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SRPAG Public minutes - June 2019



Systematic Reviews Programme Advisory Group Meeting

Wednesday 26th June 2019


Professor Ken Stein, (Chair), Programme Director
Dr Phil Alderson, NICE representative
Professor Andrew Booth, Academic Advisor
Professor Martin Burton, Cochrane UK
Professor Rachel Churchill, CRG Representative
Dr Tara Lamont, NIHR Dissemination Centre Representative
Professor Jo Lord, Academic Advisor
Dr Karla Soares-Weiser, Cochrane Editor in Chief
Professor Olivia Wu, Complex Reviews Support Unit


Dr Gail Johnston, Health & Social Care R&D Division Northern Ireland
Dr Kay Pattison, Department of Health and Social Care
Ms Christine Holmes, Department of Health and Social Care 


Ms Sally Bailey, NETSCC & TARs representative
Dr Sofia Araujo-Betancor, NETSCC
Mrs Sarah Harwin, NETSCC


Mr Michael Bowdery, Welsh Assembly Government
Dr Julie Simpson, Scottish Government Health Directorates
Dr Helen Bulbeck, PPI Representative
Dr Neil Hawkins, Complex Reviews Support Unit 


1a) Welcome and introductions

KS welcomed everyone to the meeting, and all individuals introduced themselves.

1b) Minutes of 12th December 2018 meeting 

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed and accepted as an accurate record.

2a) Cochrane Review Group annual reporting summary 2018

SB presented this item. Key points highlighted and discussed by the Group include:

  • Consumer engagement - One group reported difficulties in this area, due to the nature of the condition they focus on. However, other CRGs working with challenging conditions do engage with consumers. NETSCC to ask Helen Bulbeck for advice as to how the group may better engage. The Group stressed the importance of consumer involvement all throughout the process,
  • Prioritisation - Cochrane Updated Classification System. This is a new platform to aid CRGs with prioritisation. Four CRGs were lined up to test the system, however due to technical issues with the platform this has been postponed until later this year, with roll out due early 2020.
  • Impact and impact factor - The Group agreed there is a difference between an impact factor number and actual impact. RC noted the need for more emphasis on Knowledge Translation activities, with CRGs demonstrating how they are trying to reach all sorts of audiences, other than academics. Dissemination needs to draw attention to the reviews that have influenced practice.
  • Financial reporting - Has improved since better monitoring put in place, with the overall low underspend similar to the previous year.

The Group agreed the summary of annual reports is a useful document and important for CRGs to complete.  The following improvements were suggested:

  • Request information from CRGs about knowledge translation
  • More focus on individual CRG progress rather than in comparing Groups among themselves using the new formula only
  • Need to reflect the amount of work that goes into considering rejected reviews - to avoid empty reviews, concerns about ability of author, or non-priority etc.

Following on from a discussion about the CRG business Plans, it was agreed to share the redacted version of these (i.e. no salaries) with the wider Cochrane community, like the Networks and international Cochrane centres.

3a) Quinquennial Review update 

SB introduced the item and confirmed that all CRGs previously funded by NIHR were again successful in receiving funding. The CRG business plans cover the first 3 years of the 5-year contract (i.e. 2020-2025). This allows for a formal review in 2023 to consider progress and make changes to contracts if needed.

3b) Three-year review of provisional plans

KS highlighted the three-year review will be a meaningful performance review with possible funding changes for CRGs. Comments from the Group include:
  • CRGs progress should be measured against their own business plan. It was also suggested to include this analysis/measure in the Annual Report
  • The review will be an opportunity to consider wider government priorities. For example, a Group may have done well but resources might have to be reallocated elsewhere based on current NHS  and Social Care priorities.Annual reports to be updated to request information on Social Care review activity and qualitative reporting of changes in external issues
A break in the contract is also of benefit to the CRGs as it allows them to be more flexible with developments and update business plans to align with current national priorities.
After discussion, the Group agreed on the need to demonstrate the unique selling points of Cochrane reviews in annual reporting. These include:
  • Relevant and sensitive to the wider context

4a) Incentive Awards 2019 call paper

SAB introduced the item, noting the name change to “Incentive Awards” to reflect the broader scope, and highlighting the addition of the Campbell Collaboration. Incentive Awards will be the same amount of funding as previous years, £5k - £10K, and expect to fund a similar number of applications, about 10-20. The delivery of reviews will be 9-12 months from the start date and payment is due on completion.
This will be the first collaboration with Campbell and will be a pilot. If it goes well, there is also the potential to extend the remit of the Programme Grants due to be advertised at the end of 2019.

4b) Cochrane Incentive Awards 2019 Terms of Reference

It was agreed the Campbell representative should be an observer not a member, to be consistent with Cochrane representation on the committee Terms of reference.
PA to look for names of potential social care experts who also understand systematic reviews to sit on the Incentive Awards panel.

5a) Cochrane Reviews of NICE Priority Report on first year scheme  

PA introduced the item and set out the current process. There have been three rounds with 10 reviews identified. Three have delivered, six are ongoing and one due to start in August. It was highlighted that it took a bit of time to get started but confidence is growing in the system. Timely delivery of reviews continues to be a challenge and is being closely monitored.  KS reiterated that the review has to be delivered by the agreed deadline.

It was agreed the process could be adjusted so that CRGs have early involvement with NICE guideline process in order to align endpoints included in the review, where possible. Overall, the scheme has been positive.

5b) Cochrane Reviews of NICE Priority Financial Summary of first year of scheme  

It was agreed that these reviews are good value for money, however it should also be noted the financial summary does not reflect the true cost of undertaking these pieces of work and CRGs should be encouraged to quote realistic amounts. Thought needs to be given about how the mechanism is working and the real cost. NETSCC to organize a separate meeting with KSW to discuss this in more detail.

It was agreed that KSW would invite comment by the Network Associate Editors on the scheme, and report back to the December SRPAG meeting.
The Group strongly supports the continuation of the scheme and regards it as a success.  

6a) Network Support Fellow (NSF) update on year 1  

KSW introduced the item; all eight posts have been filled with two of the eight yet to start. Different skill specialisms have been appointed across the networks.

Key role of NSFs is UK based priority setting, filling the gap between the associate editor and review teams. Engagement is also key, not only with the CRGs within the network, but between other networks to avoid silo working.

Networks do meet together once a month with Cochrane Central. The aim is to have the same strategy even if the way the different networks deliver it is different. 


6b) Network Support Fellow Finance summary update 

The Group agreed about the need to review this scheme at the June 2020 SRPAG meeting. Funding of the positions going forward will be discussed and agreed then. Things to take into account in the review include:
  • Networks have the same level of provision independent of coverage level, e.g. Mental Health is currently at a disadvantage due to the high number of CRGs within it
  • Fellows started at different times and therefore progress should be measured relative to the start dates of each NSF
  • The review should focus on networks as a group, not individuals and provide a formative review of what has been learned to inform whether to continue funding or not
It was confirmed that underspent money could be used for training, conference attendance and reasonable travel expenses associated with the post, NETSCC to advise NSF host institutions.
KP suggested the NSF could link with Fellows at the NIHR Academy NETSCC to take forward. 

7a) Update from Cochrane UK  

MB introduced and summarised the Cochrane UK report. Key points include: 
  • Cochrane courses are not only attended by prospective authors. There has been an increase in people who want to learn about Cochrane reviews without the intention of authoring one
  • The joint Cochrane UK and Ireland Symposium was a success. Workshops were organised against what the audience wanted, and bringing in relevant trainers, rather than asking experts to arrange workshop subjects. The 2020 Symposium will be in Dublin. Students for Best Evidence is going to be rolled out globally via Cochrane Central
  • Cochrane UK has a good relationship with the UK press and has been mentioned 7,000 times in the last year. Cochrane is represented as a highly trusted brand of reliable evidence. Funding has been secured for the next five years to support the Cochrane UK Fellow Programme from the regional Health Education England Programme

8a) NIHR Dissemination Centre (NDC) update

TL introduced the item. The process of guiding decisions on Signals was outlined. In February 2019 NDC secured a re-publishing agreement with BMJ, and continue the publications in Nursing Times.

A number of relationships have been made with a series of organisations such as Royal College of Occupational Therapists. Regular news items in their magazine and website will be featured.

The next Themed Review, promoting physical activity, launches on 4th July.

9a) NIHR Complex Reviews Support Unit (NCRSU) update 

OW gave an update on NCRSU. Points highlighted include:
  • The NCRSU is coming to the end of the fourth year and the focus this past year has been on 10 Cochrane Programme Grants, with support and training on methodological issues
  • Continuing the development of the Apps for network meta-analysis, and meta-analysis of diagnostic test accuracy, which may be included in the update of The Cochrane Handbook
  • The workshops at the Cochrane Colloquium in Edinburgh and the Cochrane Symposium in Oxford were well attended. The Apps workshop has been very successful. Currently investigating webinars in late summer/early autumn
  • Applied for workshop presentations at the 2019 Colloquium, but these were rejected
  • 12 months left on the current contract, the NCRSU are working on ways to engage people as may not be able to support reviews for the whole timeline of the review
In summary, important to support complex methods, increasingly a global issue with development of tools and support, such as the apps developed here.

10a) Update on Cochrane news and initiatives 

KSW summarised highlights from Cochrane news and initiatives:
  • Cochrane Library Impact Factor has again increased, 7.755
  • Supporting editorial to decrease time to publication is their top priority project, aiming for a 30% reduction by 2 years
  • Launching process for high profile (controversial) reviews shortly
  • Editorial board to discuss content and publishing strategies beyond 2020 and support prioritisation
  • Better use of empty reviews to assist funders
  • Establish ‘Network Clinics’ to support Associate Editors and share resources
  • Introduction of Cochrane’s own Programme Grant scheme, which will have no flexibility in delivery times
  • Core competencies training for Managing Editors around complex reviews to be introduce
  • Innovations funding given to networks to cover: Obesity gap analysis; public health relevance; economic evaluations; time to event outcomes; and optimal methods for measuring pain as an outcome
OW highlighted an NIHR fellow was funded to look at time to event outcomes. KSW to send information to OW to check overlap.

11) AOB and Close 


Date of next meeting is Thursday 5th December 2019 10:30 – 15:00, Minerva House, 5 Montague Close, London, SE1 9BB.