Cochrane is an international, not-for-profit organization that helps people to use evidence when making decisions about health care. Cochrane does this by preparing and promoting the use of Cochrane Systematic Reviews, which are published in Cochrane Library. These reviews provide people with the most up-to-date and reliable healthcare research so they can make well-informed decisions regarding their own health and healthcare policies. Cochrane Reviews are considered the gold standard in evidence-based information.
Cochrane is named after Archie Cochrane (1909 – 1988), a British medical researcher who proposed several ideas that grew to become greatly influential in the use of evidence-based medicine. He suggested that we use properly designed methods to evaluate healthcare treatments and only use those treatments which have proven to be effective. He also stressed Randomized Controlled Trials as the most reliable source of evidence. Based on Cochrane’s innovations and the encouragement of the public, the first Cochrane Centre was opened in 1992 (Oxford, UK), which led to the founding of Cochrane in 1993.
Almost 27,000 individuals from 120 countries have contributed to the work of Cochrane. Cochrane employs close to 500 staff, half of which work part-time. The remaining contributors are a range of volunteers who believe in the work of Cochrane, including professional experts in various health care fields, statisticians, academic researchers, policy-makers and healthcare consumers.
Cochrane is made up of groups, called ‘entities’, located all over the world. Each entity acts as a mini-organization with its own funding and responsibilities, and the entities work together to bring the use of evidence into healthcare practice and policy.
Cochrane entities include:
- Cochrane Review Groups:
Manage the preparation, maintenance and updating of Cochrane Reviews by providing expertise and publishing support to those conducting a review. There are 53 Review Groups, each focusing on a different area of health. Some examples of Review Groups include:
- Back Review Group
- Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Review Group
- Hypertension Review Group
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Functional Bowel Disorders Review Group
- Musculoskeletal Review Group
- Upper Gastrointestinal and Pancreatic Diseases Review Group
- Methods Groups:
Develop the set of scientific procedures that are used in Cochrane Reviews and advise Cochrane on how the conduct of Cochrane Reviews can be improved. In addition to doing methodological research, they provide advice, training, and support to the Review Groups, Centres and authors around the world. They help monitor the quality of systematic reviews prepared within the Collaboration and serve as a forum for discussion. There are 16 Methods Groups. Examples include:
- Bias Methods Group
- Statistical Methods Group
Promote awareness and use of Cochrane Reviews that are relevant to a particular area of health care and communicate the research evidence needs of its population to Review Groups. There are 11 Fields - 12 including the Cochrane Consumer Network, which is categorized as a Field:
- Child Health Field
- Developing Countries Field
- Vaccines Field
Cochrane Consumer Network
A consumer is anyone who receives health care, such as patients and family caregivers. The Cochrane Consumer Network exists to support consumers in contributing and providing perspective to the Collaboration. The Consumer Network helps set priorities and explains the role of the Collaboration and evidence in health care to consumers globally.
Support Cochrane contributors in its geographical area, provide training to conduct and use Cochrane Reviews and develop partnerships with other organizations to promote awareness of Cochrane Reviews. There are 14 Centres and 18 Branches in The Cochrane Collaboration. Link to the centers can be found on http://www.cochrane.org/contact/centres. The Italian Cochrane Center is a source of support for the Croatian Cochrane Branch, and its webpages can be found here.
A Cochrane Review, also known as a Cochrane Systematic Review, focuses on a specific health question, such as, “Can antibiotics alleviate cold symptoms?” and investigates the available research on the topic to determine whether or not the treatment is effective. The research is gathered and assessed using specific criteria and is then synthesized into one report to present the highest quality evidence. Cochrane Reviews have used evidence to reliably identify what works in health care and describe the benefits and harms (or lack of evidence) for more than 5100 healthcare questions. Cochrane Reviews are used to inform clinical practice guidelines and justify new studies but, most importantly, they aid people in making well-informed decisions about health care.
Cochrane Reviews are recognized as the gold standard in evidence-based health care because they:
- Are independent from commercial interest (The Cochrane Collaboration does not accept commercial or conflicting funding)
- Look at a wide range of sources to reduce bias
- Use systematic and rigorous methods to search, analyze and synthesize evidence
- Involve the consumer perspective during the process of choosing a review topic and writing Plain Language Summaries
- Are updated every two years
A team of people is needed to conduct a Cochrane Review, with each person offering their own level of expertise. Librarians help find research, statisticians help select and run the right statistical tests and methodologists offer advice on how to interpret results. Copy/content editors and peer-reviewers assess the review to ensure it’s of high-quality before publication. The review team is supported primarily by their Cochrane Review Group, and they also have access to online learning modules and the downloadable Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews and Interventions. The nearest Cochrane Centre is available to provide training.
Cochrane Reviews and their updates are published monthly in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, which can be found online in The Cochrane Library at thecochranelibrary.com.
Cochrane Library, published by Wiley-Blackwell, is an online collection of databases that contains up-to-date research on the effectiveness of healthcare treatments and interventions. There are currently over 5100 Cochrane Reviews and 2200 protocols (reviews in progress) available. Cochrane Library has a 2011 Impact Factor of 5.715, placing it in the top 10 out of the 151 journals included in the ‘Medicine, General and Internal’ journal list. The impact factor is a measure of the frequency with which the average article in a journal has been cited in a particular year or period.
Abstracts and plain language summaries of all Cochrane Reviews are freely available through Summaries.cochrane.org in English, French, German and Spanish translations. They can also be found with each review in Cochrane Library. Fifty per cent of the world’s population has free one-click access to full-text reviews (many low-income countries are granted free access to The Cochrane Library. Please visit Cochrane Library for more information about this initiative). The other 50 per cent has access through subscriptions or one-off review purchases (subscriptions are typically purchased through provincial or federal governments, health/medical organizations, universities, etc.). Information about subscriptions to Cochrane Library can be found here.
If you have an idea for a new Cochrane Review, contact the relevant Cochrane Review Group to register your proposed topic. There are 53 Cochrane Review Groups based all over the world, and each one focuses on a particular area of health care. A Cochrane Review Group can provide you with the support, resources and training you need to conduct a Cochrane Review. You can find a list of all the Cochrane Review Groups here.
The first step to finding the Cochrane Review Group that is right for you is visiting Cochrane’s website at cochrane.org. You will be able to view a complete list of Cochrane Review Groups with links to their individual websites. If you know which Group is right for you, contact the Group through email, fax or telephone. If you are unsure, contact your nearest Cochrane Centre for assistance.
Along with becoming a review author, there are many different ways to get involved with The Cochrane Collaboration. Other roles include:
Use your professional expertise to ensure the high-quality of published protocols and Cochrane Reviews.
Help ensure the priorities and prospective of your Field, e.g. Child Health, are reflected in Cochrane Reviews
Represent the patient/client perspective when review topics are chosen or during the production of Plain Language Summaries.
Use your methodological expertise, e.g. statistics or economic evaluation, to contribute to a Cochrane Methods Group and help improve the relevance, usefulness, and quality of Cochrane Reviews.
Use your multi-lingual abilities to translate reports of trials from English into other languages.
Share your knowledge of Cochrane methods and tools with other Collaboration members.
Fund the preparation of a review, either as an organization or through an individual donation.
To learn more about Cochrane, visit its website at cochrane.org. You will find more information about Cochrane Reviews, Cochrane Library and upcoming events. You can also learn about other Cochrane products such as the Cochrane Journal Club and Podcasts from Cochrane Library by visiting thecochranelibrary.com. If you would like to have a face-to-face discussion about becoming involved with Cochrane, contact your nearest Cochrane Centre to schedule a meeting.
We encourage anyone who is interested in evidence-based health care to attend Cochrane events. This includes healthcare professionals, policy-makers, researchers, students and consumers. The Croatian Cochrane Symposium is a chance for the Cochrane community in Croatia to learn, share knowledge and create new and exciting opportunities. Cochrane hosts an annual Colloquium (colloquium.cochrane.org), which is an international event that rotates around the world, hosted by a different country each year. Both of these events are great opportunities to learn more about Cochrane and become involved with evidence-based health care.