The annual Cochrane Colloquium brings people together from around the world to discuss research into important global health questions and promote evidence-informed health care. The 2023 theme, ‘Forward together for trusted evidence’, explored the challenges for the future around trustworthiness of healthcare data and information whilst also celebrating 30 years of Cochrane producing trusted evidence. Several CIDG team members attended this year's Colloquium, hosted by Cochrane UK at the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Centre in London (4th to 6th September 2023). Here, Vittoria Lutje (CIDG Information Specialist), Marty Chaplin (CIDG Statistical Editor), and Kerry Dwan (Senior Lecturer in Evidence Synthesis, LSTM) reflect on their experiences and highlights.
After such a prolonged period without in-person meetings, the Colloquium was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with other Information Specialists and learn about recent development in this field. The Information Retrieval methods group annual meeting included short presentations on: an update on search filters; the future of the Cochrane register of studies; a comparison of different forward citation chasing tools and whether this method is sufficient to update reviews, without re-running the original searches (it is not); and a very interesting analysis of career prospects and advancement for Information specialists.
The Cochrane Information Specialists (CIS) “working” meeting was very short this year (45 minutes) and it consisted of a presentation about the future for evidence synthesis within Cochrane and the role of CIS. My impression was that there is still much to be finalized about the production of systematic reviews, especially after the recent closure of many UK Cochrane Review Groups. Author teams working within the new model of review production will receive initial assistance in preparing the search methods for their protocols, but would be expected to run, manage and report the searches themselves or obtain some support from local librarians or other specialists. This seems a big step, especially after the seamless Information Specialist support that has been provided so far, and new Cochrane authors should be made aware of it as soon as possible.
Colloquium Day 1 ending on the best note! Celebrating stellar presentations by CIDG's Marty Chaplin and Tilly Fox, and Professor Priscilla Rupali (READ-It Partner, CMC Vellore), and Paul Garner’s Emeritus Cochrane membership.
Two sessions dealt with topics that are becoming increasingly relevant. The first one was a workshop on “Impact of climate change on health and health systems: producing evidence syntheses to support decision-making”, run by Denise Thompson. This was too much to cover in 90 minutes, but the presenters managed to discuss PICO and scope for thematic reviews (what questions are we asking? are they feasible for a systematic review?), type of research to include, logic models, and developing search strategies. We also split into smaller groups to practice designing a protocol on climate-health questions.
The second session was on Diversity and inclusion in Cochrane, run by Juan Franco, Dachi Arikpo, and Vivian Welch (Editor in chief of the Campbell Collaboration). Short presentations on aspects of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) were followed by “café table” discussions on how to bring new people on board, how to harness the various aspects of diversity (and even how to define it), and how to embed an equity lens in systematic reviews. An interesting proposal among others was that rather than focus on translating reviews from English into other languages, they could be produced first in other languages, and then translated into English.
I focused on attending workshops and oral presentations on statistical methods, with particularly useful sessions including a workshop on upcoming changes to the random-effects default methods that are implemented in RevMan (Advanced meta-analysis 1: Random-effects methods to be implemented in RevMan), and also a workshop on the new tool ‘MetaInsight’, which can be used to perform network meta-analyses via a highly user-friendly web-app (MetaInsight: An interactive user-friendly “point and click” web application to conduct network meta-analysis).
I also participated in an oral presentation session myself, presenting a few key examples of particularly interesting study designs that we have encountered over the past few years at Cochrane Infectious Diseases (Incorporating data from atypical experimental study designs in systematic reviews: experiences from Cochrane Infectious Diseases), and was pleased with how this session went.
Overall, the Colloquium was a fantastically organised event, and it was a pleasure to spend a few days there with the CIDG team, with the standout highlight being an evening spent dancing under the whale skeleton at the Natural History Museum for the Colloquium’s evening social event.
This was my 7th Colloquium but my first in 10 years. It’s good to be back, meet friends and colleagues face-to-face after so long, and to hear about new and exciting research and changes in Cochrane. I presented a poster on the Reporting of Risk of Bias 2 (RoB2) in Cochrane protocols and reviews.
At our first face-to-face Editors’ meeting for the newly created 'Cochrane Evidence Synthesis and Methods Journal' I highlighted our new methods and statistics tutorials, which people were excited about contributing to. I enjoyed the workshop on introduction to analysis and meta-analysis of interrupted time series studies, as it's vital that we consider how to include other types of studies within a systematic review. The 30 years of Cochrane lecture was thought-provoking, hearing about those involved in setting up such an important collaboration.
Being part of the Thomas Chalmers Award committee gave me the opportunity to understand the important work being undertaken by early career researchers. Peter Godolphin's presentation on Reliably estimating interactions and subgroup effects in aggregate data meta-analysis is an important step forward for review authors as subgroup analyses have often been a problem in Cochrane reviews, as highlighted previously by CIDG Statistical Editor Dr Marty Chaplin.
The Statistical Methods group meeting highlighted upcoming changes to RevMan regarding the random-effects model, work that I was involved with. The Bias Methods group meeting was also informative with the presenters discussing the new ROBINS-E (Risk of Bias in non-randomised studies of exposures) tool and the revised ROBINS-I (Risk of bias in non-randomised studies of interventions) tool, which are both available on the Risk of bias tools website. Another important development is the ROB ME (Risk of Bias due to missing evidence) tool, which I was involved with and a workshop was given on this at the colloquium.