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Tips and tools

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has elicited an explosion of activities among all types of researchers, including in the evidence-synthesis, technology assessment and guideline-development communities. 
COVID-END has prepared tips for individual researchers and research teams who are involved or who want to become involved in preparing timely, relevant and high-quality evidence syntheses, technology assessments and guidelines to support decision-making about COVID-19. Many of these tips are designed to reduce unnecessary duplication in and help coordinate the remarkable efforts of these communities.

Two of the tips are about making sure you have the right team and relationships in place:

  1. If you are not already an individual or group with rich experience in synthesizing research evidence or in preparing technology assessments or guidelines for decision-makers, consider working with individuals and groups that have such experience
  2. If you are not already an individual or group working in close partnership with decision-makers, consider working with groups that have such partnerships (and if you don’t have access to such a group, check out our tips for supporting decision-makers)

Eight of the tips focus on creating the right processes to prepare evidence syntheses, technology assessments and guidelines, which ideally build on the lessons learned from those with rich experience in such work and adapt these lessons learned to the new context created by COVID-19:

  1. Get ideas for an evidence synthesis, technology assessment or guideline by reviewing the four-part taxonomy of decisions that will need to be informed by research evidence as the pandemic and pandemic response enter (or re-enter) different phases (which COVID-END is now using to create inventories of evidence and possibly a searchable database in future)
  2. Start refining your ideas for an evidence synthesis, technology assessment or guideline by reviewing the guide to key COVID-19 evidence sources to make sure that a timely, relevant, high-quality product hasn’t already been produced, hasn’t already been registered (e.g., on PROSPERO) and is underway, or hasn’t already been prioritized as a question to be addressed by another group (e.g., Cochrane)
  3. If you find a relevant and high-quality product that isn’t timely, consider approaching the authors to see whether they or you can prepare an update
  4. If you find a timely and relevant product that hasn’t been rated for quality, use an established tool to assess its quality (e.g., AMSTAR for evidence syntheses and either AGREE or TRUST for guidelines
  5. If you cannot find a relevant and high quality evidence synthesis, submit your proposed title to an appropriate review group in Cochrane or the Campbell Collaboration (which provide quality assurance, publishing, translation and other benefits for eligible and accepted titles and protocols), your review protocol to PROSPERO (if it’s within scope), or your rapid review title to the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools
  6. If you cannot find a relevant and high quality evidence synthesis, technology assessment or guideline, start your searches with the sources in the guide to key COVID-19 evidences sources and follow established standards for the type of product you are producing, such as the EQUATOR Network for reporting all types of research, Cochrane for rapid reviews, and AGREE or GRADE for guidelines, and/or use established platforms for such work (e.g., Cochrane-affiliated platforms for Cochrane reviews and GRADEpro and MAGICapp for guidelines)
  7. Prepare a product that can be easily understood and used by different types of decision-makers (e.g., using a grade-entry format that provides a bottom-line message followed by more detail for those who want to know more), in different languages, and in the limited time that they have available (and don’t assume that they have the time, inclination or capacity to make sense of long technical reports)
  8. Share the product as rapidly as possible through whatever initiative you registered your title or protocol with, received publishing support from, or used a platform from.

Two of the tips relate to working within and across evidence synthesis, technology assessment and guideline-development communities to achieve the right balance between building on the enthusiasm of researchers and striving for less duplication and more coordination:

  1. If you are in a position to help identify and address unnecessary duplication and coordination challenges, reviewing the guide to all COVID-19 evidence sources and send in sources that are missing, updated descriptions of the sources as they evolve (so the guide, as well as the companion guide to key evidences sources) can be updated, and descriptions about what you can do to help (to forum@mcmaster.ca)
  2. Review the terms of reference for the working groups that are most relevant to your work (by clicking on the corresponding links in the secondary banner on every webpage) and send in suggestions for what else the working group can do (or what you can do to help)

Follow @covid_e_n_d on Twitter to keep abreast of new developments in avoiding duplication and helping coordinate the explosion of evidence-synthesis, technology-assessment and guideline-development activities related to COVID-19.

Also consider checking back regularly on webpages like this one that provide resources for researchers, as well as on the webpages of the working groups that are most relevant to your work, to keep abreast of new developments.

Search our guide to all
COVID-19 evidence sources