Cochrane’s Challenge
Glancing backwards – moving ahead


In the late 20th century, Archie Cochrane issued a challenge. A challenge that has been met – at least in part – by The Cochrane Collaboration. In The Cochrane Library we have prepared “a critical summary… adapted periodically, of” at least some “relevant randomized controlled trials.” It will remain a challenge to continue that work, keeping our outputs relevant and timely, whilst increasing efficiency and value.

But in the 21st century there is a new healthcare landscape. If we are to ensure that “healthcare decision-making throughout the world will be informed by high-quality, timely research evidence” and to “play a pivotal role in the production and dissemination of this evidence across all areas of health care”, we need to face up to new challenges.

In the year in which we celebrate the 21st birthday of the UK Cochrane Centre, we need to reflect on the 21st century challenges and ask: what are some of these challenges and how can Cochrane address them?

This special Anniversary Symposium asks the question:
How can Cochrane best support patients and practitioners in shared decision-making in the 21st century?

In the Opening Plenary session on Wednesday 20st March, Chief Medical Officer and Cochrane Editor, Professor Dame Sally Davies is joined by distinguished economist, broadcaster and Chair of the UK Statistics Authority Andrew Dilnot. They will review the background to the challenges: changing demographics, tighter fiscal controls and the need for greater value in both health care and healthcare research, providing some answers to the question: why do we have to think differently in the 20 years ahead?

On Thursday we begin with plenary sessions looking at two of the new challenges. First, we consider the 'Over-diagnosed' by Dr Gilbert Welch, Dr Steven Woloshin and Dr Lisa Schwartzchallenge of over-diagnosis and over-treatment. To borrow from the subtitle of a new book co-authored by our speakers, Dr Steven Woloshin and Dr Lisa Schwartz, how can Cochrane help in preventing people being made “sick in the pursuit of health”? As authors of “Over-diagnosed” with Dr Gilbert Welch, Lisa and Steve are ideally placed to describe the phenomenon of over-diagnosis and consider what role organizations that synthesize and disseminate evidence might play in helping patients avoid unnecessary treatment.

The second plenary session will address the challenge of communicationAndré Tomlin from evidence-based healthcare consultancy Minervation Ltd., will explain how social media and cutting edge communication tools can be used to disseminate high quality evidence. He will be joined by Tracey Brown from Sense about Science, a charitable trust that equips people to make sense of scientific and medical claims in public discussion. Tracey is an expert in working with journalists and the media in promoting a better understanding of research.

After lunch the third session will focus on the challenge of engagement in a slightly different way. After a short introduction delegates will be able to choose from a number of workshops and master-classes which consider the best ways to engage with patients, healthcare organizations, professional groups, 'Bad Pharma' by Dr Ben Goldacrecommissioners and others. Engagement is vital to ensure that Cochrane does the right reviews, at the right time, examining the right outcomes and evaluating the right treatments if it is to meet the challenge of its outputs being both relevant and timely.

Finally our Closing Plenary will be launched by Dr Ben Goldacre, prize-winning science journalist and author of what will undoubtedly be his second best-seller “Bad Pharma”. As someone who is intimately familiar with the best and worst of clinical trials and the value of high quality systematic reviews, we have asked Ben to offer his view of the challenges facing the Collaboration in the next 20 years. In response, David Tovey (Editor-in-chief) and Mark Wilson (Chief Executive Officer) of The Cochrane Collaboration will respond with their vision of the years ahead and how the challenges outlined during the meeting might best be met.


Martin Burton 
Director - UK Cochrane Centre



Event sponsors:

                                the Cochrane Collaboration logo


NIHR logo


OUH NHS Trust logo                Wiley Blackwell logo