Working Procedures


5. Working procedures

A separate Working Group is responsible for developing each volume of the Handbooks. Approximately one year before the Working Group meeting, the agents to be reviewed are announced on the Handbooks website ( and participants are selected by IARC staff in consultation with other experts. Subsequently, IARC performs literature searches of recognized sources of information on cancer prevention. Meeting participants are expected to supplement the IARC literature searches with their own searches.

The relevant articles are made available to meeting participants, who prepare preliminary drafts of the sections assigned to them. The preliminary drafts are sent to Working Group Members and Invited Specialists for peer review, and the peer-review comments are sent to the original author, who revises the draft before the meeting.

The Working Group meets at IARC for eight days to discuss and review the text and to formulate the evaluations. The objectives of the meeting are peer review, evaluation, and consensus. During the first few days, the participants meet in subgroups to review the drafts of their subgroup, develop a joint draft, and write summaries. 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 few days, the Working Group meets in plenary session to review the subgroup drafts and develop the 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 merit;
  (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;
  (5)  Summarize the potential adverse consequences of screening;
  (6)  Prepare an overall evaluation of the screening procedure at the population level, combining all lines of evidence.

A summary of the outcome is published on the Handbooks programme website and as a short report in the New England Journal of Medicine shortly after the meeting. Subsequently, the accuracy of the final draft (“master”) is verified by consulting the original literature, and the volume is edited and prepared for publication. The aim is to publish the volume within 12 months after the Working Group meeting.


Posted 11 February 2015