US Cochrane Center
Brown University-Department of Community Health

How to contribute to the Cochrane Collaboration

The task which the Cochrane Collaboration has undertaken is enormous. It will be achieved as people of goodwill offer their skills and time. Already several thousand people around the world have become involved in one of the following ways:

Systematic reviewer:
If you have expertise in some aspect of healthcare, consider joining the relevant Cochrane Collaborative Review Group. If there is not yet a group which covers your specialty, register your interest in being part of a new group. Being part of a Cochrane review group provides the support, resources and training to tackle a systematic review, and an international audience when your work is published in The Cochrane Library.

Each review group has an editorial team which provides support for reviewers to ensure the highest quality in their work. Some editors need content/topic expertise, others need methodological expertise and an editor's eye for detail, consistency and good expression.

Field member:
Fields are Cochrane groupings that focus on dimensions of health care other than health problems, such as the setting of care (e.g. primary care), the type of consumer (e.g. older people), the type of provider (e.g. nurses) or the type of intervention (e.g. physical therapies). People working in fields handsearch specialist journals, help to ensure that priorities and perspectives in their field of interest are reflected in the work of collaborative review groups, compile specialist databases of reviews, co-ordinate activities with relevant agencies outside the Collaboration, and comment on systematic reviews relating to their particular area.

Consumer representative:
Every Cochrane review group aims to have members who will represent the consumer's (ie, recipients of healthcare) viewpoint in deciding which reviews are done, what questions they focus on, and how the results are presented. The Cochrane Consumer Network coordinates the involvement of consumers within the Collaboration.

Methodology 'expert':
If you have expertise in statistics or other methodological aspects of systematic reviews, you can contribute through one of the Cochrane Methods Groups. Such involvement can enhance your own work through collaboration with an international team.

This involves the laborious task of searching through medical journals for accounts of controlled trials which are not yet indexed in the major electronic databases like Medline and Embase. Less than a third of the world's medical journals are routinely indexed in the major electronic databases. Most review groups and Centres are seeking volunteer handsearchers and will provide the necessary training and support. Handsearching of journals is coordinated by the US Cochrane Center

The language of the Collaboration and of The Cochrane Library is English, but reports of medical trials are often published in other languages. The Italian Cochrane Centre is coordinating the efforts of people willing to translate reports of medical trials on behalf of those preparing Cochrane reviews.

How to register your interest in becoming involved

  1. Decide on the role that suits your skills (reviewer, handsearcher, translator, etc. See above for more detail)
  2. Choose the Cochrane group (ie, health care area) you wish to work with.
    Browse the lists of Cochrane review groups, Methods Groups, Fields, and the Consumer Network
    The reviews and protocols produced by Review Groups will indicate the scope of their work.
  3. Contact the group by email, phone or fax. Briefly state your background and the way you wish to become involved. Contacts details for Cochrane Groups
  4. If you can't decide which is the most suitable group, contact your nearest Cochrane Centre. Explain your interest and background. Their staff will help you decide which is the most suitable Cochrane group to work with.
    Contact details for Cochrane Centres

    NOTE: Membership of a Cochrane group is not based on formal qualifications. There are no membership fees. The key requirements are that you:

  • have suitable skills (and willingness to learn new ones)
  • can volunteer some of your time over an extended period
  • work as part of a team
  • support the aims of the Collaboration
  • share the Collaboration's goals and spirit of goodwill

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