The Cochrane Collaboration is an international non-profit and independent organisation dedicated to making up-to-date, accurate information about the effects of healthcare readily available worldwide. It produces systematic reviews of the effects of healthcare interventions and makes these available in The Cochrane Library, which is available on the Internet.
Since 2002, The Cochrane Library is available free of charge throughout the island of Ireland. This arrangement is sponsored by the Health Research Board (HRB) in Dublin and the HSC Research & Development Division, (HSC R&D Division), Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland and it gives immediate access to the full text of 4000 Cochrane reviews to everyone on the island.
What is a Systematic Review?
Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews, which provide an overview of the effects of interventions in health care and, where possible, an estimate of the size of any benefits or harms of these interventions. Each review covers a specific and well-defined area of health care and evidence from clinical trials is included or excluded on the basis of explicit quality criteria. Data in reviews are often combined statistically to increase the power of the findings of numerous studies, which on their own may be too small to produce reliable results. In such cases, the review would also include graphs presenting the data from each individual study, along with the combined analysis.
Systematic reviews differ from other types of review in that they adhere to a strict design in order to make them more comprehensive, to minimise bias, and to ensure their reliability. Rather than reflecting the views of the authors or being based on a partial selection of the literature (as is the case with many articles and reviews that are not explicitly systematic), they contain all known references to trials on a particular topic and a comprehensive summary of the available evidence. The reviews are valuable sources of information for those receiving care, as well as for decision makers and researchers.
Who creates the Cochraine Library?
There are currently more 24,000 people contributing to the work of The Cochrane Collaboration in over 100 countries. There are 52 Cochrane Review Groups, responsible for reviews within particular areas of health and collectively providing a home for reviews in all aspects of health care. You can learn more about the Cochrane Review Groups by accessing www.TheCochraneLibrary.com and clicking the link to the ?About? section.
Training to use the Cochrane Library
In addition to providing and promoting free national access to The Cochrane Library since 2002, the HRB and HSC Research & Development Division, (HSC R&D Division), Public Health Agency HSC Research & Development Division, (HSC R&D Division), Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland fund a series of annual Cochrane training programmes in systematic reviews and to administer a Cochrane Fellowship programme to build capacity on the island of Ireland in conducting systematic reviews for inclusion in The Cochrane Library. These Cochrane training programmes and Fellowship schemes are advertised in the Grants and Fellowships section of the HRB website. You can also sign up for RSS and e-mail alerts whenever new grants are posted.
Together with free national access, these schemes form part of a commitment by the HRB to increase the ability of researchers to produce the high quality research that is vital for improving patient care, and of managers and professionals to be aware of, understand and act upon this research.