'To fast or not to fast': Cochrane Nutrition and the Cochrane Fast-track Service join hands to produce a priority nutrition review for WHO

Tags: Oral
Naude C1, Schoonees A1, Wakeford H2, Lasserson T3
1Centre for Evidence-based Healthcare, Stellenbosch University, 2Cochrane Fast-Track Service, Editorial and Methods Department, Cochrane Central Executive, 3Review Production & Methods Unit, Editorial and Methods Department, Cochrane Central Executive

Background: Cochrane’s Fast-Track Service provides a rapid ‘journal-like’ editorial process for some high-priority reviews. Cochrane Nutrition and the Fast-track team collaborated to respond to a World Health Organization (WHO) request for a nutrition review update needed urgently to inform an ongoing guideline update.

Objectives: to share our approach, experiences and lessons learned in collaborating to respond in a timely manner to a policymaker request for a published priority nutrition review.

Methods: Cochrane Nutrition received the request at a priority-setting workshop for nutrition evidence synthesis in 2017. WHO needed a comprehensive, robust nutrition review updated and published in a short period of time. The update was approved as a pilot for the Cochrane Fast-track Service, and author and editorial teams assembled. We divided the review process into smaller steps and compiled a GANTT chart with targets for each step. In advance, we scheduled a series of online meetings at each step during which we discussed difficulties and brainstormed solutions. We also used ad hoc emails to iron out issues as they arose.

Results: even though we had to adjust the GANTT chart and meeting dates due to the unexpectedly large search yield, the step-by-step planning and regular meetings were important for sustaining momentum. They helped us work towards a series of smaller deadlines, bouncing ideas and challenges with experienced editors, knowledgeable about the intricacies and common pitfalls. Challenges arose related to methods and presentation of the data, for example, GRADE, 'Summary of findings' tables and non-randomised studies. The open communication and collaborative approach at each step allowed us to pre-empt and address most potential peer-review issues. Review authors did not have to spend a lot of time on ‘hiccups’ as the Fast-track team was readily available to provide helpful suggestions. Consequently, the peer-review, copy-editing and publication was expedited. The investment of time from an editor in the Editorial and Methods Department helped to meet deadlines, but steps were needed to ensure editorial independence later in the process. Such an approach could help improve review quality before submission for editorial process.

Conclusions: this collaboration allowed us to respond to a policymaker request for a timely, published priority nutrition review. By separating out review development and editorial process we ensured that deadlines were met; scaling up this approach should take steps to maintain editorial independence. Our approach could be further improved upon, and used to support the production of relevant, up-to-date systematic reviews to inform health decision making. Without this collaboration, a timely response to WHO would not have been possible.

Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: a consumer referee commented on the review.