What you need to know about the new Cochrane Handbook

Posted on 1 October 2019 by Ella Flemyng (Methods Implementation Coordinator)

We are delighted to announce the launch of the brand-new edition of the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions (Version 6). After substantive updates since the first published edition by Julian Higgins and Sally Green in 2008, Version 6 is now freely available online via the Cochrane website and in printed book form, which can be purchased from the Wiley website

We would not have been able to produce this Handbook without the expertise and commitment of individuals from our Methods Groups and methods community. We would like to thank the team of over one hundred authors, editors and chapter peer reviewers for completing this major piece of work. We especially want to thank the central Handbook editorial team, Senior Scientific Editors Julian Higgins and James Thomas, Associate Scientific Editors Jackie Chandler, Miranda Cumpston, Tianjing Li, Matt Page, Vivian Welch, and Laura Mellor, our Editorial Assistant. 

Overview of the new Handbook

Version 6 has been revised to reflect current best practice in review methodology and includes updated guidance that will be widely applicable. The new edition of the Handbook is divided into four parts: The first part (available only online) addresses issues specific to undertaking systematic reviews within Cochrane; the second part describes the core methods applicable to systematic reviews of interventions, from framing the question through to interpreting the results; the third part provides considerations for tackling systematic reviews from different perspectives, such as when thinking about specific populations, or complex interventions, or particular types of outcomes; and the fourth part covers a range of further topics, including prospective approaches, non-randomised studies and individual participant data.

How can I find out more?

Below we have compiled a list of the key resources and references that complement the launch of the new Handbook:

The 2019 Cochrane Colloquium will be a key avenue for dissemination of the methods detailed in the Handbook. For those attending, the following will be of particular interest:

  • 2019 Methods Symposium on Monday 21 October 2019 at 14:00-17:00: This year’s Methods Symposium will examine whether our protocols continue to provide the road map we need to navigate a modern Cochrane review. It will showcase updated material from the new Handbook and will address aspects of pre-specification from diverse methodological perspectives (make sure to register!).
  • Cochrane and complex reviews: methodological advances in the new Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions on Thursday 24 October, 14:00-15:30: This Special Session will provide an overview of the new Handbook, followed by presentations drawing on key new chapters, presented by their lead authors.
  • Embracing Methodological Diversity (Plenary Session) on Thursday 24 October 2019, 09:00-10:30: This Plenary will showcase how Cochrane is adopting and endorsing increasing methodological diversity within its reviews, and will include a launch announcement for the new Handbook.
  • Also look out for the core methods training workshops from the Cochrane Methods Groups.

Requests to translate

With the launch of the new Handbook, we have already begun receiving requests to translate. As part of Cochrane’s multi-lingual commitment and aim to increase capacity and impact in non-English speaking countries, we have begun defining the process for translating Cochrane’s methods guidance. Given the very large size and technically challenging content, the process highlights that translation teams begin by translating the Methodological Expectations for Cochrane Intervention Reviews (MECIR), which are also embedded within the new Handbook. Full details on the process can be found here.

What next?

The previous version of the Handbook sold nine thousand copies and has been cited over 40,000 times (according to Google Scholar), and we know that this version will continue to be the go-to resource for Cochrane review teams and the wider community. 

To facilitate the dissemination of the Handbook, we have developed an implementation plan, which is also being discussed with the Cochrane Review Group (CRG) Networks and other key stakeholders, to ensure review teams have the resources in place to use the guidance in the new Handbook

If anyone has any questions or is unsure on any of the aspects of implementation, please contact methods@cochrane.org