It’s new, it’s engaging, it’s Evidently Cochrane!

Sarah Chapman is an Information Specialist at the UK Cochrane Centre, based in Oxford, UK. Here she shares news of her and the Centre’s latest forays into engagement, knowledge translation, and social media to disseminate Cochrane evidence to audiences across the world.

Here’s a challenge for you: describe The Cochrane Collaboration in 140 characters! This word limit is demanded of those who use the microblogging site Twitter and it certainly focuses the mind on what is most important to say, as does the realisation that you are talking to a very large audience indeed. But how fantastic to be able to take some key information from Cochrane Reviews and share it with vast numbers of people, immediately! This is one of the things I’m now enjoying doing.

Martin Burton, our Director, promised that ‘engagement’ would now be a focus for the UK Cochrane Centre and one of the ways in which we’re turning this vision into a reality is by sharing Cochrane Reviews through social media, in blogs, tweets and more. When we embarked on this five months ago I hadn’t realised how EXCITING this was going to be! Now I’m engaging with consumers, health professionals and voluntary organisations every day, in real time, all over the world, discussing Cochrane evidence and I love it!

So, what are we doing? We’ve started looking at all the new and updated reviews just before their publication to identify which we might highlight and what would be the best means of doing that. One way is through our new blog, ‘Evidently Cochrane’, where we put accessible summaries of Cochrane Reviews, setting them in context, giving a key message and the main findings, and also something about the strength of the evidence - this is so important yet it’s information that can be hard to find quickly. A great feature of blogs is that the facility to leave comments allows for discussion by readers and we are starting to see this happening on ours – fantastic to see the Managing Editors of two Cochrane Review Groups in conversation with someone living with a chronic condition, about relevant reviews both published and in the pipeline and discussing some of the challenges of trial design. We hope we’ll see much more of this in the coming months.

We post a link to the blog on our own Facebook page and that of the Consumer Network, and also on Twitter. Twitter seems to be an increasingly important and lively forum for discussion and sharing evidence. We started tweeting daily in September, using the hashtag #CochraneEvidence where possible so that people can search for these tweets. So far we’ve shared over 150 Cochrane Reviews and this hasn’t just resulted in people viewing and sharing the links, great though that is. I often find myself in conversations on twitter, with consumers, doctors, researchers and organisations about aspects of the reviews and the implications for helping people make choices about their health care, for example, or about the importance of trials exploring outcomes that are important to patients.

We’ve also created our first Storify, a way of gathering links from social media and web pages on a topic, creating a living archive of the Tamiflu story. We’ve started tweeting from conferences and joining in scheduled ‘tweet chats’ on relevant topics. We’re discovering that these are all great ways to share Cochrane Reviews and we are full of plans for 2013. Do follow us on Twitter, visit us on Facebook and check out our blog – we’d love to hear what you think and have you join in the conversation!