Transforming Cochrane

Steve McDonald and Tari Turner
Med J Aust 2016; 204 (1): 6. || doi: 10.5694/mja15.01195
Published online: 18 January 2016

If Cochrane were a car, some might see it as a beige 1995 Volvo station wagon; incredibly safe, magnificently reliable, but in need of an update. Cochrane has achieved a lot in the past 20 years: over 6500 reviews have been completed by a network of 30 000 contributors from 130 countries. We are recognised for the quality and rigour of our evidence syntheses, our leadership in methods development and our contribution to the world of evidence-based health care.

But, as we settle into our third decade, we also know that if Cochrane is going to thrive, we need to change. Our content needs to be more useable, timely and relevant, and delivered without compromising on quality. To achieve this, Cochrane is transforming how it goes about its work. We are investing in initiatives to bring people, processes and technology together that will maximise the value of our networks, improve how we conduct our reviews and provide new ways of using the data in Cochrane reviews.

Initiatives include using machine learning to reduce the time taken to retrieve research relevant to our reviews; crowdsourcing to increase the efficiency new research is screened and tagged; and online platforms that connect people who need help with their reviews with those who have the time and expertise to lend a hand.

Cochrane now has a dedicated online tool, Covidence, for managing several steps of the review process, from screening and selecting studies to assessing risk of bias and extracting data. This is making life easier for reviewers and ensures that all the effort that goes into producing reviews is captured in one place for all time.

The world of linked data holds great potential for data-rich organisations like Cochrane. We have developed tools to better annotate our reviews (and the study data buried within them) and to make these data more easily available to others, such as guideline producers. It also means we can enrich our own content by linking to relevant external data sources.

For more information, visit and

  • Steve McDonald
  • Tari Turner

  • Australasian Cochrane Centre, Melbourne, VIC



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