Conducting a COVID Rapid Review

Cochrane is building a bank of questions emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic. Cochrane is not able to support and publish Rapid Reviews for all questions that have been published in the question bank. Questions are therefore being prioritized and refined

Questions identified as high priority and that meet the criteria for a Cochrane COVID Rapid Review

Cochrane will support the conduct of Rapid Reviews for high-priority questions (high-priority COVID Rapid Reviews). Support can include search development, methods expertise, and clinical expertise (if needed), and will include a centralised fast-track editorial process. Cochrane is actively co-ordinating author teams for high-priority questions. 

All other questions: Cochrane will also consider submissions of Rapid Reviews for other questions in the question bank; however, these Rapid Reviews will not be entitled to additional centralised support and only high-quality submissions that meet the criteria for Rapid Reviews and adhere to the methods guidance from the Rapid Reviews Methods Group will enter the fast-track editorial process. Rapid Review submissions that do not meet these requirements will be rejected before peer-review.

Before starting work on a Rapid Review, please email us at covidrapidreviews@cochrane.org to let us know your plans. We will confirm with you whether the question has been identified as a high priority. We also encourage prospective authors to check these pages regularly for updated information.

Cochrane recognises that consumer involvement is hugely important and has created COVID-19 Consumer rapid response group to provide timely and informed input throughout the rapid review process. Author teams can find information here or contact Cochrane's Consumer Engagement Officer for support and resources before this is in place.

Streamlined review production
Find a teamPurple arrowAgree timelinesPurple arrowRefine the topicPurple arrowSubmit protocolPurple arrowConduct the review

Finding a team

The review teams for high-priority COVID Rapid Reviews must include the following roles and expertise as a minimum, some of which may be fulfilled by the same person: 

  • A designated project lead who has experience conducting and managing rapid reviews. The project lead has overall responsibility for ensuring the rapid review is conducted to the agreed timelines and in line with the predefined methods.
  • One or more systematic reviewer(s) with at least basic expertise in rapid review methods.
  • Access to an information specialist who can design and run the searches.
  • Access to a statistician with good knowledge of Cochrane methods who can advise during protocol development and data analysis.
  • Access to a clinical expert with knowledge of the clinical area under review, who can advise during refinement of the question, development of the protocol, conduct of the review, and interpretation of the results.
  • Access to a consumer (recommended, not mandatory) to provide informed input throughout the process. Resources for COVID Rapid Review authors and groups who want to involve consumers can be found at the end of the COVID-19 Consumer rapid response group resources page. 

Agreeing timelines

The timeline for conducting a high-priority COVID Rapid Reviews will depend on the urgency of the question and may be as rapid as a few days. We expect most high-priority COVID Rapid Reviews to be submitted within two weeks of initiation, and expectations and each author’s role should be made clear at the beginning of the process. A Workflow is available in resources for author teams to help assign tasks and set expectations about timelines at the outset of the review.

Refining the topic

The urgent process of identifying priority questions means that many of them need to be refined before they can be addressed as a rapid review. Some high priority questions have already undergone topic refinement by an information specialist, which is reflected in each record in the Question Bank

Submitting a protocol

Author teams should complete a protocol for the COVID Rapid Reviews before inclusion/exclusion decisions are made, to prespecify the methods that will be used. We encourage author teams to register their Rapid Review protocols with PROSPERO or the Open Science Framework (please note, unlike full Cochrane systematic reviews, Rapid Reviews submitted to Cochrane will not automatically be registered with PROSPERO). 

Once completed, protocols should be submitted to https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/cdsr, at which point they will undergo editorial and methodological checks. 

The protocol will be uploaded to the associated record in the Question Bank and if the completed review is accepted for publication, the protocol will be published as an appendix to the completed review. Protocols will not be published prospectively in the Cochrane Library as it would be for a standard Cochrane Review. 

A protocol template for COVID Rapid Reviews has been designed for ease of completion and to highlight important methodological considerations. Details of how the template was developed and the most up to date version can be found in resources for author teams.

Conducting the review

Each COVID Rapid Review should be conducted according to the methods predefined in the protocol (any changes to the protocol should be declared and justified in the final review), and to the agreed timelines. Author teams may wish to use the Workflow document to manage the conduct of the review, which can be found in resources for author teams

We encourage authors to use the Full Review Template to write up their reviews, which is available in resources for author teamsThe review and any supporting materials should be submitted to https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/cdsr.


Fast-track publication
Fast-track editorialAccepted article publishedFinal checks and copy-editReview published on
the Cochrane Library

Fast-track editorial

When a high-priority COVID Rapid Review is submitted, it will undergo fast-track quality assurance (QA) and peer review to check that the information provided is reliable. For submissions of rapid reviews that are not identified as high priority, a QA check will be performed. Please note, some rapid reviews may be rejected before peer review dependent on the feedback of editors.

Accepted article published

Given the urgency of many COVID Rapid Reviews, Cochrane working towards making pre-prints available within a week of a high priority full review being submitted.

Final checks and copy-edit

Final editorial and methods checks will be conducted, and the manuscript will be copy-edited and prepared for publication on the Cochrane Library. We will aim for most COVID Rapid Reviews to be published within two weeks of being submitted.