Searching for answers: meet Vittoria Lutje, CIDG Information Specialist

Who assists the CIDG and review author teams with their literature searches? In this report, we meet Vittoria Lutje, who works with the CIDG editorial base as an Information Specialist.

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

I work from home in Glasgow. From 2002 to 2006 I worked at the CIDG editorial base at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and when we moved to Scotland I became a self-employed consultant, still maintaining the position of Information Specialist with the CIDG. I also collaborate with several other research groups from different organizations, and countries, providing assistance with literature searches and systematic reviews.

What is a typical day for you?  

I start work in the morning with some light tasks such as checking and replying to emails and prioritizing the workload for the day. Then I take my dog for his main walk – 1 ½ hours in the woods and moors near our house; when I come back I work solidly for several hours until mid-late afternoon. I often work for a few hours in the evening – I have always been an “owl”, and find night-time peaceful and productive.

How did you first become involved with Cochrane? 

My background is in veterinary medicine and immunology, and I worked for 15 years in Nairobi, Kenya, on the immune responses in tropical diseases of livestock. After a maternity break and a move to the UK, I was ready to change careers and took a course in journalism, with the idea of working in science writing and dissemination. My next step was into information retrieval and I started working with the CIDG in 2002. My previous work in veterinary tropical medicine helped me understand the topics covered by CIDG reviews and identify search terms, although at first it was a steep learning curve into Cochrane methodology and electronic databases. Preparing my own Cochrane review, on the treatment of sleeping sickness, made me appreciate how thorough one has to be in this work – and also empathize with our review authors, especially when I am sending them several hundred search results to screen!

What are the major tasks you perform for the CIDG?

Most of my work involves preparing search strategies for systematic reviews and running searches for clinical trials in online databases and trial registries. There is a fair amount of communications with review authors, mostly by email, discussing and refining search terms, and with the other CIDG members, especially Anne-Marie Stephani, the Managing Editor. I also have to keep up to date with Cochrane methods and resources and with information retrieval methods in general, as more and more scientific and medical information is becoming available and new online resources are being developed all the time. 

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

I enjoy the collaborative aspect of the review production process, meeting authors from all over the world, and the fact that the results of my searches will end up after several months...or years, as part of a well-crafted, useful publication. I especially like running “scoping” searches, for a new topic or a proposed title, where I get to learn about something completely new! And finally, something I get to do only one or twice a year but what I truly enjoy is to teach students how to run their own literature searches. It is hard work (especially as I am used to work alone and find myself in front of 40 students), but very rewarding, and it makes me re-think my own way of running searches.

What do you do in your spare time? 

Take long walks with my dog, go swimming, read books, listen to music, cook Italian food for my family.


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.