Editorial Independence and Efficiency Project

Background
Project
Workstream 1: Pilot project
          Working Group
Workstream 2: Consultation
What’s next
FAQs 

Cochrane is undertaking a project aiming to improve editorial independence and efficiency. The project as originally scoped included two workstreams – Workstream 1 Scaling up and piloting a Central Editorial Service and Workstream 2 Consultation with all CRGs on the future of producing reviews in Cochrane. A project outline is available on this page. If you have any questions please use this query form

Background

Producing Cochrane Reviews to a high standard has always been challenging. Differences in how groups are funded, and how they are able to prioritize their workload, has the potential to create imbalances in Cochrane Review output, quality, and timeliness. 

In addition, Cochrane Review Groups (CRGs) have historically had dual roles – supporting authors and making editorial decisions. The longstanding author support role that CRGs have fulfilled can blur the lines between authorship and editorial review and sometimes makes it difficult to guarantee editorial independence. The significant investment of staff time and effort in developing a review is often not formally recognized and may also make rejection decisions more difficult. 

The Governing Board has reiterated Cochrane’s commitment to open access publishing by 2025. This shift in the publishing landscape, along with the challenges outlined above, and dwindling CRG infrastructure funding makes it necessary for Cochrane to critically re-evaluate and redefine our model of evidence synthesis, including identifying new ways of improving editorial integrity and efficiency in our processes.

Project   

The Editorial Independence and Efficiency project was approved by the Governing Board in March, 2021. 

Workstream 1 is led by Rachel Marshall and is dedicated to scaling up the Central Editorial Service (including increasing the Fast-Track Service for high-priority and high-profile reviews) and piloting the independent editorial process with up to 20 CRGs to test feasibility and gather key learnings. 

Workstream 2 is led by Ruth Foxlee and focuses on a consultation process with the CRGs to better understand the benefits and challenges of delivering a Central Editorial Service and an opportunity to discuss other issues and suggestion in relation to the future of producing reviews in Cochrane. 

The full project plan is available here

Workstream 1: Pilot project to test separation of development and editorial functions

The pilot began with five CRGs drawn from a pool of CRGs that have expressed an interest in participating. The first five CRGs to join the pilot were:

  • Cochrane Colorectal
  • Cochrane Haematology
  • Cochrane Injuries
  • Cochrane Multiple Sclerosis and Rare Diseases of the CNS
  • Cochrane Neonatal

This first set of CRGs will have an independent editorial process conducted by the Central Editorial Service, for protocols, reviews and updates submitted during the project. 

  • The CRG will support the review up until the point where it needs to go to external peer review.
  • The Central Editorial Service, with input from the Networks, will manage the editorial process from peer review to publication.

Four more CRGs were invited to join the pilot in the first week of August. The names of these groups will be announced when acceptance is confirmed.

We will aim for a mix of CRGs with different staffing and funding levels, in different geographic locations, and will target CRGs with both broad and narrow scopes. As more CRGs join the pilot, we will test the central editorial process in other ways. For example, CRGs may have a random selection of reviews sent to the editorial service, or some other subset of reviews. 

We aim to have a total of up to 15-20 CRGs involved in the pilot. 

An outline of the process for Cochrane Review Groups (CRGs) contributing to the Editorial Independence and Efficiency (EIEP) pilot is available here.

Central Editorial Service Working Group

A Working Group will support the Central Editorial Service pilot.

The role of the Working Group will be to:

  • Develop and agree editorial processes for Cochrane Protocols, Reviews and Updates during the project
  • Consider ongoing feedback during the project, and iterate processes, roles, and materials as required
  • Represent the views of the Cochrane community
  • Act as a point of contact for others to provide input to the project

The group members are as follow:

Name Roles
Robert Boyle Editorial Board, Co-ordinating Editor, Network Senior Editor
Kerry Dwan Methods Support Unit
Vanessa Jordan Author, Cochrane Council, Centre staff
Frances Kellie Managing Editors’ Executive
Anne Littlewood Information Specialists’ Executive 
Nuala Livingstone Network Associate Editor
Helen Nagels Managing Editor
Sarah Nevitt Methods Executive, Cochrane Council
Obi Onoura Cochrane Publishing Technology Manager
Rachel Plachcinski Consumers’ Executive, Cochrane Council
Elizabeth Royle Copy-editing Manager, Managing Editor
Colleen Ovelman Managing Editor, Central Editorial Service

Workstream 2: Consultation

Workstream 2 is led by Ruth Foxlee. Initially, the intention was for this workstream to focus on the Editorial Independence & Efficient Project, particularly the pilot, through a series of one-to-one meetings with all Cochrane Review Groups (CRGs). However, the challenges facing Cochrane have important implications for CRGs and review production as a whole which means the focus has shifted to a wider community engagement process about the future of evidence synthesis in Cochrane. 

Workstream 2 is comprised of two phases: 

  • Phase 1 (May to August 2021): individual meetings with a subset of 12 CRGs, representing different geographic regions, all CRG networks, a mix of focussed and broader clinical topic areas, and different funding and staffing levels. We will also meet with the Cochrane Council. For the one-to-one meetings, all editorial staff from the relevant CRG will be invited to take part in the consultation. The issues for discussion in these meetings will include: 
    • Exploration of the challenges that CRGs are facing in securing funding and delivering high quality reviews.
    • The opportunities provided by these challenges, in particular the opportunity to rethink Cochrane’s current model for producing reviews. 
    • Changes to research funding and developments in academic publishing, notably the growing trend amongst funders to mandate open access publishing, along with declining infrastructure funding from public institutions.
  • Phase 2 (September to November 2021): Community engagement Workshops open to all Cochrane Groups (not just CRGs), which will describe and explore a new model of evidence synthesis for Cochrane. More details on these workshops and registration are available here.

List of Cochrane Review Groups that participated in one-to-one meetings
Colorectal
Consumers and Communication
Drugs and Alcohol
Gut
Haematology
Heart
Hypertension
Injuries
Multiple Sclerosis and Rare Diseases of the CNS
Pregnancy and Childbirth
Skin
Tobacco Addiction

What’s next

We will update the community regularly through the monthly Editor in Chief webinars and the fortnightly Editor in Chief & Interm CEO Update. As CRGs join the pilot, they will be announced on this webpage.  

FAQs

At the Editor in Chief webinar on February 1, 2021 we received several questions about the pilot and have provided answers here. We have also summarised and answered questions from the Strategic Session workshops held June 22 and 24, 2021. As we receive queries from the community and over the course of this project, we will update this section. If you have further questions about this project, please use this query form.

Site last updated: 14 September 2021