The Cochrane Adverse Effects Methods Group (AEMG) base their activities around the six core functions outlined by Cochrane. These are:
1. to provide policy advice
2. to provide training and support
3. to conduct methodological research
4. to help to monitor the quality of Cochrane Reviews
5. to serve as a forum for discussion
6. to ensure that the group functions interactively within The Cochrane Collaboration
This work is carried out as described below;
1. Policy advice
The Adverse Effects Methods Group (AEMG) provides methodological guidance on the appropriate techniques for the identification and systematic assessment of adverse effects.
The latest guidelines were published in 2007 and are freely available from the internet;
Loke YK, Price D, Herxheimer A. Systematic reviews of adverse effects: framework for a structured approach. BMC Med Res Methodol 2007;7:32.
1.3 Cochrane Handbook
"The AEMG contributed chapter 19, Adverse effects, to the Cochrane Handbook of Systematic Reviews of Interventions (V6.1, 2020).
1.4 Keeping up to date
Where necessary, the AEMG circulates important new developments through the Methods Group Newsletter and other appropriate means. Examples include;
2. Training and support
Since 2002, members of the AEMG have held training workshops annually at the UK Cochrane Contributors Meeting.
Adverse Effects Workshops have been a regular feature at the Cochrane Colloquia since 2001 – attendance has regularly increased, with over 70 participants signing up for the Workshop at the XIV Cochrane Colloquium.
At future Colloquia, the AEMG intends to expand on this by delivering both a basic level workshop, and a more advanced workshop covering specific detailed issues such as searching (in collaboration with the Information Retrieval Methods Group), quality assessment, etc.. The AEMG has registered workshops for the forthcoming Colloquium (please see news for more details).
In addition to this, the AEMG will seek to hold workshops at the meetings of Review Group Co-ordinators and Trial Search Co-ordinators.
2.2 Web Resource
The AEMG plans to put a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on its webpage so that reviewers can quickly obtain advice on issues that crop up regularly. In addition to this, there will be a bibliography or register of existing methodological studies, where the relevant studies will be categorized into topics for easy reference.
2.3 Email Discussion Forum
A discussion forum/mailing list also enables reviewers to contact the Group members for additional collaborative efforts on tackling issues which are not readily addressed in the FAQs. We have drawn up a list of named members who can be called on, when necessary, to provide the expertise across a broad range of adverse effects topics.
3. Methodological research
3.1 Research Agenda
The AEMG identifies areas of methodological uncertainty for further research. Members will develop and disseminate appropriate techniques to fill gaps that are identified. Provisional topics for the research strategy are outlined in the reference below, but the AEMG will be extremely receptive to all additional suggestions.
Furthermore, the AEMG has compiled a bibliographic list of existing methodological studies of adverse effects, which will be valuable to identify gaps in the literature, and areas of uncertainty. The Group aims to maintain and update this list via the Website.
3.2 Research Collaboration
The discussion forum/ mailing list of the AEMG is used as a meeting place for researchers who share similar interests. This enables research proposals to be circulated and encourage collaborative efforts, particularly in strengthening funding proposals under the aegis of the AEMG.
4. Helping to monitor the quality of systematic reviews
Members of the AEMG have already been directly involved in studies to evaluate how adverse effects are incorporated into systematic reviews including Cochrane reviews. The quality and reporting of information on adverse effects within systematic reviews is also being studied.
The AEMG will work together with Review Groups, Methods Groups, the Quality Advisory Group, the Handbook Advisory Group and others to advise on defining the methods for identifying and assessing the quality of adverse effects evaluations in Cochrane reviews.
5. A forum for discussion
5.1 Membership List
We have collated a membership list, both from the email responses, and from the people who attended the exploratory meeting in Dublin. This membership list will be maintained and updated by the co-convenors. We will set up a discussion list for members.
5.2 Web Resource
We have provided a dedicated webpage and an adverse effects forum which allows memebers easy access the resources of the AEMG and enables them to communicate effectively with each other. This will help link Cochrane authors and editors with specialists in the field of adverse effects.
6. Interaction within The Cochrane Collaboration
6.1 Cross Membership
Adverse effects are a generic issue, prevalent throughout all Cochrane reviews of healthcare interventions. Many of the members of the AEMG are actively involved in other Review and Methods Groups, so ensuring that there is good connectivity and exchange of ideas between the AEMG and other Groups.
6.2 Regular Meetings
Open meetings at the Cochrane Colloquia promote effective communication and liaison with all interested parties.
The co-convenors are responsible for communication with other Cochrane entities, as well as the maintenance of web resources, modules, handbook advice and email lists, and keeping the members up to date.