How Cochrane responded to the need for timely, unbiased, informative and accurate evidence on new diagnostic tests during the Covid-19 pandemic

Date & Time
Monday, September 4, 2023, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Location Name
Fleming / Whittle
Session Type
Special Session

In mid-March 2020, leaders in Cochrane put out a call for help to provide evidence to assist decision-making during the emerging pandemic. On 26th March 2020 we formed the Cochrane Covid Diagnostic Test Accuracy Group – an international group of methodologists, test accuracy specialists, statisticians, epidemiologists and clinicians committed to deliver a portfolio of reviews to provide and maintain a reliable evidence base on which test policies could be based.

In the following days, Cochrane published two Cochrane Diagnostic Test Accuracy Protocols (on days 29 and 68), and five Cochrane Diagnostic Test Accuracy systematic reviews (on days 91, 103, 153, 189 and 239) reporting on the accuracy of antibody tests, signs and symptoms, rapid antigen and molecular tests, imaging tests, and routine laboratory tests. Since then, Cochrane has published eight updates of these reviews, and a further four reviews are close to being completed. To date, these five reviews have been cited 3375 times, and used in 22 international guidelines.

Completing these reviews has involved: recruiting over 100 researchers on a voluntary basis from more than 14 countries across six continents; developing new methods to deal with the magnitude of papers, use of pre-prints and new data sources; adapting protocols as knowledge and understanding developed; identifying and engaging with stakeholders (including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the Cochrane Infectious Diseases group) to ensure the reviews were informative and addressed relevant questions; and developing working arrangements across Cochrane to enable timely publication, including rapid peer review, editorial support and fixing software challenges. Our approach exemplifies Cochrane's principles of collaboration, enthusiasm, avoiding duplication of effort, and minimizing bias whilst striving for clinical relevance, quality, open access and avoiding all conflicts of interest.

This session will introduce the story of the team's approach and work. We will highlight the findings of the reviews, discuss the challenges and solutions we found in working in a new and moving area of health and technology, and discuss how we tried to make sure our findings had impact. We are keen to discuss our experience with the audience and the lessons we have learned.

Target audience: Reviewers, methodologists, policymakers, funders, media, the public: all who are interested in seeing how an international team collaborates effectively and efficiently

Format: Multiple short presentations followed by a panel discussion