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Cochrane Corner: Update on the Cochrane Collaboration

The Cochrane Collaboration was launched in October 1993, and so is just emerging from infancy and developing into toddlerhood. The Collaboration is a network of individuals, and its objectives are to prepare, maintain and disseminate systematic reviews of the effects of health care. This is a huge challenge. To illustrate just how huge, achieving even the first of these objectives will take a considerable time, as it can take up to five years to prepare a proper systematic review. Currently there are no Cochrane reviews available for dissemination, but the first will appear early in 1995.

The added value of a Cochrane review (as opposed to any other systematic review) is the commitment to regular updating. Reviews published in journals are often out of date by the time they are published. Cochrane reviews will be published electronically and updated when this is appropriate. They will therefore be dynamic and changing to take into account new evidence as soon as it is available.

Each Cochrane reviewer is a member of a Collaborative Review Group (CRG), which consists of people who share an interest in a particular topic (for example, stroke, diabetes, incontinence, or oral health). The CRGs focus on health problems. Other dimensions of interest (such as primary health care, developing countries, care of the elderly, or alternative medicine) are addressed through Field Co-ordination. The work of the CRGs and the Fields is facilitated in a variety of ways by the various Cochrane centres.

1,000 people involved

More than 1,000 people from over 50 countries are either already contributing to the work of the Collaboration, or have indicated their desire to contribute. Throughout the Collaboration, about 40 CRGs and 15 Fields are in various stages of evolution. Sixteen CRGs have registered with the Collaboration, and even these 16 reflect a great diversity. They include, for example, parasitic diseases, osteoporosis, back pain, subfertility and schizophrenia.

Around the world there are seven Cochrane centres established so far, and several others in various stages of development. Each centre has general responsibilities, such as helping to maintain a directory of contributors to the Collaboration, maintaining registers of systematic reviews, and helping to establish a register of all randomised controlled trials. In addition, the centres all have particular interests, which include methodological research, dissemination of information useful for delivery of appropriate health care, and consumer involvement in the process of reviewing.

Lelia Duley

Anyone in the UK interested in contributing should contact:
The UK Cochrane centre
NHS R&D Programme
Summertown Pavilion
Middle Way
Oxford OX2 7LG
Tel: 01865 516300 Fax: 01865 516311

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