findings in Rome. One outcome of these efforts will be a checklist for methodological errors that will be made available to CRG editorial teams. It is not yet clear what, if any, additional processes might be set up to assist CRG editorial teams to improve the methodological quality and content of their reviews. Andy will follow up on these efforts and report back at the next Steering Group meeting.
Action: Andy

6.5 RevMan 4.0: Monica reported that Update Software had not yet provided MetaView 4.0 for beta-testing as agreed, and no notice of this deadline not being met had been given. MetaView 4.0 beta should have been ready at the same time as RevMan 4.0 beta, which is already being beta-tested. If MetaView is not ready soon and properly beta-tested along with RevMan 4.0, it might be necessary to reschedule the introduction of RevMan 4.0. It was agreed to discuss this with Mark Starr (see item 23 below).
Action: Monica

6.6 Consumer synopses: Hilda will consult with Gill and Bev, and follow up with CRGs on the process for preparing synopses in conjunction with the introduction of RevMan 4.0, and make sure that CRG editorial teams are both clear over the options they have and happy with these options, as appears to be the case from previous communication that Hilda has had with CRGs.
Action: Hilda, Gill, Bev

7. New CRG modules: Monica reported on the review of draft CRG modules, and was congratulated for her work in co-ordinating this task.

8. Citation for Cochrane Reviews: It was agreed that the Co-ordinating Editors should have a face to face discussion on this before coming to a final decision. The primary decision to be made is whether to add an additional date to the citation indicating when the review was last updated. Related questions that need to be addressed were identified in the background document for this agenda item. It was agreed that the Co-ordinating Editors should not go over old ground in deciding on including an additional date in the citation, since a large effort went into reaching consensus on the current citation format. Chris will also consult with others who have expressed an interest in this issue or might contribute to its resolution, including the Centre Directors and the US National Library of Medicine.
Action: Chris

9. Changing names of entities:

9.1 Fields: Mark reported that all Fields had been asked whether they wished to change their entity name to Network, but none had expressed a wish to do so. However, the option for individual entities to use the term "Network" should be offered in the revised chapter on Fields in The Cochrane Manual. An entity might wish to do this if they thought that the term "Network" was more meaningful than "Field".
Action: Mark and Jini (when revising the Fields chapter)

9.2 Methods Groups: It was agreed that Methods Groups should be called 'Methods Groups' in future. This change should be reflected in the Collaboration's web pages and in the Cochrane Manual, and be disseminated to all entities and mentioned in Cochrane News.
Action: Jini

9.3 Collaborative Review Groups: It was agreed that Chris would check with the Co-ordinating Editors as to whether or not they wish to change 'Collaborative Review Groups' to 'Cochrane Review Groups'.
Action: Chris

10. Collaboration finances: Monica drew everyone's attention to the improved royalty payment for the last quarter. It was reported that 100,000 revenue per year in royalties could realistically be expected from now on, which is approximately 20,000 less than what is needed to cover the estimated costs of the Secretariat and the Steering Group. However, because largely conservative estimates have been made, it is anticipated that the Collaboration will break even this year.

11. Proposal for a Business Development Manager/Director of Development: There was general agreement on the need to establish a post for a Director of Development as outlined in the proposal that was tabled. The position should be advertised formally once adequate funding has been secured to guarantee a salary for the position for a minimum of two years. Currently funding is available for approximately one year's salary from the Norwegian branch of the Nordic Cochrane Centre. This does not include funds for travel or other operating costs: Andy is attempting to secure additional funding. If sufficient funds are found to meet the costs of the position, the advertisement should be placed in CCINFO, and sent to registered entities; the Executive of the Steering Group will be the appointment committee.
Action: Andy

12. Workload at CRG editorial bases:

12.1 Bev quoted spontaneous comments she had received from RGCs and Co-ordinating Editors about the magnitude of the current workload at CRG editorial bases. Zarko presented the problems associated with the expected increase in the numbers of reviews across all Groups. It was agreed that a principle should be adopted not to take on any new initiatives without considering the implications for CRGs and in proper consultation with them. This message should go out to CRGs. The CRG reps should monitor this.
Action: Andy, Bev, Chris, Paul, Peter, Zarko

12.2 A calendar should be put together to see how the various initiatives fit together and look at the timing of each, and whether any funding is needed. It was agreed that for any decisions taken that have implications for CRGs, the CRG reps should consider the resource implications before adding an item to the calendar.
Action: Bev, Chris, Paul, Peter, Zarko

12.3 It was agreed that past estimates of the staffing needs of Collaborative Review Groups do not adequately take account of the burden of keeping reviews up-to-date in addition to continuing to produce new reviews. Bev agreed to take the lead on the CRG reps looking at the inadequate staffing levels at editorial bases and to develop estimates of staffing needs at different stages of development.
Action: Bev, Chris, Paul, Peter, Zarko

12.4 Any new initiatives should be pilot tested before implementing them across CRGs. Acknowledgement of all the work that has been done, and of the difficulties, should be made in a statement of thanks from Andy. CCSG members should send ideas to Andy or Jini for improving email communication, which is a problem for most people in the Collaboration because of the amount of time required to keep up with this. Chris pointed out that we need new reviewers who can take on the maintenance and updating of existing reviews, to relieve the burden on people who are responsible for several reviews. Something should go in the next Cochrane News about these issues. There should also be a workshop at the Rome Colloquium to have a discussion about the workload of updating reviews.
Action: Andy

13. Collaboration Trading Company:

13.1 It is now possible for the Collaboration Trading Company to market items such as coffee mugs and watches with the Cochrane logo. It was agreed that this is unlikely to generate much revenue and that this option should be pursued with caution. Preliminary costings should be undertaken, and advance orders should be obtained, before entering into producing anything for sale. Ideas for promotional products or other revenue generating activities for the Trading Company should be sent to the Secretariat. A limit of 1,000 was set for investment in producing promotional items.

13.2 Andy reported on a possible Fifth Framework proposal being put together in collaboration with several European Cochrane Centres with the aim of developing and evaluating Internet-based information for patients. It is possible that this proposal could include a partnership between the Trading Company and the British Medical Journal, which could generate resources in the future.

13.3 The Trading Company Directors should be asked to produce a short description of the Trading Company for Cochrane News and the Cochrane Manual. Jini was asked to circulate the minutes of the first meeting of the Directors of the Trading Company to the whole Steering Group.
Action: Jini

14. Targets for the next two years: Targets for the next two years were discussed, and a preliminary list of targets was agreed. This list will be further revised over the coming months following consultation with others, and discussed again at the next Steering Group meeting (see Appendix).
Action: All

15. Modules for entities that cease to exist: It was agreed that there needs to be a process for notifying Update Software when an entity ceases to exist and will no longer be producing a module for The Cochrane Library . If this happens for a CRG, the module should be rewritten and a message should appear at the beginning to the effect that the search strategy is being retained in the module until it becomes obsolete. There should be a heading on The Cochrane Library under 'Collaborative Review Groups' (under 'About the Cochrane Collaboration'), such as "Areas not currently covered", to include CRGs that have ceased to exist as well as any identified areas not adequately covered by existing or possible CRGs. The Steering Group's Liaison Officer with Update Software, in consultation with the Monitoring and Registration Group Convenor, should take responsibility for notifying Update Software when an entity ceases to exist, and should give Update Software clear instructions in each case as to when a module should be removed or replaced.
Action: Monica, Lisa

16. Conflict and ownership of Cochrane Reviews:

16.1 There should be a clear policy statement about the ownership of Cochrane Reviews. Once a review goes into The Cochrane Library, the CRG editorial team has non-exclusive rights to the review. The editorial team can pull a review or transfer responsibility for a review, if this becomes necessary. Whenever possible, removal of a review should be avoided and decisions about reviews should be made collaboratively by the reviewers and the editorial team. Reviewers have the right to publish versions of Cochrane Reviews elsewhere and are encouraged to do so. If a review is removed from a CRG module, the reviewers maintain the right to publish a version of the review elsewhere. When a protocol or a review is pulled or a title is changed, this should be identified in The Library under the "What's New" heading until the next update of The Library. It should be possible in The Cochrane Library to locate old titles easily and find out what has happened to those reviews. Andy will prepare a draft policy statement addressing these issues and circulate this to the Steering Group and the Co-ordinating Editors. He also agreed to check with the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination to devise an expeditious process for including reviews pulled from The Library in DARE.
Action: Andy

16.2 Andy will write a letter to Dr Paul Hooper regarding his comments in the Proceedings of the Marlow Workshop 1997 on Guidelines for Clinical Practice in which he identifies inappropriate solicitation of funds by a Collaborative Review Group. This letter will be copied to the parties involved. Andy will also talk to the previous and current Co-ordinating Editors of the CRG in question.
Action: Andy

16.3 It was agreed that a section in The Cochrane Library should be developed about relationships between the Cochrane Collaboration and the pharmaceutical industry. This will include information about specific company policies on registering trials, handling requests for unpublished data, and handling requests for funding. This section will be prepared following consultation with both industry and Cochrane entities.
Action: Andy

17. Permission for a Cochrane Centre to be a subscription agent for The Cochrane Library: It was agreed in principle to support the possibility of the South African Cochrane Centre becoming a distributor of The Cochrane Library within its area of responsibility. This was due to problems encountered by those currently wishing to subscribe to The Cochrane Library in the region and is contingent on the South African Cochrane Centre not making a financial profit. This arrangement is an exception to the general policy of not allowing Cochrane entities to distribute The Cochrane Library. Jimmy was asked to put forward a proposal to the PPG after consulting with Mark Starr.
Action: Jimmy

18. Proposal for a Cochrane journal: There was general scepticism about the proposal that was put forward for a quarterly Cochrane journal published in partnership with the BMJ. Andy agreed to report this back to the BMJ and to consider developing a revised proposal, in the light of the reservations that had been expressed. The main concerns that were expressed were questioning the need for yet another journal, preferring that articles that might be published in a Cochrane journal could more effectively reach target audiences if they were published in existing journals, and that the journal might take resources away from producing Cochrane Reviews. The possibility of the BMJ producing and marketing reprints of Cochrane Reviews will be pursued separately. Update Software and the BMJ are currently investigating the technical aspects of this.
Action: Andy

19. Matters arising from subgroup and advisory group reports:

19.1 Cochrane Manual Group: It was agreed that it would be sensible to include a section on identifying trials, and to make the Manual more visible to users on The Cochrane Library after it is more complete and up-to-date.
Action: Mark

19.2 Criticism Management Group: It was agreed that Andy would write to Mildred Cho to investigate what activity has been undertaken by this Group, and offering help to get the Group going if needed.
Action: Andy

19.3 Software Development Group: It was agreed to invite Phil Wiffen to join this group.
Action: Monica

19.4 Report from the Chair: The Consumer Network should be involved in the current proposal to the Fifth Framework; Andy will provide details of the proposal to Hilda. He also agreed to take forward the Funders' Forum as soon as possible.
Action: Andy

20. CENTRAL/CCTR management plan: Andy raised concern that a year had gone by since the Steering Group had asked Kay Dickersin to form the CENTRAL/CCTR Advisory Group and to develop a management plan, and the management plan was still not ready. It was appreciated that Kay had borne a considerable burden through her involvement in the Baltimore Colloquium, and that she had also changed jobs and moved house during this time. It was agreed that Andy should negotiate with Kay deadlines for a plan on how to submit specialised registers, which should be ready in advance of the next issue of The Cochrane Library, and for the completed management plan, which should be ready within two to four months. If these deadlines cannot be agreed and met, the Executive will decide on further action.
Action: Andy

21. Steering Group elections: In response to requests from members of CRGs, it was agreed that the Review Group Co-ordinators only should vote for the person to represent them on the Steering Group. Bev reported that the Trials Search Co-ordinators have requested that the RGC representative should also represent them: the Steering Group agreed to this. It was also agreed that Co-ordinating Editors only should vote for the person to represent them. One of the three remaining places should be dedicated to a reviewer representative who has published a Cochrane Review and is not an editor. These are the only people who will vote for this position. This leaves two CRG positions at large. There is an expectation that CRG reps will consult with their constituencies and communicate in ways devised by them as a group. There should be written descriptions of responsibilities of positions on the Steering Group, which Andy and Jini agreed to draft and circulate for approval before the call for nominees at the end of March. It was agreed that women and non-UK-based people should be encouraged to stand for election because of the increasing number of UK-based men on the Steering Group and the potential for even fewer women and less international representation if this trend continues.
Action: Andy, Jini

22. Meetings at Colloquia:

22.1 Rome Colloquium: Whenever CCSG members are involved in workshops, these workshops should not be scheduled during the times that the CCSG is meeting. Jini will follow up on this with the organisers of the Colloquium.
Action: Jini

22.2 Cape Town Colloquium: It was agreed that the CCSG, RGCs', Co-ordinating Editors' and Centre Directors' meetings should be scheduled before the rest of the Colloquium is scheduled.
Action: Jimmy

22.3 Future Colloquia: The scheduling of the Consumer Network input and the number of plenary sessions should be taken into consideration in planning future Colloquia. Incoming members to the CCSG should know that they are expected to attend the two CCSG meetings a year, for the full time of the meetings, and will need to schedule in one day extra to the Colloquia.
Action: Jimmy, Jini

22.4 Future non-Colloquia meetings of the CCSG: In the year 2000, we have accepted the invitation of the San Antonio Cochrane Center to host this meeting. It was agreed that it should be before, and not back to back with, the UK Contributors' annual meeting, and attempts should be made to co-ordinate the timing of it with the consumers' annual conference.
Action: Jini, Hilda

23. Agreement with Update Software:

23.1 Monica and Mark Starr are continuing to revise the Agreement between Update Software and the Collaboration in light of changes since the Agreement was originally made; they will report back to the Steering Group. Dissatisfaction was expressed to Mark Starr about the delay in providing MetaView for RevMan 4.0 for beta-testing. Mark agreed to follow up on this with Monica and to keep her informed. It was confirmed that RevMan 4.0 and MetaView 4.0 must be issued simultaneously. By the end of April any outstanding software problems will be known, and a message will be sent out informing CRGs of any possible delays in introducing RevMan 4.0, if these are anticipated at that time.
Action: Monica

23.2 Mark was thanked for his informative report on disseminating The Cochrane Library . He reported that Update Software has given Internet-based subscriptions to several large organisations on a trial basis and is monitoring the use of these subscriptions to determine future rates and policies for such subscriptions.

24. Monitoring entities:

24.1 Collaborative Review Groups: Bev reported on the extensive process that had been undertaken to get feedback from CRGs as to the proposed monitoring process. Zarko acknowledged the work that Lisa Bero had put into developing this process, which should be emulated if other sensitive issues arise in the future. The Monitoring and Registration Group felt that the CRG checklist had been finalised, provisional upon addressing some remaining issues raised by CRGs and obtaining feedback from Phil Alderson of the UK Cochrane Centre. The agreed checklist and draft proposal on the monitoring process should be circulated to CRGs by 15th May. Phil said he was happy to provide the information that could be abstracted automatically from the Parent Database; other information needed to be abstracted from the modules, and a third category of information CRGs would have to provide themselves. CRGs should not be burdened with extra work, and the system should be piloted with three or four CRGs before implementing it across the board. There should be a joint effort between the Monitoring and Registration Group and Phil on behalf of the UK monitoring process. Thanks were expressed to the Monitoring and Registration Group for developing the monitoring process. Phil warned that the process involves a great deal of follow-up work. He agreed to be a co-opted member of the Monitoring and Registration Group for the CRG process, and was thanked for this.

24.2 Fields: Mark agreed to pilot the checklist for monitoring Fields/Networks.
Action: Mark

24.3 Methods Groups: Mike said the process would be revised, based on experience gained from using it in the past year and the checklists prepared for other entities.
Action: Mike

24.4 Centres: Jimmy had drawn up a preliminary draft checklist for monitoring Centres which he would take to the Centre Directors' meeting for discussion.
Action: Jimmy

24.5 Consumer Network: Gill and Hilda agreed that the draft checklist would be taken forward to the Monitoring and Registration Group as soon as possible.
Action: Gill, Hilda

24.6 Steering Group: It was agreed to use a process similar to that for external review of academic departments. Andy agreed to suggest to Lisa that she should ask Chris Silagy, as Ombudsman, to suggest people, a simple process, and a timetable for undertaking this.
Action: Andy, Lisa

24.7 Out of date or missing modules: The process for dealing with entities that have out of date modules was discussed. If an entity has not updated its module for two years, it risks the module being removed from The Cochrane Library. The Monitoring and Registration Group should look at this. A message should go to all entities advising them that all entity modules are dated, and there will be follow-up with those who have not submitted an updated module for two years.
Action: Andy, Lisa

25. Any other business:

25.1 Charitable status for entities: It was agreed that establishment of a charity to receive or manage funds for Cochrane entities is a regional issue and any such proposals should be approved by the appropriate Cochrane Centre Director. Approval of the Steering Group should be sought if 'Cochrane' is used in the title and if there is a potential for conflict or confusion between funds being solicited by one or more entities and obtaining funds for core functions.
Action: Andy

25.2 Collaboration's Contact Directory: It was agreed that a central contact directory for the Collaboration is needed. Monica, Andy, Georg Koch and Malcolm Newdick will look at the technical issues. It was noted that the updating process needs to be improved.
Action: Monica, Andy

25.3 Constitution of the Collaboration: Gill reported that she had recently attended a talk by the Charities Commission and had discovered that the Council for Voluntary Services can offer free advice on updating one's constitution, and that it should be updated on a regular basis. Gill will pursue this and report to the CCSG meeting during the Rome Colloquium.
Action: Gill

25.4 Co-ordinating Editors' input: It was agreed that the Steering Group strongly encourages input from the Co-ordinating Editors surrounding issues that are clearly within the scope of their responsibilities (e.g. citation of CRG modules, contributorship, citation of reviews). Thanks should go to Paul Jones and Peter Langhorne for the minutes of the Co-ordinating Editors' meeting in Baltimore in October 1998, which had been reviewed by Andy to ensure that items that required Steering Group attention were addressed.


Appendix to CCSG minutes14-15 March 1999: DRAFT

Preliminary list of Steering Group priorities for the next two years

To ensure that high quality, up-to-date systematic reviews are available across a broad range of health care topics

To promote access to Cochrane Reviews

To develop an efficient, transparent organisational structure and management system for the Cochrane Collaboration

To achieve sustainability of the Cochrane Collaboration


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This page was last updated on 12 May 1999
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