Protocol development: step by step

  1. Once the title is registered, the Information Specialist contacts the authors to discuss the search strategy and offer support (see our searching page).

  2. If authors are new to Cochrane, they will need to activate their Cochrane Accounts and download RevMan. See our "Useful links (protocol development)" page for all relevant information.

  3. Author team prepares the first draft in RevMan. PaPaS guidance will automatically populate the RevMan file. Authors are expected to follow PaPaS and Cochrane guidance (see "Useful links" page) and to include at least one template Summary of findings table. Authors to submit for editorial approval via RevMan within six months or the title will be automatically de-registered.

         If you would find it useful to speak to the editorial team before starting work, please contact us and we would be happy to arrange a video call.

  4. Conflicts of Interest forms are sent out to all authors on receipt of the first draft.

  5. The editorial team1 completes assessments (including a plagiarism check using iThenticate) and returns comments to the Contact Person, usually within two months or less.

  6. Authors usually given three weeks to revise and resubmit (more time may be given if the protocol is particularly complex or requires substantial revisions).

  7. The editorial team reassesses the protocol and proceeds to peer review if appropriate (if not appropriate, the protocol will be sent back for further revision).

  8. We aim to complete peer review within two months (this time frame allows for the identification of peer reviewers, two weeks for each reviewer to comment, and for editorial checks and collation of comments).

    • At April 2019, the Network Editors are now providing quality screening for all of our protocols, reviews and updates. We intend to submit protocols for screening before or during peer review, but it may occur at a different stage of development (assessed on a case by case basis).
  9. Authors usually given three weeks to revise the protocol in light of the peer review comments and resubmit.

  10. The editorial team reassesses the protocol and proceeds to sign off and copy edit if appropriate (if not appropriate, the protocol will be sent back for further revision).

  11. We can usually expect a protocol to be copy edited by the Cochrane Copy Edit Support Team within two weeks, but this is variable and depends on their workload and availability.

  12. Authors usually given one week to revise the protocol in light of the copy edit comments and resubmit.

  13. The editorial team reassesses the protocol and proceeds to publication if appropriate (if not appropriate, the protocol will be sent back for further revision).

  14. Licence for Publication forms are sent out to all authors once the workflow manager has submitted the protocol for publication. The protocol is published on the Cochrane Library within hours of receiving the last LfP form.

1. The Managing Editor or Assistant Managing Editor manages the editorial process (as the ‘workflow manager’) and will be the main point of contact throughout the development of the protocol. The Co-ordinating Editor has overall responsibility and signs off all protocols and reviews. Each protocol is assessed by the workflow manager at every stage. The Managing Editor or Assistant Managing Editor (whichever one is not acting as workflow manager) will also provide editorial input at specific points. Each protocol is assigned a Contact Editor (see Editorial board) who will provide editorial feedback throughout the development process, and the protocol will also be assessed by our Information Specialist and any other PaPaS editorial staff (eg clinical editor) or Cochrane members (eg Methods Group) at specific points as required. Each protocol is also peer reviewed by at least two external professionals and at least one consumer reviewer (see Cochrane Peer Review Policy).

These timelines are suggested as a guide; variables such as author team expertise, protocol/topic complexity, and availability of our volunteer peer reviewers and editors, can all affect the timelines.