The tool for helping journal editors decide whether to advance a systematic review submission to peer-review.

How to Use

CREST_Triage is designed to help editors make consistent, transparent decisions about whether to advance a systematic review submission to peer review.

The report is not intended to be an exhaustive critique of a submission's methods, nor to supplant the peer-review process. The purpose of triage is to rapidly identify issues which mean a submission is either non-compliant with a journal's expectations for SRs, or would lead to the journal's peer-reviewers recommending rejection of, or fundamental revisions to, the submitted manuscript.

CREST_Triage is concerned with assessing the potential publishability of a SR submission, understanding "publishable" as meaning a submission is useful, credible, and transparently reported. In assessing publishability, it asks the handling editor to assess a SR submission under the following six domains:

  1. Formulation and justification of objectives
  2. Comprehensiveness and reproducibility of the search strategy
  3. Appropriateness of the eligibility criteria and literature screening process
  4. Validity of the methods for appraising the studies included in the SR
  5. Validity of the methods for synthesising the evidence
  6. Validity of the methods for assessing certainty or confidence in the evidence

The scoring scheme

The triage tool asks the Handling Editor to rate on a scale of 1-5 their opinion of how well the SR performs in each domain. The number is a rough indicator of the Handling Editor's perception of the presence and severity of issues which, if very serious, may be prohibitive of publication. Scores of 1 or 2 will usually result in rejection of a manuscript.

1 2 3 4 5
Critical issues prohibitive of advancing to peer-review Issues are less critical but are still prohibitive of advancing to peer-review Issues of concern, but not serious enough to prohibit advancing to peer-review Some probably minor issues which are likely to be picked up by peer-reviewers No issues at triage, though concerns may still be identified by peer-reviewers
Submission would likely need to be desk-rejected. May be appropriate to suggest resubmission if the issues can realistically be addressed. Submission would likely be advanced to peer-review. Depending on concerns raised, specific methodological expertise may need to be sourced for the reviewer pool, and/or guidance on comments be provided.

To explain their reasoning, the Editor may then select from a list of common problems specific issues with the manuscript, before suggesting if and/or how the issues they have identified might be resolved. Due to time constraints in handling large numbers of submissions, these comments may be brief and will usually be relatively informal. The triage report is expected to be completed in around 30-60 minutes.

Individual editors and journals will have different policies about what counts as satisfactory practice in relation to each of the above domains. CREST_Triage does not itself decide for the handling editor what standard they should apply; instead, it encourages explicit consideration of each of the above domains and provides a mechanism for giving feedback to the submitting authors.