Monday 25 November 2019, 9am-5pm

New tools for considering bias among studies in intervention reviews

This workshop covers why and how review authors should systematically consider biases when interpreting the results of their review, and brings together several new, ongoing and related initiatives with respect to understanding and dealing with bias.

The workshop focuses on tools developed and used by Cochrane but is open to anyone who conducts evidence syntheses and is familiar with risk of bias.

The session will include a mixture of presentations, small group activities, and a facilitated discussion covering the following topics:

  • assessing risk of bias in results of randomized trials using the recently developed RoB 2 tool
  • issues in the roll-out and implementation of the RoB 2 tool in Cochrane
  • awareness of ROBINS-I tool for assessing risk of bias in non-randomized studies of interventions
  • awareness of upcoming tools for assessing risk of bias due to missing results in a synthesis (ROB-ME) and conflicts of interest of study investigators (TACIT)
  • awareness of how the different tools are linked and the systems being developed to streamline their use

The session will provide an invaluable opportunity to become familiar with Cochrane’s recommended approach for considering issues of bias and conflicts of interest in intervention reviews. It will also provide participants with an opportunity to give feedback on the tools in development, and to suggest further development needs with regards to guidance, training and software.

Lead facilitator: Matthew Page 


Tuesday 26 November 2019, 9am-5pm

New guidance on synthesis

This workshop is in two parts. Part one covers planning and preparing for synthesis, and part two synthesising and presenting results when meta-analysis is not possible. 

Part 1: Planning and preparing for synthesis

Synthesis involves bringing together data from a set of included studies, a process that includes the synthesis of study characteristics in addition to statistical synthesis of study findings. This workshop introduces a general framework for synthesis that guides authors through the practical steps of planning the PICO for each synthesis, preparing for and undertaking the synthesis, and interpreting and describing results. Although these concepts are familiar to experienced authors, the latest version of the Cochrane Handbook provides substantive new guidance to step authors through the many decisions faced when planning and preparing for synthesis.

The guidance is applicable to all reviews, but has an emphasis on addressing barriers to synthesis that arise in reviews with diversity in one or more of the PICO elements.

Based on the new guidance in Chapters 2, 3 and 9 of the Cochrane Handbook, we will use a combination of presentations, interactive exercises and group work to cover the following topics:

  • A general framework for synthesis
  • Using the ‘PICO for each synthesis’ to define the question addressed by each synthesis
  • Options for structuring reviews to facilitate syntheses: planning how interventions and outcomes will be grouped
  • Planning how review outcomes will be selected and prioritised
  • Practical approaches for examining and comparing PICO elements of included studies to determine which studies can be grouped and to synthesise study characteristics

Part 2: Synthesising and presenting results when meta-analysis is not possible

In reviews where meta-analysis is not used, authors commonly report results study-by-study or draw conclusions without reporting how findings were synthesized across studies. These approaches may leave decision-makers to make sense of findings themselves, and undermine confidence in the evidence.

There are many circumstances that may preclude the use of meta-analysis of effect estimates. For example, when there is incomplete information reported about the intervention effect estimates (e.g. missing standard errors), or inconsistency in the reported effect metrics across studies. Other commonly cited reasons for not using meta-analysis – such as diversity in the PICO of included studies – can often be addressed through grouping (the focus of Part 1 of this workshop).

Planning for circumstances that may preclude meta-analysis can ensure that reviewers make the best use of available data and produce more useful syntheses for decision-makers. This workshop will cover presentation and synthesis methods that can be used in these circumstances (sometimes referred to as “narrative synthesis”).

Based on new guidance in Chapter 12 of the Cochrane Handbook, we will use a combination of presentations, interactive exercises and group work to cover the following topics:

  • Scenarios that may preclude meta-analysis
  • Other synthesis and presentation methods, along with their advantages and disadvantages, and guidance on when to use which approach
  • Exploring extracted data to determine what other synthesis methods might be used if meta-analysis is not possible
  • Suggestions for describing the results of the synthesis

Participants will work through an example that illustrates different approaches to summary and synthesis of data.


We acknowledge our fellow Handbook chapter authors: Hilary Thomson (Cochrane Public Health Review Group, University of Glasgow), Rebecca Ryan (Cochrane Consumers and Communication Group, La Trobe University) and James Thomas (EPPI-Centre, University College London).

Facilitators: Joanne McKenzie, Sue Brennan and Renea Johnston

Wednesday 26 2019, 9am-12.30pm

Australasian Cochrane Symposium

This will be a morning to immerse yourself in the world of Cochrane, welcome our new editor in chief Karla Soares-Weiser, and celebrate the publication of the Cochrane Handbook. This session is open to all and is free of charge, we just ask that you register so we know how many to cater for. 

We will update this section in the coming weeks, but here’s a flavour of what’s planned:

  • Presentation and Q&A with Karla Soares-Weiser, Cochrane Library Editor in Chief. Karla will outline her plans for the Library and share her thoughts on the future of review production.
  • Launch of the new edition of Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions – we’ll get an overview of what’s new directly from several of the editors and chapter authors themselves
  • What’s happening in Cochrane: an update on tech stuff (Covidence, RevMan Web) and various organisational matters (dissemination, KT)

This session is open to all and is free of charge, we just ask that you register so we know how many to cater for.