CDAG Editorial Process

Four stages of Cochrane review

The development and maintenance  of a Cochrane Review involves four distinct stages:
  • Registering the title
  • Developing the protocol
  • Producing the review
  • Updating the review 
The  editorial process associated with each of these stages is outlined below.

Registering the title

Cochrane is moving its editorial process to the online submission system Editorial Manager. Potential authors interested in submitting a review proposal to Cochrane  Drugs and Alcohol should log in to Editorial Manager and select Submit New Manuscript. For further information see our instructions for authors on submitting new proposals. If we are interested in your initial proposal we will invite you to submit a full review proposal via an online form within Editorial Manager.

The Editorial team aim to make a decision about review proposals within two weeks of the form being submitted. Completion of a Review Proposal Form does not guarantee registration of your title.

Please ensure that you have a review team in place that can support the review with respect to clinical expertise in addition to statistical and methodological experience. Your team should include:

  • at least two people
  • an experienced Cochrane review author
  • someone with topic expertise in the title you are registering
  • someone with statistical and methodological expertise
  • someone with English as a first language, or a very high standard of written English.
  • a Contact author responsible for developing and co-ordinating the review team, liaising with the editorial base and taking responsibility for the on-going updates of the review.

It is important that authors are aware of Conflicts of interest and Cochrane Reviews and Commercial Sponsorship Policy.

If more than one team proposes doing the same review, CDAG advocates collaboration. If this is not possible, any conflict is resolved through discussion.

Once a title has been formally registered a unique 'identifier' will be allocated. Archie account details and additional information will be sent to the Contact Person. The first draft of the protocol should be submitted within 6 months of this date. We encourage review authors to maintain contact with the ME and as the submission deadline approaches. 

If the first draft of the protocol is not submitted within 12 months, and we haven't heard from the contact author during that time, the title will be deregistered and returned to the list of vacant titles.

Developing the protocol 

Once the title has been accepted, review authors are encouraged to attend a workshop on protocol development, if they have not already done so.  Protocols should be submitted for editorial approval through Editorial Manager, after careful proof-reading and consideration of the pre-submission checklist. The protocol will undergo both an internal and an external refereeing process. 

Internal review of protocols: completed protocols are seen by members of the Editorial Team, but one editor is designated the "contact editor" for each particular title. This internal review process should take no longer than three to four weeks and may include editing by the Managing Editor, Trials Search Coordinator, Methods Editor and Coordinating Editor. The process of developing a protocol is an iterative one, and protocols may undergo several drafts before publication.

External review of protocols: once the comments of the editorial team have been acted upon, the protocol is sent for external review. External reviewers are selected on the basis of either content expertise and/or methodological expertise. External reviewers are asked to comment in a structured way, using a checklist adapted by the Group for this purpose, and to respond within three-four weeks of receiving the protocol. When the review team has acted upon the advice of the external reviewer(s) the protocol will be submitted for copy-editing by the publisher and signed off for publication in the next possible issue of the Cochrane Library. Disagreements between the editorial team and the authors, or between the authors themselves, about the content of their protocol, should be resolved by discussion, with arbitration from the Co-ordinating Editor.

Producing the review

Cochrane provides a range of information and resources and training covering the steps involved in conducting a Cochrane Review (e.g. online learning, workshops and webinars).

Our Trials Search Co-ordinator can help you in running your searches and de-duplicating the results.

We ask author groups to bear in mind that Cochrane does not have the resources or capacity to provide open-ended support to novice author teams. To ensure accordance with the Cochrane Style Guide and other required standards, validation checks will be run and minor copy editing amendments will be undertaken by the editorial office. We urge our authors to follow the Cochrane Style Guide, Cochrane Handbook and MECIR Reporting Standards, and we may ask for the review to be revised if these standards are consistently not met.

In general, we expect the submission of the first draft of the full review within 12 months of publishing the protocol. If there are a large number of trials and the breadth of the topic is significant, it is possible to negotiate a longer timeframe. If no progress has been made after two years, we reserve the right to withdraw the title from the Library. We encourage authors to maintain contact with CDAG so that we can provide support and advice.

When a first draft of the review is submitted to the editorial base it is sent to the Methods Editor for approval prior to external peer review. If further amendments need to be made, the Managing Editor will liaise with the Contact Person. When the draft is ready for external peer review, it is usually sent to the same content experts that were used at the protocol stage. The peer review process usually takes between four to six weeks.

All peer review comments are reviewed by the Managing Editor and Contact Editor or Co-ordinating Editor. Peer referee names are disclosed to the review teams unless anonymity has been specified by the peer referee. Peer referees are acknowledged in the Group's module.

Once the review team has responded to the peer review comments, the amended review is submitted to the editorial base and the Authors' Response Document emailed to the Managing Editor. The Managing Editor and Methods Editor will check that all comments have been responded to and copy edit the review before requesting approval for publication from the Contact Editor and Co-ordinating Editor.

The review will also be sent off for copy editing by the Wiley copy edit team before submission for publication in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Updating the review

Cochrane has changed its focus to supporting a smaller number of timely, high-priority and high impact systematic reviews (see Cochrane‚Äôs Strategy to 2020). As a consequence of this, Cochrane is no longer aiming to be completely comprehensive and up-to-date in all spheres. This means that we will not be routinely writing to teams and asking them to initiate an update of their review, unless it is identified as a priority.
The editorial process for an update follows the same procedure as that for a review.

For detailed information about updating your review, please read 'Chapter 3:  Maintaining reviews: updates, amendments and feedback' of the Cochrane Handbook (