Welcome to the third issue of Cochrane Methods, the official annual publication for methodological issues within The Cochrane Collaboration. We have been reporting on methodological issues since 1997 and hope this re-vamped version of what was the Cochrane Methods Groups’ Newsletter is giving greater prominence to the work of Cochrane Methods Groups and helping you keep up-to-date with methodological developments within the Collaboration. This issue includes a reader’s survey to obtain feedback on how we can continue to develop and improve Cochrane Methods and we hope that you will be able to find time to complete and return this.
The Cochrane Collaboration is an international, independent, not-for-profit organisation of 27,000 contributors from 120 countries, dedicated to making up-to-date, accurate information about the effects of health care readily available worldwide. Its contributors work together to produce Cochrane reviews of healthcare interventions, diagnostic tests and methodology, which are published online in The Cochrane Library. These help providers, practitioners, patients and the public more generally, make informed decisions about their own health care and that of others. The Cochrane Methods Groups provide policy advice to the Collaboration on how the validity and precision of Cochrane reviews can be improved. In addition, Methods Groups may also carry out additional tasks such as providing training, peer review and specialist advice, contributing to software developments, or conducting methodological research aimed at improving the quality of Cochrane reviews. You can read more about the individual Methods Groups on pages 44–54.
This issue of Cochrane Methods focuses on some of the challenging issues facing the methodology of Cochrane reviews and other types of systematic reviews. We report on the ongoing work of the MECIR (Methodological Expectations of Cochrane Intervention Reviews) project, which has produced a set of minimum standards for the conduct and reporting of the methods used in reviews. There is a brief introduction to each of the six methodological development projects that The Cochrane Collaboration Steering Group has agreed to fund from January this year. The Cochrane Editorial Unit is embarking on a programme to review Cochrane content and part of this work will consider emergent methodological developments for the Collaboration, including the use of non-randomized designs, qualitative and economic syntheses in reviews, and the possibility of addressing questions relating to the implementation of interventions. Other key developments covered in this issue are an examination of meta-analyses and their component studies in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, an evaluation of the use and interpretation of statistical methods in Cochrane reviews to lead to improvements in the application of statistics, a discussion of the use of sequential methods for meta-analysis, the use of logic models in Cochrane reviews and ‘top tips’ to obtain funding for individual participant data (IPD) meta-analyses. If you would like to consider publishing the findings from your study in a future issue of Cochrane Methods, then please get in touch.
As with previous issues, we also include a series of structured abstracts and commentaries on topical methodological issues. These include a meta-epidemiological study to investigate agreement between direct and indirect comparisons, a comparison of randomized trials and observational studies for meta-analysis of adverse effects, a retrospective cohort study on outcome reporting bias in UK publicly funded trials, a study of the effect of smaller studies on publication bias, developments around methodological filters for diagnostic test accuracy studies, a framework to identify research gaps, a prevalence study to compare methodological characteristics of registered and non-registered trials in Latin America and the Caribbean, and methods to update reviews and obtain unpublished data.
We are, as ever, very grateful to the many people who have contributed to this newsletter. Firstly, we would like to thank Sally Hopewell who has stepped down as Editor of Cochrane Methods. Sally was Editor for more than a decade and particularly inspired the new look. We should also like to thank The Cochrane Collaboration and the UK Cochrane Centre (part of the National Institute for Health Research) for providing resources to produce this year’s issue. Jackie Chandler, the recently employed Methods Co-ordinator, based at the Cochrane Editorial Unit has assumed responsibility for co-ordinating the publication with Mike Clarke and Julian Higgins.
Finally, we should very much welcome your comments on Cochrane Methods with suggestions for future content, and encourage you to complete the readers’ survey.