A new approach to update Cochrane Reviews focusing on the 'Summary of findings' (SoFs)

Article type
Soares-Weiser K1, Bergman H1, Maayan N1, Marshall R2
1Enhance Reviews, United Kingdom
2Cochrane Editorial Unit, United Kingdom
The Enhance Reviews (ER) team has been involved in updating reviews for Cochrane Groups over the past 5 years. Some of the challenges are: (a) changes in methods; (b) the need to cross-check data extraction and risk of bias for studies previously included in a review; (c) the lengthy peer-review process; and (d) authors’ unwillingness to get involved in the update. As a result the process is often very time-consuming, and it is difficult to estimate the time needed to complete an update. This increases the Review Groups’ burden and delays publication of updates.
As a pilot project, ER are working together with the Cochrane Editorial Unit to test a faster and more focused way of producing updates. Whilst these “focused updates” are simple and short, they maintain a very high methodological standard, focusing on the 'Summary of findings' (SoFs).

To compare time to complete a regular update to a focused update and to discuss acceptability and usefulness of the focused update

To perform the pilot, one of the authors (RM) chose three recently completed reviews. The ER team received the out-of-date versions of the reviews and: (1) selected the seven most important outcomes for policy-makers; (2) performed searches and screening of the retrieved references; (3) performed data extraction and risk of bias for new studies (4) cross-checked data extracted from the already included studies; (v) performed meta-analyses as appropriate; (5) created SoF tables; and (6) updated abstract, plain language summary (PLS), implications for practice and research.

For each review a short report (2-sides of A4) was created in a standardized template. This report contains the main conclusions of the review, followed by the SoFs, updated abstract and PLS, and is linked to complete table of characteristics, risk of bias assessments, and updated meta-analyses.

All stages of the updating process were fully documented to allow comparison with the full review update. An appraisal form was used to estimate the actual time taken to complete each stage of the review, noting the reasons why a task took more or less time than anticipated.