Cochrane Methods Report 2018

Welcome to the second annual report for Cochrane Methods that updates on methodological developments in Cochrane and the important work of our Methods Groups’ members and others. Major projects this year include near completion of the next version of the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, development of a Cochrane Content Strategy, and the introduction of reviews of prognosis into Cochrane. Another important undertaking by Cochrane’s Scientific Committee’s (CSC) expert panel (includes both Cochrane and independent experts), considered sequential methods for updated meta-analyses. They will conclude a position statement on the use of these methods in Cochrane Reviews shortly.

The long-awaited Handbook update

We are nearly there! Production of the Handbook is heavily reliant on individuals from our Methods Groups and it is ten years since its major update resulted in the first published book edited by Julian Higgins and Sally Green in 2008. I would like to thank all the authors, editors and chapter peer reviewers for completing this major piece of work. I want to especially thank the central Handbook editorial team, Senior editors Julian Higgins and James Thomas, Associate Sientific editors Tianjing Li, Matt Page, Vivian Welch, Implementation editor Miranda Cumpston and Laura Mellor, our Editorial assistant. This new version includes substantive new and re-structured content, new chapters that cover narrative synthesis approaches, equity considerations, addressing intervention complexity and several chapters addressing risk of bias assessment for both randomized and non-randomized studies.

Innovative approaches and new developments

Cochrane set the methodological agenda for systematic reviews (Please see editorial highlighting the work of Doug Altman, 1948-2018) and continues to keep pace in a fast-moving field. Methods colleagues make key contributions to these developments both within and beyond Cochrane. Highlights are the major developments occurring with individual participant data to both conduct reviews but also manage data through the use of data repositories. We add to the diversification of Review types with prognosis reviews and further developments with qualitative evidence syntheses. Please look at Groups’ key achievements that include a range of tool developments and include assessing the severity of conflicts in medical research (TACIT), assessing risk of bias due to missing results (ROB-ME), evaluation of the credibility of Network Meta-Analysis treatment effects (CINeMA), and an inventory of published anchor-based minimally important differences (MID) associated with patient reported outcome measures.

Projects supported by Cochrane funds

Current Cochrane funds are the Methods Innovation Fund (research and development focus) and the Strategic Methods Fund (implementation focus). Completed Methods Innovation Fund projects include: Interim guidance on the inclusion of clinical study reports and other regulatory documents in Cochrane Reviews led by Tom Jefferson; the development of plain language summaries for DTA reviews led by Penny Whiting; development work for the CERQual project led by Claire Glenton; and an evaluation of methods for sequential approaches to updated meta-analyses led by Mark Simmonds. The two Strategic Methods Fund projects continue, more information on the implementation of prognosis reviews, led by Carl Moons, here.  The other live project led by Hilary Thomson, Improving Conduct & reporting of Narrative Synthesis of Quantitative data (ICONS-Quant) will feed into a new Handbook chapter.

Cochrane Content Strategy methods project developments

Methods colleagues worked with David Tovey, Editor in Chief and his team, to develop a strategy to plan the ongoing development of Cochrane content that investigates types of questions, data and associated methods Cochrane should prioritize for implementation in Cochrane type reviews. This work includes wider implementation of network meta-analysis (NMA) and development of MECIR standards for NMA, evaluation of a rapid review product, and improvement to the inclusion of equity considerations. This Group received funding to develop guidance for stakeholder engagement in guideline development. Other evaluations include use of individual participant data and unpublished studies such as clinical study reports.

Work on methodological tools and guidance

Tool development continues with expansion to the ‘Risk of bias’ tools for randomized and non-randomized studies to cover multiple study designs, and further development of the CINeMA tool for NMA. The Information Retrieval Methods Group continues filter development with several projects and will develop a filter to identify controlled trials in LILACS.  The Qualitative and Implementation Methods Group continues work on investigating bias in qualitative studies and a tool to assess methodological limitations of such studies. Members are very often involved in developing reporting guidance, an example is the PRISMA-DTA Group Statement published in January 2018, with an accompanying “Elaboration and Explanation” on its way.

Working directly with Cochrane Review Groups

Methods Groups support Cochrane Review Groups and their authors particularly with complex methods, examples are illustrated by the Economics Methods Group this year who worked with a several Groups on including either Brief Economic Commentaries or a full integrated review of economic evidence.

Peer review methods publications

Subsequently, to the cessation of the Cochrane Methodology Register we now provide a year on year collection of peer reviewed publications highlighting important work published by Cochrane methods members. Currently, we hope to move from the static PDF’s towards a searchable database of these topic specific articles.

Further details on above are available: individual Group key achievements, listed publications, research and implementation activities, training and other support activities.

Further details on all the above are available. Please see the menu box on the left for key achievements, research & implementation activities, training & other support activities and publications.

Update on our members

We lost the legendary Doug Altman in June, loved and missed by so many of us.

We would like to thank Jill Hayden and Rachel Ogilvie for co-ordinating the Prognosis Methods Group which has moved to the care of Anneke Damen, Lotty Hooft, and Carl Moons at the University Medical Center, Utrecht, Netherlands.

We say goodbye and thanks to the following:

Jaq Mallender and Kevin Marsh, co-convenors, Economic Methods Group
Mark Petticrew, co-convenor, Equity Methods Group
Susi Wisniewski, DTA Editorial Team, Screening and Diagnostic Tests Methods Group
Georgia Salanti and Joseph Beyene, co-convenors, Statistical Methods Group
Adriani Nikolakopoulou, co-ordinator, Statistical Methods Group

And we welcome:

Mona Choudhury, co-convenor, Priority Setting Methods Group
Anna Lene Seidler, project research, Prospective Meta-analysis Methods Group
Barabara Nussbaumer-Streit, co-convenor, Rapid Review Methods Group
Lisa Affengruber, Support, Rapid Review Methods Group
Sophie Beese and Bella Harris, DTA Editorial Team
Anna Chaimani, co-convenor, Statistical Methods Group
Areti Angeliki Veroniki, co-convenor, Statistical Methods Group

Finally, I will step down from my position as Methods Co-ordinator from October this year. Members of the Methods Community are enthusiastic and committed to ensure the integrity of Cochrane methods. It is a privilege to have met and worked with many highly regarded and respected people working in research evidence synthesis. I will say personal goodbyes to many of you at the Edinburgh Colloquium and wish those that I miss my very best wishes.

With respect and affection,

Methods Co-ordinator