October 2013 will mark the 20th anniversary of the formal launch of The Cochrane Collaboration, which occurred at the First Cochrane Colloquium in Oxford, United Kingdom, in 1993. The past 2 decades have been extremely productive for this group, and the future looks even brighter. But many orthodontists are unaware of the history of this outstanding organization. Let me share some of the background with our readers.
The group derives its name from a legendary British medical researcher, Archie Cochrane (1909-1988), who contributed greatly to the development of epidemiology as a science. He was best known for his influential book, Effectiveness and Efficiency: Random Reflections on Health Services , published in 1972. In this book, he stressed the importance of using evidence from randomized controlled trials because these were likely to provide much more reliable information than other sources of evidence. This proposition soon became recognized as seminally important in all health professions.
In 1987, the year before he died, Cochrane referred to a systematic review of randomized controlled trials of care during pregnancy and childbirth as “a real milestone in the history of randomized trials” and suggested that other specialties should copy the methods used. Although he died in 1988, his influence on the importance of credible research methods lived on and led to the opening of the first Cochrane Center in Oxford in 1992 and the founding of The Cochrane Collaboration in 1993.
Since its inception, The Cochrane Collaboration has grown steadily into an international network of over 35,000 dedicated people from over 100 countries. This not-for-profit network collaboratively works to help health care providers, policy makers, and patients make well-informed decisions about health care, based on the best available research evidence, by preparing, updating, and promoting the accessibility of Cochrane Reviews. These reviews and protocols currently number nearly 8000 and are available through The Cochrane Library.
But how does the organization affect dentistry and, more specifically, the specialty of orthodontics? In June 1994, shortly after the launch of the collaboration, The Cochrane Oral Health Group (COHG) was established. The editorial base for the oral health section is housed in Manchester, United Kingdom, in the University of Manchester’s School of Dentistry. The COHG comprises an international network of health care professionals and researchers who prepare, maintain, and disseminate systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials in oral health. The level of international interest in the COHG is illustrated by the diversity of its 1100 members, of whom 800 review authors are from 40 countries. In fact, the COHG’s specialized trials register contains over 28,000 references to randomized controlled trials in dentistry that have been collected over the past 20 years.
Currently, the COHG has published 132 systematic reviews, 68 review updates, and 68 protocols, with further reviews and protocols and an additional 34 registered titles in preparation. To keep up with the demand for updated information, in 2010, the COHG’s Global Alliance was established to deliver important priority reviews in a timelier manner by increasing the methodologic capacity at the editorial base and working strategically with international experts. For example, in the past, the COHG published 15 new reviews or review updates each year. The Global Alliance will allow the group to increase this to 20 reviews per year, while ensuring that all priority reviews are conducted and updated in a timely manner.
And the future looks bright. In October 2011, the COHG was awarded an international grant of $900,000 for a 2-year fixed-term contract from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the US Department of Health and Human Services. We applaud the efforts of The Cochrane Collaboration and appreciate the influence it has provided to the AJO-DO to make certain that the research articles that are accepted and published are methodologically sound. We are pleased that the numbers of high-quality randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews published in the AJO-DO continue to grow annually. On behalf of the AAO and the AJO-DO , I thank The Cochrane Collaboration and wish it a happy 20th anniversary.