Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the presence and effectiveness of existing systems of prioritization for Cochrane review topics and to explore methods of improving those systems.
Study design and setting: We surveyed groups of Cochrane review authors and recorded any evidence of their use of priority-setting processes or policies. To evaluate the effectiveness of the policies we encountered, we assessed them using two frameworks from the literature: "Accountability for Reasonableness" (1) and Sibbald's 2009 framework (2) for successful priority setting. We then held two workshops with the subject groups to discuss our findings and their implications.
Results: Of the 66 groups surveyed, 29 had a system in place to inform the selection or prioritization of topics for Cochrane reviews. Fifteen groups used a more comprehensive structured approach that eventually resulted in a list of ranked priority titles for authoring, updating, or disseminating Cochrane reviews. Most groups involved researchers, practitioners, and patients in their prioritization processes.
Conclusion: Groups within The Cochrane Collaboration currently use a range of different priority-setting systems, some of which are more detailed than others. These differences often reflect the nature of The Cochrane Collaboration itself: given the topic breadth, history, and variety of international contexts present in the organization, a single unified system would not always be appropriate. All Cochrane entities, however, should have or develop strategic plans to improve the inclusiveness and transparency of their own prioritization processes, increase the number of finished prioritized reviews, and make more effective use of feedback from end users to increase the likelihood of producing reviews that have positive effects on health outcomes.
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