A QuESt for speed: rapid qualitative evidence syntheses as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic
Biesty L., Meskell P., Glenton C., Delaney H., Smalle M., Booth A., Chan XHS., Devane D., Houghton C.
Abstract Background The COVID-19 pandemic has created a sense of urgency in the research community in their bid to contribute to the evidence required for healthcare policy decisions. With such urgency, researchers experience methodological challenges to maintain the rigour and transparency of their work. With this in mind, we offer reflections on our recent experience of undertaking a rapid Cochrane qualitative evidence synthesis (QES). Methods This process paper, using a reflexive approach, describes a rapid QES prepared during, and in response to, the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings This paper reports the methodological decisions we made and the process we undertook. We place our decisions in the context of guidance offered in relation to rapid reviews and previously conducted QESs. We highlight some of the challenges we encountered in finding the balance between the time needed for thoughtfulness and comprehensiveness whilst providing a rapid response to an urgent request for evidence. Conclusion The need for more guidance on rapid QES remains, but such guidance needs to be based on actual worked examples and case studies. This paper and the reflections offered may provide a useful framework for others to use and further develop.