Meet Anel Schoonees, Information Specialist (HIV portfolio)

 In this report, we meet Anel Schoonees, who works with the CIDG editorial base as an Information Specialist with a special focus on the HIV portfolio. 

Could you describe where you currently work and what you do there?

Since 2009, I have been working at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa. I am a researcher here at the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. I am a registered dietitian (South Africa) and many of the systematic reviews where I am involved in as researcher are on nutrition topics. I also teach undergraduate and postgraduate students evidence-based health care and clinical epidemiology, and am involved in knowledge translation activities, especially via Cochrane Nutrition.  In January 2018, Vittoria Lutje took me under her wing, teaching me how to develop and conduct searches for Cochrane HIV reviews. I still have lots to learn and experience comes over time, and am thankful for Vittoria’s mentoring. I have also been conducting searches for research projects of colleagues and students. 

What is a typical day for you?

In my ideal day I spend an hour answering emails, and then dig into working on a review (or other research), or a search, or prepare for upcoming lectures. I don’t really have a typical day as it depends on whether it is a month where there are teaching activities or not. On some days I would work on one project only, while on other days I would work on a number of different projects. 

What prompted you to work in this area? 

I didn't plan to work in this area  (originally I studies something else). Things started to fall in place after I started with my Master's degree in Nutrition; I'm very thankful for that!

What are the major challenges that still remain in your field?

In nutrition, there are unfortunately to many challenges to mention here. Some topics that I feel very passionate about include child malnutrition and breast feeding. Another issue that is close to my heart is the quality of health messages that the public receives from various sources. With my PhD project, although still in early stages, I’m trying to tackle an aspect of this by promoting the appropriate use of research evidence in mass media reporting on health care in South Africa. 

How did you first hear about Cochrane? 

From Professor  Jimmy Volmink. I was doing a systematic review for my Master’s degree in Nutrition and he was my supervisor. He gave me the Cochrane Handbook and guided me through the process, including doing duplicate screening and data extraction. He also introduced me to other people in the field.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with Cochrane?

Knowing that you’re contributing to evidence that matters.

Who (or what) has been the biggest influence on your career to date? 

My mentors Prof Jimmy Volmink and Prof Taryn Young.

Please list three words you would associate with Cochrane. 

Good quality evidence.

What do you do in your spare time? 

Spending quality time with family and friends, being in nature and visit nature parks, taking long walks, playing and walking with our dog, reading, gardening, netball.


The CIDG editorial base is located at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine  in Liverpool, UK. The CIDG is led by Professor Paul Garner (Co-ordinating Editor) and Deirdre Walshe (Managing Editor). Over 600 authors from some 52 countries contribute to the preparation of the Cochrane Reviews. They are supported by an international team of Editors, each with topic or methodological expertise. 

The CIDG’s main areas of work are on determination of the effects of interventions on the prevention or treatment infectious diseases of relevance to the  United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and neglected tropical diseases. The aims of the CIDG are to impact on policy and research in tropical diseases through the production of high quality and relevant systematic reviews, and to lead developments in review quality improvement and effective dissemination of findings.