Being my first Cochrane meeting, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but overall it was pretty good and as big a collection of Alpha-nerds as I have ever seen! As you might expect it was pretty heavy on the methodological stuff but generally it was high quality. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t catch Nick snoozing on the odd occasion, but the occasions were relatively rare and probably due more to his nocturnal activities than the program. Obviously research into assessment of bias, outcome measurement, analysis, search strategies and guideline development doesn’t rock everyone’s world, but it did mean that the organisers could put on a program that was relevant to nearly everyone, despite their diverse backgrounds. In fact it was kind of cool to sit in a room with everyone from ear, nose and throat surgeons, chiropractors, epidemiologists, HIV researchers, economists, nurses, GPs etc. all of whom could find relevance to their work.
The Colloquium also held several education-focussed workshops mostly aimed at teaching various aspects relevant to systematic reviews, for example; treatment of heterogeneity, meta-analytic methods, diagnostic test accuracy reviews, search strategies and the like. It was a little hard at times to work out what level the workshop was appropriate for – some were very basic i.e. undergraduate level understanding – but I think it is a nice idea, especially for early career researchers.
Another different aspect was the meetings of the various methods review groups. Cochrane has a whole raft of these (I went along to the patient reported outcomes and prognosis methods groups, Nick also went to the diagnostic test accuracy group). The idea is that these groups get together people with interest/expertise in the area and look to come up with ways of optimising research methods and systematic reviews. They all seem to be after people to be involved so I reckon it’s worth having a look on the website and seeing if there is an area you’re interested in. It can put you in touch with some important people in the area and also gives you access to the cutting edge of what is going on in the methods world.
Another important networking opportunity offered by Cochrane is the various review groups. Review groups represent the different content areas (e.g. airways groups, back group, eyes and vision group, neonatal group etc) in the collaboration and serve as a point of reference to help people interested in doing a review. If you do have an idea it’s worth contacting someone from the relevant review group, they can put you on the right path and generally help you through the process. Obviously the thought of doing a Cochrane Review can be bit daunting (so many rules, so much work, so long, so much time…) but an impact factor of 6.1 is a bit of a sweetener and you are sure to learn heaps going through the process, especially about research methods.
My hits and misses for the Cochrane Colloquium 2011:
Hits: many, see above; Madrid (you should go there, it’s beautiful); top quality collection of nerds
Misses: organisation of the conference; expensive; sessions on Saturday!
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