Complaints procedure

An official Cochrane Policy, updated March 2024

This procedure applies to complaints that relate to policies, processes or actions that are the responsibility of Cochrane. Complaints can help identify opportunities for improvement. We aim to respond efficiently and constructively.

The procedure outlined below aims to be fair to those making complaints and those complained about.

Are you in the right place?

The following are not handled as complaints. Please follow the relevant links:

  • Concerns about the content of a Cochrane Review or Protocol should be submitted as a Comment, please follow our guidance on Submitting comments (unless you would prefer to remain anonymous and/or are a whistleblower raising concerns about the content in a Cochrane Review or Protocol, in which case use the complaints process below).
  • Disagreement with an editorial decision to reject a specific Cochrane Review may be appealed following the Rejection appeals process.
  • Disagreement with a decision related to a conflict of interest may be appealed following the Conflict of Interest appeals process.

A complaint must relate to policies, processes or actions that are the responsibility of Cochrane. We define a complaint as anything that identifies a perceived failure or a severe misjudgement.

If there are complaints about the conduct or actions of staff, members or supporters in groups associated with Cochrane, these should in the first instance be handled within the group itself or host institution. Where resolution is not achieved or possible, the complaint can be sent to Cochrane and Cochrane may be able to help mediate; however, this must relate to a Cochrane activity. In these cases, Cochrane’s Organizational Accountabilities sets out the structure of accountability.

Making a complaint

Complaints should use plain language and be professional in tone.

All complaints should be submitted using this webform.

By completing the webform, we can collect the appropriate information to process your complaint as efficiently as possible, in accordance with applicable data protection policies.

All correspondence relating to a complaint will use complaints@cochrane.org.

Complaints at Cochrane are coordinated by the complaints team with individual complaints handled by the relevant member of Cochrane staff and the opportunity for escalation if they cannot be resolved.

If the complainant remains unhappy after the response, complaints may be escalated to an appeals board, made up of Cochrane’s leadership, including Editor in Chief, Chief Executive Officer and/or members of the Governing Board, dependent on the nature of the complaint, whose decision is final. Appeals should be made within 30 days of the response.

If a complainant remains unhappy after what the appeals board considers a definitive reply, depending on the nature of the complaint, the complainant may be able to complain to an external body, such as the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) for Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews related complaints, the Charity Commission or the Fundraising Regulator.

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews is a member of COPE and is guided by its core practices and guidelines. It will facilitate the resolution of disputes with member editors, journals and publishers but only once a journal’s own complaints procedures have been exhausted.

The Cochrane Collaboration is regulated by the Charity Commission which ensures that charities registered in England and Wales are well run, accountable and meet their legal obligations. Serious risk of harm to the charity, its beneficiaries or assets should be reported to the Charity Commission.

The Cochrane Collaboration is regulated by the Fundraising Regulator, which investigates complaints about charitable fundraising where these cannot be resolved by organizations themselves.

Complaint timeframes

  • All complaints will be formally acknowledged within three working days.
  • If possible, confirmation on whether your complaint will be investigated will be made within three weeks. If this is not possible, an interim response will be given within three weeks.
  • If a complaint is investigated, those who made the complaint will be informed of the outcome but will not necessarily be kept regularly updated in the interim.

Anyone interacting with Cochrane, including complainants, should adhere to the Working Together for Cochrane code of conduct.

Where we consider a complaint to be obscene, abusive, or the result of a coordinated campaign, we reserve the right to reply outside of the suggested time frames, and on some occasions we reserve the right not to respond to all complainants individually.