Highlights and experiences of the 2015 Cochrane Colloquium

The theme of the 2015 Cochrane Colloquium, which took place in Vienna, Austria from October 3rd to 7th, was “Filtering the information overload for better decisions”.  The Colloquium attracted over 1350 participants from 60 countries, who had the opportunity to attend 95 workshops, five plenaries, 12 long oral sessions, 12 short oral sessions and 24 rapid oral sessions over the five days (as summarized beautifully by Angela Morelli in the final plenary of the Colloquium). Four members of the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group (CIDG) editorial team attended: Marty Richardson (Statistician), Vittoria Lutje (Trials Search Coordinator), Deirdre Walshe (Assistant Managing Editor), and Anne-Marie Stephani (Managing Editor). In this blog post, Marty, Vittoria, and Deirdre give an insight into their experiences and highlights of the 2015 Cochrane Colloquium.

Marty Richardson

At my second Cochrane Colloquium, I gave a rapid oral presentation on the findings of a recently conducted survey (How do Cochrane review authors interpret subgroup analyses? RO 21.4). The survey aimed to identify whether Cochrane review authors know how to interpret subgroup analyses, and the findings indicated that much improvement is needed in this area. The presentation prompted lively discussion from the audience, and gave me several ideas for the next steps of the project. I have since been in contact with audience members who attended the talk, demonstrating the fantastic platform the Colloquium provides for disseminating the findings of methodological research.

As always, the Colloquium delivered high quality methodological workshops. I particularly enjoyed the workshop on the use of WinBugs for performing Bayesian meta-analyses, and the advanced statistical methods for diagnostic test accuracy reviews. Finally, the plenary lectures I particularly enjoyed were Ida Sim’s talk on the future of evidence-based medicine, with examples of the new types of studies and data that Cochrane reviews may incorporate in the future, and John P.A. Ioannidis’s talk on systematic review overload.

Vittoria Lutje

This was my fifth Cochrane Colloquium, and probably the largest – I understand there were about 1350 participants! 

My first meeting was on Friday 2nd October, two days before the official opening of the Colloquium: the CRS (Cochrane Register of Studies) workshop. The whole day was devoted to presentations, demonstrations, and discussions related to the development of the CRS-web, which will eventually replace the current CRS and will potentially link all Cochrane data from other databases (Archie and Revman). CRS-web will be rolled out by 2016.

All of Saturday 3rd October was taken by the Trial Search Coordinators meeting (I also helped take the minutes). Main topics on the agenda were: 1) communication and dissemination (Julie Wood) - focussing on what strategies TSCs can use to promote their work; 2) learning and support (Miranda Cumpston) with an update on training programmes and professional development for TSCs; 3) IKMD’s (Chris Mavergames) presentation on Linked data (PICOfinder, PICO Annotator and annotation of Review backlog), and RevMan Web; 4) a report from the CSG and TSCs’ Executive – Liz Stovold; 5) a report from the TSC Support Team , which has been in place since May/June 2015; 6) CEU-TSC projects update, including the EMBASE project, Project Transform, Evidence Pipeline (which has been designed to filter relevant citations in the CRS for each CRG); and Centralized searching, which aims to search databases such as CT.gov and LILACS for eligible studies for CENTRAL. The TSC meeting was concluded with five “Lightning presentations” (five minutes each) including mine: “Current malaria clinical trials activity on the Pan African Clinical Trials Registry and comparison with a historical cohort”. I also presented this data as a poster on 5th October.

Regarding workshops and presentations, here are some of my favourites:

  • Rapid Review (RR) workshop: timely evidence synthesis for decision makers. We were presented with a real-life emergent public health issue, and asked to address this issue using a RR approach. The topic for my group was to identify stakeholders for a RR on “prevention of substance abuse in adolescents and young adults in nightlife settings” – not an easy task at all!
  • Lessons learnt from a planned, targeted dissemination of a systematic review on a controversial topic in the field of nutrition – this was a very good study on a targeted dissemination strategy for a systematic review, among the authors were Celeste Naude, Taryn Young, Paul Garner, and Jimmy Volmink.
  • Making systematic reviews more useable: the challenges of describing interventions and choosing interventions to implement. A special session with Tammy Hoffmann, Paul Glasziou, Peter Langhorne, and chaired by Sally Green.

Deirdre Walshe

Given this was my first Cochrane Colloquium, I was pleasantly surprised; firstly, by the wide array of presentations, workshops, plenaries, and rapid presentation sessions offered; and secondly by the enthusiasm, openness, and collaborative spirit that was evident at the Colloquium. The Cochrane Twitter community were tweeting so enthusiastically that #cochranevienna was trending on Twitter on Sunday 4th October! The Colloquium gave me the invaluable opportunity to hear the viewpoints of consumers, clinicians, and other Cochrane editorial team members on a variety of Cochrane-related topics; to discuss editorial issues with other Cochrane members; and also to hear about planned future developments for Cochrane (Project Transform) to improve how people, processes, and different technologies will work together to produce Cochrane content.

Ida Sim’s presentation at the opening plenary session was definitely one of my favourite talks. She gave a fascinating insight into the sheer volume of healthcare data available (estimated at 5 ZB in 2012; projected to reach 400 ZB by 2020), the differences between evidence-based and data-driven healthcare, and the future of evidence-based healthcare. In addition, Angela Morelli gave an interesting perspective on data visualization, lessons learnt regarding designing information effectively, and development of the interactive ‘Summary of findings’ tables (iSOF).

There were a plethora of workshops to choose from and I attended the following sessions: Covidence, a new online software tool for review production; social media for effective communication with Cochrane stakeholders (where I was introduced to Cochrane blogshots); how to ensure Cochrane’s standards and approaches to Plain Language Summaries are implemented; and peer review for Cochrane reviews.

The full list of plenaries and the AGM can be watched on the Cochrane Colloquium 2015 YouTube channel. Also, you can read all tweets from the Colloquium using the hashtag #cochranevienna

The 2016 Cochrane Colloquium will be held in Seoul from 23 to 27 October 2016.