Getting to Know Us
Cochrane is an international, not-for-profit organization that helps people to use evidence when making decisions about health care. The Cochrane Collaboration 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 became greatly influential in the use of evidence-based medicine. He suggested 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.
More than 37,000 individuals from 130 countries have contributed to the work of Cochrane. Cochrane contributors are 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. 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 reviews. There are 52 Review Groups, each focusing on a different area of health. Some examples of Review Groups include:
- Back Review Group (Cochrane Canada entity)
- Hypertension Review Group (Cochrane Canada entity)
- IBD Review Group (Cochrane Canada entity)
- Musculoskeletal Review Group (Cochrane Canada entity)
- Upper Gastrointestinal and Pancreatic Diseases Review Group (Cochrane Canada entity)
- Methods Groups:
Develop the set of scientific procedures that are used in Cochrane Reviews and advise The Cochrane Collaboration 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. Examples include:
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:
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 17 Branches in The Cochrane Collaboration. Some examples include:
Cochrane Canada is the Canadian arm of The Cochrane Collaboration and is home to six Review Groups, three Methods Groups, one Field and one Centre. Click here to view a complete list of Cochrane Canada groups. The Canadian Cochrane Centre is a source of support for the other Canadian groups and promotes the use of Cochrane Reviews and The Cochrane Library.
A Cochrane Review, also known as a Cochrane Systematic Review, is a research paper that focuses on a specific health question such as, “Can antibiotics help alleviate the symptoms of a sore throat?” 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 6000 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 6000 Cochrane Reviews and 2300 protocols (reviews in progress) available. Cochrane Library has a 2013 Impact Factor of 5.939, placing it in the top 10 out of the 150 journals included in the ‘Medicine, General & Internal’ journal category. 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 here in English, simplified Chienese, traditional Chinese, Croation, French, German, Portuguese, Russian 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 Cochrane Library. Please visit Cochrane Library for more information about this initiative). The remaining 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 Cochrane Library subscriptions can be found here.
Contact the relevant Cochrane Review Group to register your proposed topic if you have an idea for a new Cochrane Review. There are 52 Cochrane Review Groups based all over the world, each with a focus 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. A complete list of Cochrane Review Groups with links to their individual websites is available. Contact your nearest Cochrane Centre for assistance if you are unsure which Cochrane Group is appropriate for you.
Along with becoming a review author, there are many different ways to get involved with Cochrane. 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 abstracts and Plain Language Summaries from English into other languages.
Share your knowledge of Cochrane methods and tools with other Collaboration members or those new to Cochrane.
Fund the preparation of a review, either as an organization or through an individual donation.
Visit our website at cochrane.org to learn more about Cochrane. 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 cochranelibrary.com. Cochrane Canada produces webinars and workshops throughout the year on a variety of topics related to Cochrane Reviews. You can view past recordings or register for an upcoming webinar/workshop here. Contact your nearest Cochrane Centre to schedule a meeting if you would like to have a face-to-face discussion about becoming involved with Cochrane.
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. Cochrane Canada offers stipends to consumers who wish to attend our annual Cochrane Canada Symposium (canada.cochrane.org/symposia). The Symposium provides an opportunity for the Cochrane community in Canada to learn, share knowledge, network with health research leaders, and create new and exciting opportunities. The Cochrane Collaboration 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.