Editorial Independence and Efficiency Project

Background
Project
          Advisory Group
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. There are two workstreams within the project – 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. Full details of the project are included on this page. If you have any questions on the below, 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, makes it necessary for Cochrane to identify new ways of improving editorial integrity and efficiency in our processes.

Project   

To address these challenges the Editorial and Methods department proposed a pilot project, which was approved by the Governing Board in March, 2021. 

Workstream 1 will be led by Rachel Marshall and will be 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 will be led by Ruth Foxlee and will focus 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

Advisory Group

Members of the Editorial Independence and Efficiency Project Advisory Group have been confirmed. The role of the Advisory Group is to:

  • provide input on strategic discussions
  • advocate for the changes proposed in the project, internally and externally
  • liaise with members of the Governing Board, Editorial Board, Council, and the community on behalf of the Editor in Chief
  • provide feedback on key challenges as the project progresses
  • help identifying possible funding sources to support a Central Editorial Service beyond the pilot
  • provide input on monitoring and evaluation

The Advisory Group includes the below members. 

Name Roles
Lisa Bero Editorial Board Member; Network Senior Editor; Senior Research Integrity Editor
Martin Burton Co-ordinating Editor, Cochrane ENT; Director, Cochrane UK
Robert Dellavalle Joint Co-ordinating Editor, Cochrane Skin; Cochrane Council Member
Declan Devane Director, Cochrane Ireland; Editor, Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth
Sally Green Governing Board Member; Director, Cochrane Australia
Sophie Hill / Rebecca Ryan Co-ordinating Editors, Cochrane Consumers and Communication
Catherine Marshall Governing Board Co-chair
Celeste Naude Co-Director, Cochrane Nutrition
Jane Noyes Editorial Board Member; Methods Group Co-Convener
Jordi Pardo Pardo Governing Board Member; Managing Editor, Cochrane Musculoskeletal
Deborah Pentesco-Murphy Publisher, John Wiley & Sons

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

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

  • 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.

Later in the pilot, more CRGs will be invited to participate. 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 20 CRGs involved in the pilot. 

Central Editorial Service Working Group

We are pleased to announce that a Working Group has been created to support the Editorial Independence and Efficiency Project Team in conducting 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

Workstream 2: Consultation

Initially the intention was for the consultation workstream to focus on the Editorial Independence & Efficiency Project, particularly the pilot, through a series of one-to-one meetings with all Cochrane Review Groups (CRGs). However, the challenges facing Cochrane have potential implications for CRGs and review production as a whole. With this in mind, the Project Team has rethought the original plans. The logistic difficulties of scheduling individual meetings and the need to reach out to CRGs as quickly as possible has led to a decision to limit the number of one-to-one meetings.

Workstream 2 will continue to run alongside Workstream 1 but will now be comprised of two phases: 

  • Phase 1 (May to August 2021): individual meetings with a subset of CRGs, representing various countries, networks, topic areas and levels/sources of funding and 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): Workshops which will include multiple Cochrane Groups to explore the same issues outlined in Phase 1. 

What’s next

We will update the community regularly through the monthly Editor in Chief webinars and the Editor in Chief’s fortnightly ‘Editorial update’ email to the Community. 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. As we receive queries from the community we will create a space for Frequently Asked Questions and add to this over the course of the project. If you have further questions about this project, please use this query form.

Site last updated: 11 June 2021

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