Williams Reporting from Austria

John W. Williams, MD, MHSc

John W. Williams, MD, MHSc

The 23rd Cochrane Colloquium in Vienna, Austria, October 3-7, 2015
Posted by John Williams, MD, MHS*

The 23rd Cochrane Colloquium was held in Vienna, Austria, October 3-7. It is the premier conference focused on the methods for conducting systematic reviews. As director of the Durham Evidence Synthesis Program (ESP), I attended with the goal of learning new methods to use at our center and to present results from an ESP research project.

Learning new approaches

IdaSim_Blue Boxes and EBM

Ida Sim (UCSF) gives plenary talk.

I wasn’t disappointed. l learned about new software tools to better enable groups to collaborate on systematic reviews, new standards for conducting umbrella reviews, “flower petal” strategies for presenting results, and many more technical approaches that only a methods nerd would appreciate. Ida Sim from UCSF presented a plenary talk that described an expanded hierarchy for study designs that includes implementation research (e.g., stepped-wedge designs) and big data studies (e.g., data mining) that has important implications for how we teach and conduct research.

Recognition of methods for Clinical Practice Guidelines

We also celebrated the 15th year of the GRADE Working Group (The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation), a group of methodologists who met in Oslo during the summer of 2000 when I was on sabbatical working with the Norwegian Knowledge Institute. Our goal was to strengthen the methods and harmonize the approach to developing Clinical Practice Guidelines. Our approach has been adopted by many professional societies (e.g., ACP, American Cancer Society), UpToDate, and International Organizations (e.g., WHO).

Williams ESP poster

Dr. Williams presents the ESP evidence map.

Poster presentation includes Drs. Porter and Goldstein from DGIM

In a poster session, I presented our ESP evidence map that examined how and how often systematic reviews examine whether treatment effects vary for men and women. Denise Porter, DGIM Fellow, was the content lead for this project that found few studies examine these differential treatment effects. Karen Goldstein from our division was another key contributor to this project.

Connections and helping others

In addition to learning about cutting edge methods, I attended the Cochrane meeting to reconnect with international colleagues and because I’m inspired by the culture of the group. The Cochrane Organization always contributes time and resources to supporting developing countries and countries in crisis. It schedules time to connect with colleagues, and this year, a walking tour of Vienna with the proceeds supporting travel scholarships to allow those from developing countries to attend the meeting. The emphasis on work-life balance, human connections, and helping those who need help is inspiring.

Norwegian colleagues (members of GRADE WG) and Brian Haynes, editor of ACP Journal Club

Norwegian colleagues (members of the GRADE WG) and Brian Haynes, editor of ACP Journal Club

Next year, Seoul, Korea!

Next year’s Cochrane Colloquium is in Seoul, Korea, October 23-27. Hope to see you there.

*John Williams, MD, MHS is Professor of Medicine and Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He is a primary care internist who is trained in epidemiology, biostatistics, and literature synthesis. Dr. Williams directs the Durham VA Evidence Synthesis Program and has led numerous systematic reviews, many focusing on mental health services.

Follow Dr. Williams on Twitter @jwileyj