FAQs for authors

Considering undertaking a Cochrane review with the Cochrane Tobacco Addiction Group?

Undertaking a Cochrane Review is often an exciting, challenging and ultimately rewarding experience. We encourage potential author teams who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about a particular topic within the field of Tobacco Addiction to consider undertaking a Cochrane Review with us.

Before you take the first step, below is some information to help guide you in deciding whether doing a review with the Tobacco Addiction Group is the right path for you.

Is my proposed topic within Cochrane TAG’s scope?

Cochrane TAG predominately carry out reviews which investigate methods to treat or prevent tobacco addiction. When we decide whether to facilitate a review we will consider whether it addresses a question which is a current priority in the field. This will be informed to some degree by a priority setting exercise the group carried out in 2016, but also up to date research literature, clinical expertise and gaps in clinical guidance.

 Cochrane TAG also facilitate a number of ‘orphan’ reviews, which do not fall within the scope of tobacco addiction. Orphan reviews will only be considered if the topic does not fall within the scope of another Cochrane Review Group, and if they are deemed to be of a priority within the relevant topic field. Where necessary, clinicians and researchers with the relevant expertise will be consulted outside of the group to establish this. Please note that we are extremely unlikely to take on an orphan review if there is a better suited Cochrane Review Group who has chosen not to register the review.

What type of systematic reviews does your Group support?

Although there are five different types of Cochrane systematic review, a large majority of the Tobacco Addiction Groups reviews are intervention reviews, which assess the benefits and harms of different healthcare and health policy interventions.

 Proposals for overviews of intervention reviews or qualitative reviews will also be considered, however, author teams proposing these types of reviews must display significant methodological (as well as topic specific) expertise in the relevant approach.

Does Cochrane TAG register ‘empty reviews’?

An ‘empty review’ is a review which has no studies eligible for inclusion. Empty reviews are of little value unless they are accompanied by high-quality research recommendations for a trial that is likely to be funded. Cochrane TAG is funded by the National Institute for Health Research and resources and capacity are limited, therefore the group are unable to prioritise reviews that are likely to be empty. Reviews that are very likely to be empty will only be considered if they are able to make a clear research recommendation (including a detailed trial design), which might be expected to be funded by one of the major national or international funding agencies; however this is at the discretion of the group’s editorial team.

Can I register a review which focuses on the effectiveness of smoking cessation in a particular patient or high-risk group?

Cochrane TAG will consider these reviews as they have the potential to change practice. However, there is also the possibility that they could lead to unhelpful conclusions. Therefore, we will consider certain criteria when considering these reviews. The review’s focus must be either a health condition/disorder caused by smoking (e.g. ischaemic heart disease); a group which suffer a particular problem as a result of smoking (e.g. people with HIV, where smoking raises the risk of infectious and non-infectious complications); and/or a group that have a particularly high rate of smoking and represent a marginalised, stigmatised, or otherwise particularly hard-to-reach or vulnerable population (e.g. people with mental health disorders). The aim of reviews such as this should not be to examine the effectiveness of well-established treatments for smoking cessation in people with the particular health condition or group, but to examine: 1) how the group of interest can be drawn into or provided with smoking cessation support; and 2) the impact of interventions on outcomes of the health condition, disorder or situation. The group have a more detailed guideline on this subject, so please contact us if you would like more information.

Are Cochrane TAG’s reviews highly cited?

The Cochrane Library has an impact factor of above 6. The unofficial impact factor for Cochrane TAG’s reviews specifically is significantly higher than for the Library overall. For examples of highly-cited reviews in our Group, see: Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation (Hartmann-Boyce et al); Antidepressants for smoking cessation (Hughes et al); and Interventions for preoperative smoking cessation (Thomsen et al).

How much time will my team need to undertake a Cochrane Review?

Cochrane TAG’s reviews vary in scope and complexity. Larger, more complex reviews can take several years to complete (from title registration to review publication).  However, once a title is registered by an author team it cannot be commenced as a Cochrane Review by anyone else. Therefore, author teams have an obligation to commit the necessary time and resources to ensure the review is completed without unnecessary delays.

What expertise will my author team require?

Cochrane Review teams must include:

·         someone who is an experienced Cochrane Review author;

·         someone with topic expertise in the title you are registering;

·         someone with statistical or relevant  methodological expertise; and

·         either someone whose first language is English or someone with a very high standard of written English.

What support and resources will Cochrane TAG offer my author team?

The editorial base at Cochrane TAG operates in a similar way to a scientific journal. However, due to the specific complexity of doing a Cochrane review, additional support is also provided. This support is tailored to the needs of individual teams, but can include assistance with literature searching and guidance about meeting methodological expectations. The Cochrane TAG editorial team also have personal research experience in the field of tobacco addiction and are Cochrane review authors.

What additional support and resources will my author team need to source?

If the authors’ first language is not English, it is the authors’ responsibility to ensure that if the review proceeds it is written to a publishable English standard. Authors can ensure this by adding a team member with strong English written skills or asking for assistance from someone at their institution. Unfortunately, Cochrane TAG do not have the capacity to provide written English language support for author teams.

Is there training to help me do a Cochrane Review?

At a minimum, we expect first-time Cochrane authors to already be familiar with systematic review processes while in the title registration phase. If your title is registered, we then strongly encourage authors to undertake a Cochrane training course in the early stages of their review. Cochrane also offer extensive online training resources; the Cochrane Handbook and MECIR Standards provide guidance on all requirements of a review; and the RevMan software features inbuilt tutorials. The editorial team can signpost all of these resources.

Do authors need to meet specific timelines with their review?

Yes. Each stage of the review process has a submission date, and authors are expected to adhere to these timelines. A draft protocol must be submitted within 6 months of title registration. Reviews must be published within 12 months of the last search date. Any changes to agreed submission dates need to be negotiated with a Managing Editor.

Once my title is registered, will my review definitely be published?

All protocols and reviews now need to comply with standards known as MECIR. These

Cochrane-wide requirements aim to ensure all Cochrane Reviews are produced to a high standard. Despite best intentions, sometimes author teams do not make sufficient or timely progress, or submit drafts that do not meet methodological requirements. In these circumstances, Cochrane TAG may decide to reject the protocol or review. Key grounds for rejection are failure to meet the required standard of: quality; timeliness; competence; research and publication ethics. You can find more information about Cochrane’s rejection policy here.

I am currently undertaking a systematic review. Should I convert it to a Cochrane Review?

Some topics are more suitable for becoming Cochrane Reviews than others.  If you are thinking about registering your systematic review as a Cochrane Review title, it is likely you will still need to go through the title registration and protocol phases. Please contact a Managing Editor for further advice.

I am a PhD student. Can I lead a review?

We welcome PhD students as part of larger, experienced author teams. It is important that the team meet the requirements detailed above in the ‘What expertise will my author team require?’ section.

I would like to do a Cochrane Review, but I don’t have an author team. Can you help me find an author team?

We sometimes have reviews that require updating where the author team, or a member of the author team, are no longer available, and so more assistance is required to complete the update. If you get in touch with the Cochrane TAG editorial team with details of your relevant expertise and experience we can see if there are any ongoing opportunities that can be matched to you. If there are no current opportunities we can keep your details on file in case any appropriate opportunities arise.

You may also like to volunteer as a peer referee to get a sense of the process. If you are interested in registering as a peer referee, please email a managing editor with a list of your field/s of expertise.

You could also consider signing up for Cochrane’s TaskExchange, which allows experienced volunteers  to contribute to discrete review tasks on other Cochrane authors’ reviews.

I would like to apply for title registration. What should I do next?

The first step is to contact a managing editor with your research question and PICOS (participants, intervention, comparator, outcomes, study type). If these are in an area which the group believe has not been covered previously and is a current priority then we will ask you to complete a title registration form. This does not necessarily mean that the title will be registered. The title registration form will provide the group with the means to assess whether the proposal should be registered. Only the highest quality title proposals, most closely aligned with our priority areas, will proceed to registration.