Information for authors

Cochrane collected a bank of questions emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic which underwent prioritization and refinement. The process identified three priority areas where Cochrane is focusing efforts, as well as the Highest Priority Questions within these areas. 

Cochrane recognizes that consumer involvement is hugely important and has created COVID-19 Consumer rapid response group to provide timely and informed input throughout the rapid review process. Author teams can find information here or contact Cochrane's Consumer Engagement Officer for support and resources before this is in place.

Highest Priority Questions

Cochrane has committed to supporting the conduct and updating of Cochrane Rapid Reviews for the Highest Priority Questions. Support can include search development, methods expertise, and clinical expertise (if needed), and will include a centralized fast-track editorial process. Cochrane is actively coordinating author teams for high-priority questions. 

Other reviews within the priority areas

Proposals for Rapid Reviews that fall within the wider priority areas will also be considered for the fast-track process, some of which are listed on the Review Bank. The question submission form has been removed and we are encouraging prospective author teams to propose a review by preparing a protocol in the Rapid Review Template, which can be submitted with a cover letter to the ScholarOne electronic manuscript system. If you do not have a ScholarOne account with us already you will be asked to create one, and you will then be able to start a new submission. The accompanying covering letter should address:

  • Which of the Cochrane Priority Areas the question falls under;
  • Why you think the question is important to address in a Cochrane Rapid Review and how it might impact clinical or policy decision-making;
  • Whether this question has already been covered in a rapid review or full systematic review, published or underway (we suggest checking PROSPERO, Epistemonikos, OpenScience, CEBM and the Cochrane Library). If a rapid review or full systematic review is published or underway already, please provide rationale for why a further rapid review is needed.
  • The experience of the author team to conduct a rapid review (e.g. systematic review experience, clinical expertise in the topic area, statistical expertise and consumer input).
  • An indication of the number of studies that will be included in the full review.
  • Details of the protocol registration (we strongly encourage authors to register their protocols with PROSPERO or the Open Science Framework - please note, unlike full Cochrane systematic reviews, Rapid Reviews submitted to Cochrane will not automatically be registered with PROSPERO).

These Rapid Reviews will not be entitled to additional centralized support and only high-quality submissions that meet the criteria for Rapid Reviews and adhere to the methods guidance from the Rapid Reviews Methods Group will enter the fast-track editorial process. The usual title registration processes apply should you wish to propose a standard review with a Cochrane Review Group. 

All submitted protocols will be reviewed by our internal methodological and clinical editors and may be sent to external peer review. If this assessment is positive, we will invite you to submit the full Rapid Review. Authors should note that invitation to submit a Review does not constitute a title registration or a commitment to publish, and submitted Rapid Reviews may be subject to requests for revision or rejection.

Planning and conducting a Cochrane Rapid Review

Streamlined review production
Find a teamPurple arrowAgree timelinesPurple arrowRefine the topicPurple arrowSubmit protocolPurple arrowConduct the review

Finding a team

The review teams for high-priority COVID Rapid Reviews must include the following roles and expertise as a minimum, some of which may be fulfilled by the same person: 

  • A designated project lead who has experience conducting and managing rapid reviews. The project lead has overall responsibility for ensuring the rapid review is conducted to the agreed timelines and in line with the predefined methods.
  • One or more systematic reviewer(s) with at least basic expertise in rapid review methods. You should also consider whether specific methodological expertise may be needed, for example to advise about complex methods if modelling studies are being included or if you are not conducting a standard intervention review.
  • Access to an information specialist who can design and run the searches.
  • Access to a statistician with good knowledge of Cochrane methods who can advise during protocol development and data analysis.
  • Access to a clinical expert with knowledge of the clinical area under review, who can advise during refinement of the question, development of the protocol, conduct of the review, and interpretation of the results.
  • Access to a consumer (recommended, not mandatory) to provide informed input throughout the process. Resources for COVID Rapid Review authors and groups who want to involve consumers can be found at the end of the COVID-19 Consumer rapid response group resources page. 

Agreeing timelines

The timeline for conducting a high-priority COVID Rapid Reviews will depend on the urgency of the question and may be as rapid as a few days. We expect most high-priority COVID Rapid Reviews to be submitted within two weeks of initiation, and expectations and each author’s role should be made clear at the beginning of the process. A Workflow is available in resources and guidance to help assign tasks and set expectations about timelines at the outset of the review.

Refining the topic

The urgent process of identifying priority questions means that many of them need to be refined before they can be addressed as a Cochrane Rapid Review. Some high priority questions have already undergone topic refinement by an information specialist, which is reflected in each record in the Review Bank

Submitting a protocol

Author teams should complete a protocol for the COVID Rapid Reviews before inclusion/exclusion decisions are made, to prespecify the methods that will be used. We encourage author teams to register their Rapid Review protocols with PROSPERO or the Open Science Framework (please note, unlike full Cochrane systematic reviews, Rapid Reviews submitted to Cochrane will not automatically be registered with PROSPERO). 

Once completed, protocols should be submitted to https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/cdsr, at which point they will undergo editorial and methodological checks. 

If the completed review is accepted for publication, the protocol will be published as an appendix to the completed review. Protocols will not be published prospectively in the Cochrane Library as it would be for a standard Cochrane Review. 

A protocol template for COVID Rapid Reviews has been designed for ease of completion and to highlight important methodological considerations. Details of how the template was developed and the most up to date version can be found in resources and guidance.

Conducting the review

Each COVID Rapid Review should be conducted according to the methods predefined in the protocol (any changes to the protocol should be declared and justified in the final review), and to the agreed timelines. Author teams may wish to use the Workflow document to manage the conduct of the review, which can be found in resources and guidance

We encourage authors to use the Full Rapid Review Template to write up their reviews, which is available in resources and guidance. The Review and any supporting materials should be submitted to https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/cdsr.

Fast-track editorial

When a high-priority COVID Rapid Review is submitted, it will undergo fast-track quality assurance (QA) and peer review to check that the information provided is reliable. For submissions of Rapid Reviews that are not identified as high priority, a QA check will be performed. Please note, some Rapid Reviews may be rejected before peer review dependent on the feedback of editors.

Final checks and copy-edit

Final editorial and methods checks will be conducted, and the manuscript will be copy-edited and prepared for publication on the Cochrane Library. We will aim for most COVID Rapid Reviews to be published within two weeks of being submitted.