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SPCR Fellow Helen Atherton (Oxford) and Doctoral student Jasmin Knopp (Manchester) presented at the Cochrane Colloquium in Quebec, in September.

Helen Atherton

"This was my first Cochrane Colloquium, despite being involved with the Cochrane Collaboration for some time. Quebec City was a fitting location for the 21st Colloquium, offering beautiful surroundings. It opened with an impressive plenary session, the controversy evident from the start when Professor Thomas Whalley from the NIHR challenged the collaboration to ensure that Cochrane reviews are relevant to those making decisions in healthcare.

I presented my work in the risk of bias session on the second day of the conference. The audience comprised both review authors and methodologists, with some of the methodologists being those responsible for deciding how Cochrane reviews should be conducted. It was interesting to discuss with them experiences of doing a review; a form of reporting from the frontline, feeding back how the tools they design are applied in practice, even if this was controversial (to them!).

The conference did not just offer the opportunity to learn more about systematic review methodology but also to explore alternatives to this approach
- Helen

The conference did not just offer the opportunity to learn more about systematic review methodology but also to explore alternatives to this approach; I attended a workshop on realist review, a method which offers the opportunity to explore the how and why behind interventions. This qualitative approach provoked much discussion – which approach is best, and can we use both? There was also much exploration throughout the entire conference about how we should best approach the review of complex interventions, something which challenges many review authors but remains unsolved. Increasingly qualitative approaches like realist review are seen as essential for fully exploring complex interventions.

For those people with an interest in review methodology, be that systematic or otherwise, I would recommend you try and attend a Cochrane Colloquium at least once...even if only to confirm that everyone else is facing and trying to overcome the same methodological challenges that you are. Combined with the opportunities for networking and the social programme, it is well worth it." 

Jasmin Knopp

"This year’s Cochrane Colloquium, the 21stof its kind, was the first one I attended. Quebec City, with its beautiful old town and river front offered the perfect setting for this conference. Each morning began with plenary sessions which equally challenged the Cochrane collaboration’s current ways and celebrated its substantial successes over the past years.

One of the key foci of this year’s event was retaining and increasing the relevance of reviews to healthcare decision making and improving the health of individuals globally
- Jasmin

I presented my own systematic review (not a Cochrane review) at the poster sessions on the third day of the Colloquium. As anticipated by my supervisors, this conference offered a great opportunity to disseminate my work. I received a great deal of interest from a number of methodologists and clinicians who could relate to my work and its relevance from their own clinical experiences. My work, exploring and investigating treatment effect modifiers, is relatively new to members of the Cochrane collaboration. Hence, it was particularly interesting for me to hear their views and receive input on the approach we’d taken to synthesising what is a very ‘messy’ literature.

Beyond the chance to present my own work, the conference offered a range of networking and learning opportunities. Oral sessions and workshops went beyond Cochrane reviews to consider alternative approaches and interesting methods and review topics which don’t currently form part of the Cochrane spectrum of reviews. Interestingly, the conference offered plenty of opportunities to learn more about qualitative review methods, amongst others realist reviews, as well as the role of qualitative work in informing the interpretation of and increase insight into the meaning of quantitative review findings.

Overall, this conference was a great opportunity to get up to date with current advances in review methods. In combination with the networking opportunities and the unique social programme, this conference was well worth attending." Jasmin