This week Jo attended the Cochrane UK and Ireland Symposium 2017 #CochraneTLG which was held in the beautiful surroundings of Keble College in Oxford.


The theme for the symposium was Through the Looking Glass and the long train journey back to Exeter provided plenty of opportunity for reflection on the many workshops, plenaries and conversations that took place over the two days and for catching up on some reading including some of the fabulously bonkers stories in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Distilling the excitement of the heady mix of inspiring people, beautiful surroundings and good stuff to learn into a few key messages for sharing with the rest of the team has become an important (and fun) part of conference attendance for us lately so without further ado…

#1 ‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’

What type of questions should Cochrane be answering? A theme picked up in a special methods session, and in two excellent plenaries. The first delivered by Tom Walley on the recent evaluation of NIHR investment in Cochrane infrastructure and systematic reviews and the second by Hywel Williams from the Cochrane Skin Group.

A tricky judgement for a bunch of methodologists (albeit extremely clever ones) to make? One might argue that the focus should be on addressing those questions to which people (patients, clinicians, policy makers) would most like to know the answer and choosing the evidence and the methods which can best provide that answer.

There are some parallels in the excellent commentary published in Trials this week.  In which the authors (Carl Heneghan, Ben Goldacre and Kamal Mahtani) argue (in the context of outcome measures in clinical trials), that ‘Clinicians, patients, researchers and those who pay for health services are entitled to demand reliable evidence demonstrating whether interventions improve patient-relevant clinical outcomes.’  Should Cochrane be striving to ensure that all the evidence they produce feeds directly into future patient benefit?


#2 ‘Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it’

But luckily for us the lovely folk at the EPPI-Centre are making it really easy to add some magic to our days – pop over and explore their machine learning resources and let them know how you might like to use them.

#3 ‘Curiouser and curiouser’

Statistics in a post-truth world  – a fabulous plenary from Tim Harford  – watch it or read about it.  Straightforward lies are easier to remember than complex truths.  We need more science curiosity.

#4 ‘It’s always tea time’

Tim ended by name-checking the great Hans Rosling – his best TED talks will make perfect tea-time entertainment for the rest of your week.

#5 ‘Every adventure requires a first step’

If we want our work to make a difference we have to engage with journalists, work with them, understand what we want to achieve, plan carefully, use simple messages, embrace and collaborate.  There is lots of help out there – use it!  And it’s fine to take one step at a time.

Sarah journos

#6 ‘The time has come, the walrus said…’

All too soon, it was time to thank the CochraneUK team for a really great couple of days.