The Cochrane Fast-Track: a new and evolving service

Tags: Oral
Wakeford H1, Featherstone R1, Lasserson T1, Bickerdike L1, Foxlee R1, Thomas E1, Sharma T1
1Editorial and Methods Department, Cochrane Central Executive Team

Background: the Cochrane Fast-Track Service, launched in September 2018, aims to expedite the publication of high-priority, high-profile reviews, and create a new avenue for reviews that may not otherwise be published with Cochrane.

Objectives: this presentation aims to:

- encourage use of the Fast-Track by author teams that may not otherwise publish with Cochrane;

- demonstrate to our stakeholders that Cochrane is introducing flexible new processes to respond to their needs;

- share lessons from the first year of the Fast-Track.

Methods: the Fast-Track is a rapid editorial process, involving collaboration between a central Cochrane team, Cochrane Review Group (CRG) Networks, CRGs, and review authors. Completed reviews may be submitted to the Fast-Track without prior title registration or a Cochrane protocol, but must have a prospectively registered protocol that meets our eligibility criteria, be of high quality and be flagged as high-priority by a CRG Network.

Results: between 1 September 2018 and 1 March 2019 we had 24 enquiries, of which nine became full applications. By 1 March 2019, we had published two reviews within 12 and 17 weeks respectively, three reviews were in the editorial process and four had been rejected. The reasons for rejection were insufficient quality (n = 1), or the topic not being a priority for the Network (n = 3).

Reasons for submitting to the Fast-Track included guideline- or funder-imposed deadlines (n = 3), need for an independent editorial process due to CRG/Network conflict of interest (n = 2), and no Cochrane protocol, meaning that the review could not be published in the Cochrane Library outside of the Fast-Track (n = 4).

Results: we noted the following key findings.

- Problems with searching methods were a major issue across applications. These errors were identified by the Fast-Track Information Specialist; and, when possible, we supported search revisions to enable publication. However, post-production search amendments were challenging to implement. Our experience supports the need for search strategy peer review as early in the process as possible before submission to the Fast-Track.

- Whilst standard intervention reviews were published within anticipated time frames, high-profile reviews or those involving complex methods took longer.

- Some Networks put forward more Fast-Track applications than others, perhaps reflecting differing Network progress in priority setting or CRG editorial capacity.

Conclusions: the Fast-Track is a new and evolving service aiming to deliver efficiently high-priority, high-quality reviews that may not otherwise be published with Cochrane. A strategic decision on the role of Fast-Track as a central editorial service will need to balance the different purposes it has served thus far, with its intended focus on editorial rapidity alone.

Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: all Fast-Track reviews are peer reviewed by at least one consumer referee. We engage with the Cochrane Consumer Network and consumer groups to identify referees.