Working Procedures


5. Review and evaluation process

A different Working Group is responsible for developing each new volume of the Handbooks. Approximately one year before the Working Group meeting, the screening intervention to be reviewed is announced on the Handbooks website ( and potential participants are selected by IARC staff as described above (Part A, Section 4).

IARC performs literature searches to compile the relevant bibliography in relation to the topic that will be evaluated. Meeting participants are expected to supplement the IARC literature searches with their own searches of published evidence.

The relevant articles are made available to meeting participants, who prepare preliminary drafts of the sections assigned to them. The participants are provided with instructions on how these drafts should be prepared, in terms of the outline of text and tables, the length, or any other important considerations. The preliminary drafts undergo in-house and external peer review by Working Group Members and Invited Specialists, and the peer-review comments are sent back to the original author, who revises the draft before the meeting.

The Working Group then meets at IARC for eight days to discuss and review all the drafts and to formulate the evaluations. The objectives of the meeting are peer review, evaluation, and consensus. During the first days, the participants meet in separate subgroups to review the drafts of their specific section(s), develop a joint draft, write summaries of the evidence, and propose preliminary evaluations (as appropriate). Care is taken to ensure that each study summary is written or reviewed by someone not associated with the study being considered. During the last days, the Working Group meets in plenary session to review the subgroup drafts and develop the final evaluations. As a result, the entire volume is the joint product of the Working Group, and there are no individually authored sections.

IARC Working Groups strive to achieve a consensus evaluation. Consensus reflects broad agreement among Working Group Members, but not necessarily unanimity. The chair may elect to poll Working Group Members to determine the diversity of scientific opinion on issues where consensus is not readily apparent.

Thus, the tasks of the Working Group are as follows:

    (1)  Ascertain that all appropriate data have been retrieved;
    (2)  Select the data relevant for evaluation on the basis of scientific quality;
    (3)  Prepare summaries of the data that will allow the reader to follow the reasoning of the Working Group;
    (4)  Evaluate separately the efficacy and the effectiveness of the screening procedure(s).
After the meeting, a Special Report is published in the New England Journal of Medicine and a summary of the outcome of the meeting is posted on Handbooks website ( Subsequently, the accuracy of the final draft resulting from the meeting is verified by the scientific staff of the Handbooks programme, by consulting the original literature, and the volume is edited and prepared for publication. The aim is to publish the full volume within 12 months after the Working Group meeting in both print and digital formats.


Updated 14 November 2017