Protocol development

Developing a protocol with PaPaS

Preparing a Cochrane Review is complex and involves many judgements. In order to minimize the potential for bias in the review process, these judgements should be made in ways that do not depend on the findings of the studies included in the review. Protocols for Cochrane Reviews are published before the completed systematic review in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR).

The importance of protocols:

  1. bias is reduced;
  2. there is access to peer-review which ensures quality;
  3. publication of protocols reduces duplication of effort; anyone interested in researching the same topic will become aware of the work in progress.

Once a title has been formally registered with PaPaS, the authors can begin preparing the first draft of the protocol in RevMan. 

The first draft of the protocol should be submitted within six months; if the first draft is not submitted within six months, the title will be automatically de-registered unless there are extenuating circumstances. Automatic reminders of submission deadlines will be sent to the Contact Person via our database, Archie. The Contact Person is expected to keep in touch with the workflow manager and inform them of any delays or potential delays.

To ensure a high-quality product in accordance with Cochrane standards, the editorial team will complete validation checks and minor copy editing amendments. We perform plagiarism checks, and check for adherence to the Cochrane Style Manual, Cochrane Handbook and MECIR Conduct and Reporting Standards. We will ask for the protocol to be revised if these standards are not met. See our "Useful links" page for more information, and our "Step by step" page for details of the protocol development process. Cochrane provides a range of information, resources and training covering the steps involved in conducting a Cochrane protocol (see our "Useful links" page).

We ask author teams to bear in mind that PaPaS does not have the resources or capacity to provide open-ended support to novice author teams. Authors are expected to be familiar with the principles of systematic reviewing and to demonstrate that they have the capacity to complete a Cochrane Review. 

The workflow manager is available to answer any queries at any point during the development of the protocol; if we do not know the answer, or we do not have the available resources to help, we will endeavour to point you in the right direction.

We aim to publish all protocols within 12 months of registering the title. 

We reserve the right to de-register titles if they do not meet the expected standards, for example standards of timeliness or quality (see the Cochrane Rejection Policy). We always aim to resolve any disagreements between the author team and the editorial team through discussion. Authors are free to appeal editorial decisions via the Cochrane Appeals Policy.

Published protocols which have not progressed within two years will be considered for withdrawal from the Cochrane Library.