Editorial process

Protocol development

Once a review proposal is accepted, we will register the title and set up a RevMan file. During this time a memorandum of understanding must be read, understood and signed by the team. The RevMan file is where the protocol and review is written and it contains text to help with the methods and planning a review which meet the current Cochrane methodological standards. Before submitting the draft protocol, all review authors should read it and agree it is ready for peer review.  Authors must discuss and agree a search strategy with our Information Specialist, Liz Stovold, before submitting a draft protocol. We expect protocols to be submitted within four months of registering the title.

Review development

We expect reviews to be submitted within a year of publication of the protocol, however we aks that all teams submit thier data as soon as it's entered into RevMan along with their data extraction forms and pdfs of the included stuides so that it can be checked by the group statistician.  The editorial process is described in this flow chart.

Updates of reviews

We prioritise our reviews for updating and focus on the current priority reviews. However, we are always pleased to receive requests to update reviews where there are new trials or where there is other reason to think the conclusions are likely to be changed.  Please contact the Managing Editor if you identify a review in need of updating- whether you would like to update it personally or not. We encourage review authors to involve us in discussing possible changes to the scope of their review (such as amending eligibility criteria, search methods, and analysis) prior to the re-running of search strategies and revision of the review. Sometimes a new protocol may be required, particularly if new review authors are involved in updating the review and the methods are outdated.

How do I ensure my review meets the Cochrane standards?

Cochrane have developed some checklists to help you complete your protocol  or review.

Who is involved in the editorial process?

We have a team of staff at the editorial base who deal with the administration associated with a review and also edit the review and provide comments on basic formatting and style issues, methodology advice, plain English and readability comments, basic clinical issues and statistical checks. We have a team of editors who comment on the applicability, accuracy and relevance of reviews to clinical practice and have experience in research and Cochrane Reviews. We invite peer referees to comment on reviews and these can be sought from anywhere in the world. We aim to get two or three sets of peer comments per protocol/review.


How does the editorial process work?

See this flow diagram.


How long does the editorial process take?

On average, the editorial process takes around three months for protocols and five to six months for reviews. If you want your review to be quicker, then ensure that the review meets the MECIR standards prior to submission and reply to queries as soon as possible.

If the review data is to be incorporated into a guideline with a pressing deadline, please contact the managing editor about how we can work together to expedite the process. It is possible to get the editorial process done in 4 to 8 weeks assuming the review is of high quality on submission and all the people commenting pull together.


What feedback can I expect?

We usually provide feedback at two points in the editorial process for protocols and reviews. Firstly the editorial team comments and sometimes there will be clinical comments from the contact editor, but sometimes this comes in the next stage depending on the number of changes required and availability of the contact editor. Review author teams will have the opportunity to make changes and corrections. The Managing Editor checks whether the changes have been appropriately incorporated and the review is signed off for peer review by the sign-off editor. The next stage for feedback is peer review. We are dependent on volunteers for peer review, and we tend to be able to return peer review comments in two to four weeks for protocols and three to six weeks for reviews.

Because we have a lot of experience writing and editing reviews within the editorial team and we want the reviews to be as good as possible before peer review (to make that stage easier), sometimes we request more than one round of changes from author teams.  If you want to have fewer sets of comments, please ensure that the review meets the MECIR standards prior to submission. There is a checklist to help with this for protocols and reviews. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews is, in effect, a journal with an impact factor (2014 impact factor is 6.035) and an expectation of high-quality publications. If a review does not meet the MECIR standards, it will be rejected or returned for corrections.


How will I know where my review is in the editorial process?

We use an electronic 'workflow' system to manage the editorial process, but it is not possible for you to get a good understanding of progress from this system. We send emails to acknowledge where your review is in the editorial process and when we expect to get back to you with comments, or if there is likely to be a delay. We aim to get back to people within one to two weeks, but we are happy to hear from you if you would like an update on progress.