Peter C. Gøtzsche, director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, shares his experience of being on the Cochrane Board after returning from the GES.
I have participated in two face-to-face Board meetings. This work has been much more interesting than I thought it would be. If you walk down the Grand Canyon, you will see how beautiful it is, but if you fly over it in a helicopter, you will see something else. To get an overview of all the many challenges a leadership of a large organisation has to deal with and to come up with strategic visions, a helicopter perspective is needed, and not only that, we should focus also on what lies outside our territory.
The needed transition from a volunteer organisation to one that still builds almost entirely on the generous contribution of unpaid volunteers but is more professional with higher quality of our reviews across all review groups continues at full speed. This cannot be done without creating frustration and unhappiness for some, but in my view, our management has generally handled this delicate task very well, putting a lot of hard work into ensuring a sustainable organisation and also into preparing for the Board meetings. As I stated in my election statement, I see it as one of my contributions to ensure that the central management and control does not go too far.
In contrast to the previous Steering Group meetings where membership was based on representativeness of the various Cochrane entities, all the current Board members participate in the discussions and often passionately so. This creates tensions at times but it is a huge improvement, as is also the decision to have external people on the Board, which help us being more outward looking, to the rest of the world.
We have just been in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was a great moral leader, not only for his country but for all of us. My vision for the Cochrane Collaboration is that it becomes the world’s moral leader in healthcare, which is dominated by politics and conflicts of interest. Cochrane must incessantly point out that we need a better world where the clinical trials are not designed, carried out and analysed by those who have a direct financial interest in the outcome, and where the data are manipulated or hidden if they do not please the sponsor. Up to now, Cochrane has been close to invisible in a political context. This should change. We could be a strong political voice because we are well respected for the rigour of our science and because we have good arguments.
We stayed at a hotel in Cape Town. It wasn’t much cheaper than in Europe whereas those who served the food earned so little that they did not have enough money for food at the end of the month although they live under very modest circumstances 50 km away. This is heartbreaking. I feel Cochrane’s political work should include contributing to reducing not only inequality in health but also in income, which is directly related to health.
Peter C. Gøtzsche
Director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre