Background: In 2015 the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group took over stewardship of the HIV/AIDS review portfolio.
Objectives: We developed a method for rapid appraisal and evaluation of individual reviews and protocols.
Methods: Each review or protocol was assessed by two editors using a tool which contained three assessment domains; quality appraisal, editorial evaluation and priority rating. The quality appraisal was based on adherence to five key MECIR standards. The editorial evaluation, included; 1) the approach to the question, 2) the quality of the writing, 3) the need for editing, and 4) the amount of editorial support required. The priority and importance of the question was ranked based on existing literature and liaising with experts. The combined assessment of these three domains contributed to the overall decision on the protocol or review. Decisions related to updating of reviews were reported in accordance with the Cochrane Updating Classification System.
Results: Thirty-eight protocols and 115 systematic reviews were published in the Cochrane Library by the Cochrane HIV/AIDS Group between 2001 and 2015. After appraisal 29 (76%) of protocols were earmarked for withdrawal from the library. This was mostly due to outdated review questions (Figure 1). Additionally, 19 of the 29 withdrawn protocols were assessed as low quality. To date, 43 of the 115 published reviews have been appraised. We aim to have this process completed within six months. Similar to the protocols, 70% of the evaluated reviews were not eligible for updating due to poor methodological quality or changes in the topic area which made the review questions low priority (Figure 1).
Conclusions: We propose rapid-appraisal tools that allow for both the assessment of quality and relevance of new protocols and review updates when evaluating a review portfolio. For HIV, we know that interventions and priorities change rapidly, authors and editorial teams therefore need to work efficiently to produce reviews before questions lose relevance.