During the pandemic, Evidence Synthesis Ireland, Cochrane Ireland and the HRB Trials Methodology Research Network refocused their collective resources on prioritised activities to support healthcare policy and practice decision-making for COVID-19 in Ireland and beyond. The group, called the Emergency Evidence Response Service, worked in collaboration with the University of Galway Library and colleagues throughout the University and broader research community. We worked quickly and flexibly on prioritised questions from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Cochrane, Campbell UK & Ireland, governments, EPPI-Centre (London), the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine (CEBM, Oxford) and others.
The methodological expertise in the group included evidence synthesis across qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods and meta-analysis, randomised controlled trials, trial methodology, core outcome set development and outcome reporting, prioritisation, psychology, behaviour science, behaviour change, implementation science, open science, information searching, communication and dissemination.
This work was made possible by support from our funders: the Health Research Board and the Health and Social Care, Research and Development (HSC R&D) Division of the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.
EERS members: Claire Beecher, Linda Biesty, Nikita Burke, Dympna Casey, Tom Conway, Yvonne Conway, Hannah Delaney, Declan Devane, Elaine Finucane, Sandra Galvin, Vivienne Hanrahan, Catherine Houghton, Fionnuala Jordan, Ciara Keenan, Chris Noone, Jenny Mc Sharry, Eimear Morrissey, Mike Smalle, Valerie Smith, Elaine Toomey, Fiona Quirke
In August 2021, Evidence Synthesis Ireland was asked by the Health Research Board to provide urgent evidence support to the Department of Health’s Expert Advisory Group on Rapid Testing for COVID-19.
We placed a Research Fellow, Dr Barbara Whelan, who provided research support to the Rapid Testing Expert Advisory Group.
We supported a researcher from the Economic and Social Research Institute to work on the following synthesis question:
Prof Jon Deeks and Dr Jac Dinnes of the University of Birmingham were available to provide consultancy to the Rapid Testing Expert Advisory Group in diagnostic test accuracy, and mentored three ESI Fellows. Working with Royal College of Physicians of Ireland leads, we placed 6 Specialist Registrars as ESI Fellows on reviews. These ESI Fellows were at the coal-face of evolving evidence and fed that into the Expert Group, and contributed their clinical expertise to an evidence base that has informed practices internationally, including that of the WHO and Canadian government.
We commissioned three rapid, living systematic reviews for the Expert Group, completed by colleagues in Canada.
Development of a risk assessment profile tool to determine appropriate use of SARS-CoV-2 rapid antigen detection tests for different activities and events in Ireland, since October 2021. Euro Surveill. 2022;27(3):pii=2101202. https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2022.27.3.2101202. Mallon Patrick WG, Horgan Mary, McAloon Conor G, Lunn Peter D, Little Julian, Beck Andrew, Bennett Alexandria, Shaver Nicole, McConway Aileen, O’Regan Rhea, Whelan Barbara, Rapid Testing Expert Advisory Group, Ireland.
COVID-19 Living Rapid Review Rapid Antigen Testing, Andrew Beck, Nicole Shaver, Alexandria Bennett, Gabrielle Zitiktye, Niyati Vyas,Barbara Whelan,Rhea O’Regan, Aileen Conway, Becky Skidmore, David Moher and Julian Little. Open Science Framework
Performance of different rapid antigen testing strategies for SARS-CoV-2: A living rapid review. Eur J Clin Invest. 2023 Jul 9:e14058. doi: 10.1111/eci.14058. Shaver N, Bennett A, Beck A, Vyas N, Zitiktye G, Lam E, Whelan B, O’Regan R, Conway A, Skidmore B, Moher D, Little J.
Cochrane Ireland is a co-convenor of the Cochrane Rapid Reviews Methods Group. Read more here
COVID-19 Emergency Evidence Response Service: report from Ireland (Burke et al, Dec 2020). Read here
Rapid review methods guidance aids in Cochrane’s quick response to the COVID-19 crisis (Garritty et al, Dec 2020) Read here
COVID-NMA: a collaborative COVID-19 living evidence project (Boutron et al, Dec 2020). Read here
A QuESt for speed: rapid qualitative evidence syntheses as a response to the COVID-19 pandemicBiesty et al 2020, Process paper in Systematic Reviews (Nov 2020)
Rapid review methods more challenging during COVID-19: commentary with a focus on 8 knowledge synthesis steps, in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. Tricco et al., commentary (June 2020)
Minimising duplicate reports in estimating COVID-19 impact (July 2020). Devane, mini-commentary
Open synthesis and the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Haddaway et al, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology (July 2020)
Strategies to improve retention in randomised trials – Cochrane Library (Gillies et al, March 2021)
Houghton et al 2020, Cochrane qualitative rapid review (April 2020).
This review was in the top 10 most highly-cited Cochrane reviews in 2021 and 2022
Fast-tracked prioritised update of a Cochrane review on PPE (Verbeek et al, 2020)
Series of rapid reviews on PPE for the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine in Oxford
Transmission characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (Curran et al, collaboration with ESI Fellow) March 2021
Interleukin‐6 blocking agents for treating COVID‐19: a living systematic review (Ghosn et al, Cochrane, March 2021)
Video calls for reducing social isolation and loneliness in older people Noone et al, Cochrane 21 May 2020
Rapid review of reviews
Cochrane COVID-19 review of clinical practice guidelines for key questions relating to the care of pregnant women (and their babies) are now available here
Cochrane Special Collection – Coronavirus (COVID-19): remote care through telehealth