Rebecca Normansell is Joint Co-ordinating Editor of Cochrane Airways, one of five Review Groups in the Cochrane Circulation and Breathing Networks. She shares with us some of her personal views on the work of her Group this year, and outlines the opportunities and challenges facing Cochrane Airways in 2018.
Can you tell us a little about the main highlights from 2017? What have been the most impactful reviews or activities of work for Cochrane Airways this year? What have you been most proud of?
2017 has been an eventful year for Cochrane Airways. We were very sad to say goodbye at the end of 2016 to our fantastic Systematic Reviewer, Kayleigh Kew, but were delighted to hear in 2017 that we had been awarded another three-year NIHR (UK National Institute for Health Research) programme grant, which is already underway.
The Global Evidence Summit in Cape Town was a highlight with four members of the Airways editorial base attending. It was great to catch up with the co-ordinator of our Australian satellite, Julia Walters, as well as other Airways editors and authors. We were also pleased to be able to arrange an informal lunch meeting for members of our new Circulation and Breathing Network while we were there. It was great to put faces to names and share some of our thoughts about the challenges and opportunities associated with becoming a Network.
For me personally, it’s been a privilege working as Deputy Co-Ed alongside Chris Cates for the last few years. In 2017, I gradually stepped up into the role of Joint Co-Ed and now take more responsibility for the day-to-day Co-Ed tasks. Chris is still on hand to help with any queries, especially tricky stats issues; his wisdom continues to be hugely appreciated by the whole Airways team around the world.
One review published in 2017 that we are particularly proud of is “Non-invasive ventilation for the management of acute hypercapnic respiratory failure due to exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease”. This update was led by one of our excellent editors, Christian Osadnik, a physiotherapist based in Australia. We hope this review will help COPD patients and practitioners around the world and were delighted to learn that the review was used in a successful Wiley journal club.
What has been the most challenging piece of work or review for you?
Coordinating our programme grant application was a challenge, but I had fantastic support and learnt a great deal along the way. I also continue to be challenged almost daily by review-related queries and problems; rarely a day passes when I don’t acquire some additional knowledge!
A major challenge that we face, along with many other Review Groups, is what to do when reviews fail to meet our methodological expectations, or take a very long time to complete. However, the new Rejection Policy has been a great help and has given us practical tools to use when making difficult decisions.
The full Structure & Function Implementation plan was announced to the Cochrane Review Groups in August. Can you remember your first impressions of seeing the plan?
We’ve been aware of planned changes to the structure and function of Cochrane for some time now. It makes good sense to us that Cochrane needs to evolve to keep pace with the changing landscape of systematic reviewing and research funding. We want to be part of an organization producing high-quality, relevant, and timely reviews; we believe that improved co-ordination and communication across Cochrane is essential to meet this goal.
On receiving the report in August, we were glad that a plan was finally in place and that the Networks had been decided so we can start to move on with some certainty. We felt a bit anxious about who might be overseeing our Network and whether they could bring about the kinds of changes we are hoping for on one day a week.
What thoughts have you had since understanding more about the formation of the Networks? What do you see as the main opportunities? What do you see as the biggest challenges in 2018?
As a relatively new Co-Ed, the possibility of a being part of a Network with ready access to advice and support from a Senior Editor and Associate Editor is very appealing. Although as a group we feel well-supported by the CEU, we recognize that providing input across 50+ CRGs is a challenge for the central team. We look forward to working closely with our Senior and Associate Editors as the Network becomes fully established.
But of course we have some worries: what if we’re pushed into new ways of working that are not familiar to us? How will we manage to work meaningfully with Network colleagues in different disease areas and different time zones? However, we also recognize the necessity for change and the potential benefits and for us and for Cochrane as a whole; this has always trumped our concerns. One way in which we hope to deal with any challenges that arise is by being actively involved and engaged from the outset.
As a Cochrane Co-ordinating Editor, what do you see as your key priority in 2018 for Cochrane Airways, and as the Networks form together?
Our top priority as a CRG is to produce reliable and relevant systematic reviews that help people, and to continue to enjoy our work. Ensuring that the Networks facilitate this aim is essential. We want to see the Networks implemented with conviction and a positive attitude and will do what we can to support this.
Cochrane Airways has a history of staff advocating for change and sitting on committees. With the advent of the Networks, we hope that the CRG voice has more weight by virtue of several Groups working together, and that innovations made in our Group – for example using the workflows as a package to manage all work in the life of a review rather than ‘just’ the editorial process – can be rolled out, and that we will be able to use innovations made in other Groups too. Or it could be that within the Network we can attract more funding and employ someone to write systematic reviews across the Groups – we know from our own experience that this is the best way to get high-quality and timely reviews.
What would be your message to other Co-Eds, or indeed other CRG staff, perhaps who share the same concerns/excitement?
Personally, I am grateful to all the people whose enormous, often voluntary, efforts to date have made Cochrane the organization I am proud to work for. Even as a more recent arrival to Cochrane, I can entirely understand why the changes proposed may appear to threaten some of the ideals on which the Collaboration was founded. However, I don’t think we have a choice; we’re living in an age of huge technological, scientific, and economic change. We need to maintain all our ‘best bits’ as an organization (inclusivity, independence, rigour, and trustworthiness) while becoming more responsive, cohesive, and sustainable.