An update on Cochrane's COVID-19 response

Dear Colleagues,
As a result of the continued spread and impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) across the world, we wanted to update you with important news and information regarding Cochrane’s response to this global public health emergency. 
We know that governments around the world are tightening further restrictions on travel, entry into their countries and numbers allowed to gather socially in a bid to contain the outbreak as coronavirus infections outside China continue to rise rapidly. We are also aware that employers are imposing remote-working restrictions and many of our Cochrane community members and Group staff are confined to their homes or, as health professionals, they are actively involved in supporting medical authorities in their work fighting the spread of the outbreak.
We know that basic science research and innovation will be vital in containing and mitigating the effects of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic. Cochrane’s senior leadership, together with counterparts at our publishing partner, Wiley, have been exploring ways that Cochrane can respond promptly to this unprecedented global health crisis by making our health evidence more accessible and available to those needing to make informed decisions at this time. This involves making our content openly available on the Wiley Online Library with other relevant content as well as our participation in a broad industry initiative to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and the pace of clinical discovery; see here for more information. 
In addition, we have agreed that from next week the Cochrane Library will be temporarily unrestricted for everyone in every country of the world. We are taking this unprecedented move to ensure that all Cochrane evidence is accessible for all those involved in combating the pandemic and its effects on public health.
Other steps that we are taking, together with members and contributors across Cochrane, during this moment of challenge and need include:

  • Curating and updating our Cochrane Library Special Collections with all content freely available and disseminated to healthcare professionals, everywhere in the world. To date, we have created two Special Collections on evidence relevant to critical care and infection control and prevention measures. They have been widely used and disseminated and we are closely monitoring their usage and the difference they are making. We are also considering other Special Collections including home-based interventions and telemedicine to support people with chronic conditions and reduce their need for hospital treatment.
  • The topics of the two Special Collections were based on interim guidance from the World Health Organization on the treatment of patients with severe COVID-19 infection. WHO has also asked for support on identification and maintenance of a living register of primary studies relevant to COVID-19.
  • The Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI) Group has prioritized the update of the review on ‘physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses’, and we are offering support to fast-track the editorial process of the review.
  • We are creating a Cochrane ‘COVID-19 Working Group’ consisting of representatives from the Public Health Network, Senior Editors, and members from our Geographic and Methods Groups with the aim of actively seeking new funding opportunities to support the creation of a living register of studies and a series of living systematic reviews on vaccines (prevention), diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. We aim for these reviews to be fast-tracked for publication in the Cochrane Library, in order to support guidelines development and ultimately preparedness for future outbreaks.
  • We are planning to establish a dedicated funding resource to help support the rapid production of Cochrane evidence that will contribute to combatting the pandemic and its effects. The COVID-19 Working Group will advise on how best this funding should be spent – but the Cochrane community will be asked for ideas and suggestions.
  • In addition, Wiley has also published a free collection of COVID-19 content on Wiley Online Library, including Cochrane Reviews. Wiley has also joined an initiative of the US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and publishers in 12 countries to make all their COVID-19 and coronavirus-related publications, and the available data supporting them, immediately accessible in PubMed Central and other appropriate public repositories, such as the WHO’s COVID database. This material will be licensed so that it is fully available for text and data mining and the application of machine learning techniques.  

Within the context of an ever-changing situation, the well-being of our Group staff and members is our first priority. As a global and diverse organization, Cochrane is well-prepared to meet the challenge of remote and flexible working and we will continue to plan for various future eventualities, recognizing that any decisions we make are done do so in an appropriate and proportionate way. Unfortunately, that has meant that many Cochrane organized meetings have had to be cancelled or postponed, including:

  • Cochrane’s annual Governance Meetings in Manchester, UK;
  • Cochrane South Africa’s national Symposium;
  • Cochrane UK and Ireland’s annual Symposium in Dublin;
  • The launch of the new Cochrane China Network;
  • The launch of Cochrane Romania;
  • The launch of Cochrane Italy’s Bologna Affiliate; and
  • An event to publicize the new hosting arrangements for the Cochrane Rehabilitation Field in Milan.

We have been amazed and humbled by the staggering response from our Community Groups across the world who wish to contribute and engage with our efforts to date – an enormous thank you to you all for so many wonderful ideas and suggestions. Should you have ideas of how Cochrane can continue to support our organization’s response to this global health emergency, or have questions, please contact and we will respond promptly.
We thank you for your contributions to Cochrane at this time and hope that you all stay safe and well.
With our best wishes, 
Catherine Marshall, Martin Burton, Mark Wilson & Karla Soares-Weiser

March 18, 2020