Protocols

The UGPD Group editorial team supports authors in the preparation of protocols by providing methodological advice, formulation and execution of search strategies, provision of RevMan software and other Cochrane Collaboration materials such as the handbook for authors and training and support as required on an ad hoc basis. Informal advice is available through the Review Group Co-ordinator.

A list of all protocols in development can be found on the Cochrane Library.

Drafting a protocol

  1. Once a title has been registered in Archie, authors will received login details, so that they may access their record in Archie.
  2. Protocols and reviews are authored in a software package called "Review Manager", the current version of which is referred to as RevMan 5. Authors can download the most recent version for free from the RevMan website. The site also provides documentation and training materials. RevMan interacts with Archie, which acts as a central storage facility for both authors and the editorial teams. Authors use RevMan to write protocols, checking them in and out of Archie as necessary. This process can be initiated from either Archie or RevMan.
  3. Authors will be sent a document detailing the following resources:

  4. During the development of the protocol, authors are expected to contact the Trial Search Coordinator, to jointly develop a search strategy and identify databases to be searched.
  5. Authors should draft their protocol in RevMan, following the guidance provided and the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.
  6. Authors should read section 3.2.4 of the Cochrane policy manual titled "Managing expectations: what does The Cochrane Collaboration expect of authors, and what can authors expect of The Cochrane Collaboration?"

Submitting a protocol

Using the Publication Wizard in Archie, authors mark the protocol for publication. This creates a special version of the document with the description ‘For publication’. Authors can then check the review out, continue developing the full review, and check the document back in as a new draft version without affecting the protocol marked for publication.

Additionally authors should complete and return the protocol and review pre-submission checklist  to the editorial office.

At least three referees are asked to provide comments on each protocol. In general these will be: a person with experience of Cochrane methodology, a clinical expert and a consumer. These referees are usually from outside the editorial team, but editors may be asked to provide referee comments for protocols other than those for which they have editorial responsibility. In the case of methodological difficult or clinically contentious issues, comments may be sought from additional peer referees.  While we strive to obtain and return peer referee comments in 6-8 weeks time, this can often take as long as 6-10 months, due to the difficulty in obtaining expertise required to review Cochrane reviews. 

Once comments from referees have been returned to the author, the author is asked to modify the protocol as appropriate and return this to the Review Group Co-ordinator (by submitting it for editorial process through Archie) with a commentary of the changes made and how these address the referees' comments. Referees will be sent copies of the other referees' comments and the author's response, once the protocol is approved for publication.

Once approved by the contact editor, the editorial team will check and approve the protocol. Final approval for publication will be given by the Co-ordinating Editor. Copy editing will not be done routinely by the UGPD Group at the protocol stage.

The UGPD Group's policy for resolving disagreements between the editorial team and authors or between the authors themselves, about the content of the protocol, is to attempt to resolve such issues by informal discussion. In the event an issue cannot be resolved, the advice of the director of the UK Cochrane Centre will be sought.

Time between submission of protocol and receipt of the completed review should normally be two years or less. After this time, protocols will be judged to have 'expired' and will be removed from the Cochrane Library with a note to that effect in the What's New section.

Publication

Authors will be sent a final copy of the protocol along with a "permission to publish" form, a signed copy of which is required to be returned the editorial office prior to publication.

Protocols are published monthly in The Cochrane Library.