Behind the scenes at the Cochrane Colloquium

In this guest post, Anne Hobson, Managing Editor of the Cochrane Pain, Palliative and Supportive Care Group, shares her experience of attending a Cochrane Colloquium and tells us how it supports the work of producing and disseminating best evidence, which keeps her and her Cochrane colleagues busy all year round.

What is the Colloquium and what is a Review Group?

Anna Hobson

For me, the Colloquium’s all about integrity

The Cochrane Collaboration holds an annual conference known as a ‘Colloquium’, and because Cochrane is a global organisation, this meeting takes place in a different country every year. The Colloquia are open to all Cochrane contributors, and the meetings aim to bring people together to discuss, develop and promote the Collaboration’s work.

Cochrane’s contributors are affiliated to the organisation through various Cochrane groups, such as healthcare subject-related review groups, thematic networks (called ‘fields’), groups concerned with the methodology of systematic reviews, and regional centres.

There are 53 subject-related review groups (Cochrane Review Groups (CRGs)) around the world, each taking editorial responsibility for a particular area of healthcare. Each CRG has an ‘editorial base’ where a small team of people provide the resources to prepare, maintain and update Cochrane Reviews which are published on the Cochrane Library.

I am the Managing Editor for the Cochrane Pain, Palliative and Supportive Care Review Group (PaPaS) in Oxford, UK, and we support the development of systematic reviews on acute and chronic pain, headache and migraine, and palliative and supportive care. The annual Colloquium is an excellent opportunity to meet people, catch up with colleagues, and learn more about recent developments and initiatives.

What does a Managing Editor do?

Every CRG has a Managing Editor (ME) who manages the day-to-day activities of the group. For example, MEs are responsible for:

  • managing the editorial processes for systematic review preparation and publication;
  • providing specialised editorial support to review authors;
  • managing the process of peer review;
  • maintaining communication between the CRG’s editorial team members;
  • submitting reviews and protocols to the publisher, Wiley.

It is also our responsibility to keep up to date with the latest methods, expectations and policies, and to ensure the CRG is fully compliant and meets the highest standards of the Collaboration. The Colloquium provides an invaluable opportunity to learn about these issues.

As ME, I am the main point of contact for PaPaS. The majority of my communications are conducted via email, so attending the Colloquium means I can get to know authors and colleagues outside the virtual realm.

What happens at the Colloquium?

This year’s Colloquium was held in Hyderabad, India. Arriving at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport at 5am local time, after 30 minutes’ sleep and 3 tear-jerker films, I must admit I was bleary-eyed and disoriented. But I was also excited, as the week ahead promised a full programme of interesting and inspiring events.

The theme was ‘Evidence-Informed Public Health: Opportunities and challenges’. There were workshops, presentations and plenaries on topics such as:

  • technological advancements for future review production;
  • delivering public health in resource-constrained settings;
  • capacity development;
  • assuring quality and relevance;
  • prioritisation;
  • dissemination, engagement and communication.
Award fro best social media activity

We won the ‘Archie Award’ for the CRG with the strongest uptake of social media, 2014

We also had the chance to attend the Annual General Meeting, during which the Cochrane Steering Group reports on its activities during the preceding year.

Looking beyond the ‘publish’ button

This is an exciting time for the Collaboration, as we are working hard putting Strategy 2020 into action, as well as starting to really embrace the world of social media in order to engage, advocate, and build partnerships. The Colloquium inspired me to think about how our CRG, PaPaS, can build on previous successes, and whether we can introduce new ideas to complement our strategic goals. Can we implement efficiencies to our editorial process to improve our author experience? Can we prioritise more effectively? Do I need to establish new connections in order to enhance the quality and impact of our reviews? We are starting to think further than just pressing the ‘publish’ button, but how do we disseminate our reviews more widely, and how can we measure impact?

I feel privileged to be able to spend time amongst experienced, passionate professionals to share ideas on all of these topics and more. Around the dinner table at the end of a long day, the atmosphere can still be charged with enthusiasm, with ideas and reflections and opinions. It is clear to me that people value this meeting very highly, not least because contributors from many diverse countries are in attendance. I am proud to be part of this organisation as it matches my values and the desire to ‘make a difference’, and I chose the word ‘integrity’ to describe it as part of a light-hearted competition being run by The Cochrane Library on social media.

 The future is exciting!

The value of attending Colloquia is in the rich experiences and learning opportunities provided by the programme of events. But there is also a lot of value in the informal: the unexpected introductions, the colleagues who are becoming friends, the importance of the spaces in between the workshops. One minute I can be helping to facilitate a workshop on translating Cochrane reviews for dissemination in non-English speaking countries, and the next I can be discussing patient-reported outcomes whilst queuing at the bar.

The Colloquium brings together the vibrant network of dedicated people with dazzling ideas. The meeting provides opportunities to learn, contribute, and gain experience and skills. Wherever I turned, there was a friendly face, and some of those friendly faces were becoming familiar. I was able to cement existing relationships and make new acquaintances. New projects, new collaborations, new horizons started to emerge. Late nights back at the hotel were spent checking emails and scribbling new ideas.

So upon return to the UK, once again bleary-eyed and weary after another 10-hour flight, I was excited to get back into the office. The future is exciting.

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Anna Hobson

About Anna Hobson

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Anna Hobson is the Managing Editor of the Cochrane Pain, Palliative and Supportive Care Review Group (PaPaS). She graduated with an English Literature degree from Cardiff University in 2001. After moving to Oxford in 2009, Anna started working in clinical trial administration, before joining PaPaS in 2012. Follow @CochranePaPaS for the latest news and reviews from PaPaS. In her spare time, Anna enjoys creative writing, organising local literary fundraising events, and pampering her cats.

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