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Cochrane’s New Look
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Posted On May 13, 2013
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At this year’s Medical Libraries Association (MLA) annual conference, held May 3-7, 2013, in Boston, several sessions centered on new and forthcoming developments with The Cochrane Collaboration. Cochrane, established 20 years ago and named after British epidemiologist Archie Cochrane, is in the forefront of evidence-based medicine. The Cochrane Library consists of databases that cover systematic reviews, abstracts of reviews of effects, a central register of controlled trials, a methodology register, health technology assessment, and economic evaluation. It can be searched as part of the Wiley Online Library and on EBSCOhost.

Wiley Search

Cochrane renewed its publishing partnership with John Wiley & Sons, Inc. in February 2013. At MLA, project manager Colleen Finley showed the results of its “new search” project on the Wiley Online Library platform. Some of the site has been redesigned to allow searchers to see their search strategies and results on the same page, plus new features have been added. Search options are tabbed as Search, Search Manager, and Medical Terms (MeSH). With the Search tab, you can do quick and easy searches with autocomplete options based on actual searches by Cochrane users. Field limits reflect the extensive structuring of records in the database, including the ability to restrict your search by product status, and date.

Under Search Manager, you can now add up to five lines to your search. If you insert a line in the middle of other search lines, the software will renumber the succeeding lines so that any strategy that uses search numbers will still be valid and doesn’t need to be re-input with new line numbers. The new search software will also find any “orphan lines” not used in your final search. If you have a saved search, you can now append it to an existing search, thus enabling reusable search modules. As with added lines, the software automatically renumbers search lines when the saved search is appended. Saved searches will be transferred automatically to the new platform; there is no need to notify Wiley or re-enter the search strings.

The redesign of the MeSH search screen includes boxes for search terms and limiting qualifiers. It also incorporates autocomplete and displays MeSH on one page, including a permuted index, trees, and results for the term. It puts the search results at the bottom of the page. Throughout the new site, searchers are encouraged by increased transparency toward more iterative searching behaviors.

Cochrane Collaboration Developments

Aside from the Wiley Online Library publication changes, The Cochrane Collaboration became a principal supporter and organizer of the AllTrials Initiative in mid-April 2013. AllTrials launched in January 2013 to encourage the publication of unreported clinical trial data, of which there is a surprising amount. The petition at the AllTrials website to require the availability of clinical trial data now numbers more than 50,000. It calls the underreporting of results and the subsequent lack of knowledge about medicines “misconduct.”

Cochrane’s Review Manager (RevMan), which explains how to prepare and maintain reviews, now has a tutorial on YouTube. There are 43 short videos that detail the process, from how to begin creating a review to how to submit it for editorial approval. Essentially, this is a video user’s guide that amplifies the printed RevMan. Meanwhile, the Cochrane Policy Manual will divide into two manuals. One will be for operational policies, while the other will concern publishing and editorial policies.

The Cochrane Database of Systematic Review will move to a “publish when ready” schedule, replacing its current monthly updating cycle. This affects Protocols and Reviews and will start on June 3, 2013. This rapid updating will affect all Cochrane’s publishing partners. Additionally, the database will be open access (OA) after a 12-month embargo. This was announced in February 2013, meaning the first reviews and protocols will be available in February 2014.

In the 20 years of its existence, The Cochrane Collaboration has moved evidence-based medicine center stage, as evidence-based research and evidence-based librarianship has gained traction. It’s clear that Cochrane’s commitment to “independent high-quality evidence for health care decision making” is not slowing down.


Marydee Ojala is the editor-in-chief of Online Searcher magazine, chairs WebSearch University, and is Program Development Director for Enterprise Search Summit.

Email Marydee Ojala
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