Background: one of the main steps in guideline development is establishing the guideline development groups, determining their roles, and crediting authorship according to preset policies.
Objective: to survey published guidance on guideline development for roles of contributors involved, panel composition, and authorship policies.
Methods: this systematic survey included guidance documents published by guideline-producing organizations on the development of practice guidelines. We compiled a comprehensive list of guideline-producing organizations using multiple sources. We searched for the organizations’ guidance documents on their websites, the TRIP database, PubMed, using Google, and reviewed the reference lists of relevant articles. Two reviewers assessed the documents for eligibility, and abstracted data on the organizations’ characteristics, the different roles of contributors, panel composition, and authorship policies.
Results: we included 103 guideline-producing organizations. The majority of organizations were professional organizations (57%) and operated at a national level (72%). Most national organizations were based in the USA (39%).
Guidance documents describe the different roles in which contributors are involved: executive/overall management (87%), quality assurance and control (43%), co-ordination (41%), evidence synthesis (82%), panel membership (96%), internal peer review (55%), external peer review managed by the organization (60%), external peer review managed by the publishing journal (24%), public review (43%), and approval (68%). Panelists are involved in the evidence synthesis function for 46% of organizations, through their involvement in setting eligibility criteria, selecting studies, and appraising evidence quality. Few organizations explicitly stated that the systematic review phase should be separated from developing the recommendations (3%), or that systematic reviewers are not to be included in the panel (1%).
Most documents mentioned that panels should be multidisciplinary (58%). Panels included physicians (48%), patient and/or consumer representatives (43%), researchers/experts (41%), methodologists (39%), non-physician providers (31%), representatives from the executive committee (21%), and systematic reviewers (1%).
A minority of organizations reported an authorship eligibility policy (24%), with 28% of these using the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) policy. A varying percentage of organizations specified the following contributors as eligible for authorship: panelists (100%), systematic reviewers (16%), organization’s staff members (20%), and patient representatives (8%).
Conclusions: there are large deficiencies and variabilities in how guidance documents of guideline development organizations describe the roles of contributors involved, panel composition, and authorship policies.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: none