Finding consensus

Sometimes even the best laid plans can go awry. The Colloquium can be overwhelming in a normal year and Madrid was approaching with more people and longer days than usual. It helps to recognize some friendly faces in the vast hallways, so CCNet planned a welcome dinner on the evening of their arrival.

As consumers descended on Madrid, our luck ran out. Our booking was cancelled, not once, but twice.   My reservation for sixteen now needed to seat twenty.  And my only way to communicate with my guests was by email – which few could access. Many newcomers dashed from one restaurant to another, in an effort to find us, and the meal had its own set of problems. It wasn’t exactly the perfect evening, but we all found a new community that night - and isn’t that what matters?  

Now, in the midst of the madness that is the Colloquium, I’m hoping to build consensus within The Collaboration to improve plain language summaries.  Cochrane has achieved a critical mass in knowledge translation abilities and quality assessment. A new working group, titled 'Methodological Expectations for Cochrane Intervention Reviews' or MECIR, has produced a set of minimum standards for the full review (see the recommendations here) and now it's time for the rest of us. Plain language summaries also need improvement.

Finding agreement on best practice standards for the style, format and content of plain language summaries isn’t going to be easy, but there has never been a better opportunity.  If consumer ideals can be balanced by the need for practical implementation we may make some actual progress.  I’m encouraged by the interest on all sides.

Last month, my nine-year-old son memorized this line for the school play: “Our ideas are all varied, but that’s the okay because we are all different.”  Let’s hope Cochranites can also translate diversity into something greater than its individual parts.