In this blog series we’ll be highlighting some of the prioritization work that has taken place at Cochrane Review Group level.
At its simplest, prioritization is the process of completing tasks in the order of their importance. Most of us prioritize at an individual level; for example, an employee chooses which jobs should be given preference in order to ensure s/he is productive. Failing to prioritize will lower the individual's effectiveness, but this is also true for organizations. When applied at a national or international level, the implications of prioritization can be far-reaching, dictating which projects, and ultimately interventions, are funded and which are not.
In the health and social care research context, prioritization is the ranking of questions in a way that ensures maximum positive impact of research spending on human life and health. Healthcare organizations will employ different prioritization methods, but they share a common goal of using whatever resources they have in an efficient way to ensure that the most pressing health issues are addressed. Cochrane is no exception. Being aware of the needs of clinicians, guideline developers, research funders, healthcare providers, and consumer groups is vital to Cochrane. We need to maximize use of our own scarce resources, whilst aligning with the stakeholder priorities to ensure that Cochrane Reviews explicitly address their needs.
In their checklist for health research priority setting, Roderik Viergever and colleagues identified nine areas of good prioritization practice: 1) establishing the context; 2) using a comprehensive approach; 3) being inclusive; 4) gathering information; 5) developing an implementation plan; 6) setting clear criteria; 7) developing a method for deciding on priorities; 8) evaluating the work; and 9) being transparent about the process . One approach to prioritization, especially popular in the UK, is the James Lind Alliance Priority Setting Partnership framework. The Cochrane Priority Setting Methods Group has gathered together information about a number of Cochrane prioritization projects, a list of relevant publications, some top tips for research priority setting, and more. It is a helpful resource for Cochrane Groups that would like to undertake a prioritization exercise.
For this series of case studies we have interviewed four Cochrane Groups, and may add to that over the coming months. We asked members of the editorial team to tell us about the methods they used and to describe the challenges and benefits of their own prioritization exercises. These approaches range from online surveys and prioritization workshops involving a wide range of stakeholders, to working exclusively with guideline development agencies. We aren’t looking to promote one method over another. Our goal is to describe some real life examples from Cochrane Groups that might help and encourage other groups interested in engaging with external stakeholders.
For any questions or comments about this blog series or if you’d like to tell us about your group’s prioritization work, please contact Ruth Foxlee at the Cochrane Editorial Unit.
Ruth Foxlee - Senior Advisor to the Editor in Chief, Editorial & Methods Department
Lydia Wilson – Intern, Cochrane Editorial Unit
Sylvia De Haan – Partnerships Co-ordinator, Communications & External Affairs Department