Cochrane Reviews have to be prepared by at least two people, and often may require more than two. A team must have among its members the range of skills and experience in order to complete a Cochrane Review to the standard required by Cochrane and that the users of Cochrane Reviews have come to expect. These skills and experience include:
- content knowledge relating to the topic of the review;
- basic knowledge of systematic review methodology (including formulating the review question and eligibility criteria, searching and assessing the risk of bias of relevant studies);
- basic statistical knowledge in order to extract appropriate data, conduct meta-analyses where appropriate, and interpret and discuss the results;
- the ability to write a scientific report of publishable standard in English;
- project management and leadership ability within the team (usually the named Contact Person).
In addition, all authors of a review team should:
- approach the review with scientific rigour, be as objective as possible, and avoid conflicts of interest;
- be comprehensive, systematic and methodical in their approach to all aspects of the review;
- follow the advice and guidance in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, taking account of any specific instructions or preferences a CRG may have.
The named Contact Person should:
- submit a fully completed Cochrane Review Proposal Form on behalf of the review team, with realistic and achievable timelines for completion of the protocol and full Review;
- submit a current CV or provide evidence of previous experience in preparing systematic reviews, if requested;
- keep in touch with their CRG about their progress;
- respond to correspondence from their CRG in a timely manner.
The review team should be aware of its limitations, be willing to receive and respond to suggestions from the CRG editorial team and referees, be willing and able to see the review through to completion, and to address updates.
To help authors, once a title has been accepted and registered, Cochrane provides a range of training covering the steps involved in preparing a Cochrane Review (e.g. online learning, workshops and webinars). This does not mean Cochrane has the resources or capacity to provide open-ended support to teams of novice review authors; authors are still expected to be familiar with the principles of systematic reviewing and to demonstrate that they have the capacity to complete a review.
Despite support and encouragement, sometimes review teams struggle to make sufficient progress with their review, or they submit draft versions that would require too much input from the CRG editorial team to meet acceptable standards. In these circumstances, the CRG may decide to withdraw the review from the authors, citing concerns over quality and the capacity of the review team to complete the review.
It should be recognized that throughout the process of review preparation (be it at the title registration, protocol or review stage) the review could be taken out of the editorial process due to concerns about quality that cannot be resolved.