Ombudsmen

December 2016: The Ombudsman role is not currently active. Its future is under consideration by the Governing Board and a decision will be communicated to the Cochrane Community in 2017.

The Steering Group (now Governing Board) established the position of Cochrane Collaboration Ombudsman in October 1998. Since October 2000, there have been two Ombudsmen, so as to share the workload and to provide an alternative, should one of the Ombudsmen have too strong a conflict of interest in an issue on which they are asked to help. The role of the Ombudsmen is to help resolve areas of conflict that arise between people or groups within The Cochrane Collaboration, for which the usual process of involving the Directors of the reference Cochrane Centre(s) has not been sufficient. The Ombudsmen are appointed by the Steering Group, and must not be current members of the Steering Group. They submit an annual, written report to the Steering Group. The report includes details of their activity during the year but does not identify specific details if, in the opinion of the Ombudsmen, there is a need for these details to remain confidential. If the Ombudsmen are unable to resolve an issue, it can be referred to the Steering Group. If the dispute or conflict is related to the publishing of a Cochrane review, it should be referred to the Publication Arbiter.

Chris Silagy was appointed the first Ombudsman in October 1998. Gill Gyte became the second Ombudsman in October 2000, sharing the role with Chris Silagy until his death in December 2001. In August 2002 Peter Langhorne took on this role, sharing it with Gill Gyte. Gill resigned in October 2005 after five years, and was replaced by Kathie Clark (former member of the Cochrane Collaboration Steering Group and former Co-Director of the Canadian Cochrane Network and Centre). Peter and Kathie fulfilled this role for eight and five years respectively, and were replaced by the Steering Group at its meeting in Keystone in October 2010 by Heather Maxwell and Menno van Leeuwen.  

The Steering Group approved the following job description for the Ombudsmen in April 2005. The fifth bullet point was added in February 2013, which the Steering Group had approved at its meeting in Auckland the previous October, at the request of the Ombudsmen:

General description

To mediate in conflicts when asked to do so, mediation being to help people in conflict to resolve their differences in order to work out a mutually acceptable agreement. This may be done face-to-face or by telephone. The mediator’s role includes helping the parties move from their entrenched positions to the recognition of their respective interests, from which they can negotiate a workable agreement.        

  • To produce guidelines for handling conflict and mediation.
  • To support others providing mediation when it is not possible for one of the Ombudsmen to be there.
  • To run workshops on handling conflict, mediation, etc.
  • To refer queries from external parties regarding Cochrane Reviews to the Co-ordinating Editor of the relevant Cochrane Review Group and the Editor in Chief of The Cochrane Library.

Responsibilities

  • To guide people to find ways of resolving their own conflicts when requested.
  • To think who else is affected by the conflict and include these parties when guiding the devising of solutions, e.g. to think of the impact on the Collaboration.
  • To be available when needed.

Accountability

To the Collaboration through the Steering Group.

Qualifications

Substantive previous involvement with the Collaboration.

Recruitment process

To be chosen by the Steering Group. Nominations to be sought from members of the Collaboration, and the decision to be made by the Steering Group through a standard voting process, based upon a statement provided by each candidate summarising their relevant expertise and experience in relation to the remit of the position.

Term of position 

Five years.