Editorial process

  • Titles

Cochrane invites prospective authors to propose new Cochrane Reviews by submitting a proposal in Editorial Manager. Please see the Cochrane Library information for authors for further details.

  • Protocols

After having registered the review title, authors are strongly invited to visit the Cochrane Collaboration website where the following can be downloaded:

  • General information on the Cochrane Collaboration and the Cochrane Group.
  • Hard copy of the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.
  • Open learning material for reviewers.
  • Installation instructions for RevManWeb/RevMan 5, as well as User Guides and Knowledge Bases covering their use.
  • Cochrane Style Guidelines.

Authors are also encouraged to attend a training events at their local Cochrane Centre / Online covering systematic review preparation before beginning their review protocol.
Authors are expected to submit their review protocol within six a month period.  However, if they experience problems extensions are possible if issues are communicated in a timely manner. After this period, the title will be de-registered and may be made available to other authors.

The review protocol must be prepared in RevManWeb / RevMan 5 and submitted trough Editorial Manager (see link above).  Authors are advised to carefully proof-read their protocol before submitting it.  It is the responsibility of the contact author to ensure that the protocol adheres to the formatting rules specified in Cochrane Style Guidelines. The Managing Editor checks that the draft protocol is ready to go through the editorial process. The Trials Search Co-ordinator checks the search strategy and reference sections. If the protocol is not ready to be sent to peer referees, the contact author of the review is invited to work with the Editorial base team until the protocol is ready for editorial comments.
If internal review is passed, the draft protocol will be sent to external peer referees. The peer referees are sent a checklist to help structure their evaluation of the protocol; they are expected to send back their evaluation within 20 days of receipt of the protocol. If they are unable to send in their evaluation within 20 days, other referees will be appointed. The refereeing process is not anonymous.

Review authors are asked to resubmit the  revised version of the protocol to the Editorial base within a month, including detailed responses to each of the referees' comments and specifying whether and how the text of the protocol has been changed in response to each comment. The cover letter and the revised protocol are sent to the referees for approval. The entire refereeing process is expected to be completed within three months.

Authors are welcome to contact the editorial base at any stage if they wish to discuss problems with other experienced authors.
Once the protocol is approved it is published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews of The Cochrane Library.

  • Reviews

Please see the section on Search Strategies to explore the available support. 

The review refereeing process is the same as that for the protocol: the peer referees and Contact Editor who referred the protocol are also asked to examine the review. If any of these persons are unavailable to referee the review, the Managing Editor will appoint substitutes.

The peer referees are sent a checklist to help structure their evaluation of the review and are expected to send their comments/suggestions within 30 days of receipt of the review.  If they are unable to send their comments within that time, other peer referees will be appointed by the Managing Editor.

The Consumer Co-ordinator (who is a member of the Editorial base) will review/prepare the plain language summary if the authors have not prepared one, or will comment on/revise the plain language summary prepared by the authors. The Consumer Co-ordinator will also send the review to two consumers of the MS-CRG and will collect and summarise their feedback for sending on to Managing Editor. The final decision on plain language summary content rests with the authors (although it must adhere to the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions).
The Managing Editor will forward to the contact author and to the Contact Editor  all review feedback, the drafted/altered plain language summary, and a list of the main points that must be addressed before the review can be published.  The contact author is responsible for ensuring that all this material is sent on to all review co-authors.
The contact author will respond to the feedback via the editorial base within 20 days. This response must include replies to each of the issues raised by the peer referees.
In the event of disagreement between the contact author and co-authors during the preparation of the review, the problem will be referred to the Contact Editor.  If the problem cannot be resolved, it will then be referred to the
 Co-ordinating Editor.  If the Co-ordinating Editor is the Contact Editor for the review, the problem will be referred to the other editors.

Once a review has been approved, the Managing Editor will inform the contact author who will be asked to approve the proof held in Archie for publication and arrange for the Licence for publication and the Declaration of interest forms to be signed by all co-authors. Copy editing of the review will be carried out by the primary author and editorial base before publication in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Since the refereeing process generally takes not less than six months, review authors are urged to submit through Archie a draft of their review within 12-18 months from the date of the published protocol. Protocols that have not been converted into full review within two years are withdrawn, except under extraordinary circumstances sanctioned by the Editorial Team.

  • Updating

The Trials Search Co-ordinator runs the Group's search strategy twice a year.  When new trial reports are identified, they are included in the Trials Specialised Register of the group and notified to the Contact author.  Authors are strongly encouraged to update their reviews and to take into account pertinent new data, if available, starting from the date the search was last run.  Where no new evidence has been identified, authors have to update the date of their search strategy and state that no new evidence has been found.

An updated review is submitted for editorial approval in the same way as a new review.
A copy of the updated review is also sent to the MS Consumer Co-ordinator so that an updated draft plain language summary can be prepared, or the plain language summary prepared by the authors can be examined. Once approved by the authors the new plain language summary will be included in the updated review.

  • Criticism

Comments and criticisms received on published Cochrane Group reviews are dealt with according to the standard procedure defined centrally by the Cochrane Collaboration.  The Group's Criticism Editor is responsible for organising and summarising all post-registration criticisms.  These are forwarded to the Contact author, via the editorial base, for examination and response Copy editing of the updated review is carried out by the contact author of the review and the editorial base before publication in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.  If the update requires a new citation, all the review authors must submit to the Managing Editor an updated, signed License for publication and Declaration of Interest forms. If a review is not updated after two years, three additional months are given to authors to complete the updating. After this extension, editors will decide whether the review should be given to a new author team for updating.

  • Plain Language Summery

The plain language summary aims to summarise the results of the review in a style understandable by consumers and laypersons.

Review authors may draft the plain language summary themselves (ideally with consumer input) or ask the Cochrane MS Group to prepare it.