Governing Board meeting March 2024 

A picture of a hands pointing to files in a boardroom discussion

The Governing Board met in Berlin on 11, 12 and 13 March 2024. Items on the agenda included the regular reports that we take to every Board meeting (the Chief Executive Officer’s report, the Editor in Chief’s report, finance and risk reports and updates from the Committees that have met since the last Board meeting) as well as high level discussion around future plans. Here is a summary of some of the topics that were discussed. 


The Fundraising Strategy has been refocused on supporting the delivery of the Scientific Strategy which will be a significant cross-organizational initiative over the next five years and offers the most compelling focus for fundraising efforts. We will develop impact stories that illustrate how Cochrane can improve the lives of people by addressing the world’s most pressing health challenges. Understanding where funders have gaps and how Cochrane can fill them will be an important piece of work this year. Creating partnerships, relationships and connections with other global health organizations and funders will be key to our success. 

Scientific strategy 

The Scientific Strategy will support the delivery of Cochrane’s vision and mission over the next five years. It will allow us to direct our limited resource at the most critical global health needs and provide a framework for working with funders and partners. 

Over the last nine months, Karla Soares-Weiser, Roses Parker, Tamara Kredo, Emma Persad and others have been working with the Cochrane community to identify the most pressing global health needs. Discussion at the Colloquium in September helped to create a comprehensive map of 50 health challenges. A meeting with the WHO encouraged the Scientific Strategy Advisory Group to come up with a much shorter list of priorities and identify some cross cutting themes.   

The Board agreed four priority areas for commissioned reviews; maternal, newborn and child health, multiple chronic conditions,  infectious disease and pandemics,  climate change and sustainability. Alongside the four priority areas, we will continue to maintain our diverse programme of author led reviews.  

Further work will be done to refine how the information presented before the Scientific Strategy is brought back to the Board for approval in June 2024.  It will be launched alongside the organizational strategy so that the links and synergies between the two can be made explicit. 

Open access 

In 2021 the Governing Board committed to achieving universal open access (OA) to new and updated Cochrane systematic reviews and to do this without placing the financial burden on review authors and without risking our financial sustainability.  Although initially we aimed to achieve this by 2025, our discussions with funders and others have made it clear that we should take a slower path. 

Much work has been done to explore different options and models and to understand the benefits and risks of each. On 9 January 2024, the Board accepted a roadmap to open access that had been developed in partnership with, our publisher, Wiley.  

Deborah Pentesco-Murphy from Wiley joined the meeting and set out more detail around the path towards Open Access and how it will be achieved. Wiley has proposed a three tier plan based on national provisions. The Board said that it felt like a positive step to be talking about making open access a reality but they also acknowledged that it is complex and challenging. 

2023 saw good growth in use of the Cochrane library in terms of full text downloads, visits and use of translations. Users report high satisfaction rates and income from subscriptions and licensing is strong and stable. The concern a few years ago around maintaining the production pipeline has not materialised. All of this puts Cochrane is a strong position to move towards achieving our ambitions around open access in a financially sustainable way. 

More detailed communications around the open access strategy will be shared with Cochrane Centre Directors, Geographic Groups and the wider Cochrane community.   

Cochrane event 

The future of Cochrane events has been discussed at the last few Board meetings. The benefits and risks of one large event, several regional ones, in person events, virtual and hybrid events have all been considered. The Board reviewed a draft schedule of events up to 2029. The purpose and value of Colloquia was discussed during a scenario planning session and more work will be done to build on that discussion. 

In January 2024, the Board agreed that a face-to-face Colloquium will be held in 2025 and that all Cochrane groups in lower middle income countries (LMICs) and upper middle income countries (UMICs) will be asked to express their interest in hosting the event. The call for expressions of interest closed on 22 March 2024, applications will be assessed during April 2024 and the Board will be asked to approve the location of the 2025 Colloquium in mid-May 2024. 

Scenario planning 

The second day of the meeting was spent considering a range of theoretical scenarios. For example, how would we manage a reduction in our income? What would we stop doing and what principles would we use to guide decision making? How does our current structure support delivery of our vision, mission and goals and what are the alternatives? The questions were posed to stimulate discussion and the session was not designed to be decision making. 

Lots of feedback was collected and the Board will use it to guide decision making as we implement the Organisational Strategy and the Scientific Strategy. The Central Executive Team and the Board will be using an objectives and key results (OKR) framework as well as some key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor how well we are performing. 

Reports from Committees. 

The Finance, Audit and Risk Committee met on 21 February 2024 and reported to the Board. The approved budget for 2023 showed a deficit of £0.4m. Additional strategic allocations of £65k for product development and £100k for copy editing backlog support were approved during the year. 

The actual results for 2023, show a surplus of around £0.4m which the Board agreed was a positive outturn. The final financial position is subject to the results of the audit but the indications are that it is likely to be a positive picture. 

The trustees of charities must arrange for their charity’s accounts to be audited. The purpose is to give the charity’ supporters, beneficiaries and the wider public some independent assurance that the charity’s money has been properly accounted for and accounting records kept. 

The audit started in early March 2024 and will conclude in May 2024. The Finance, Audit and Risk Committee will review the draft Trustees’ Annual Report and Accounts in June 2024 and recommend that Trustees approve the document at the meeting to be held at the end of June 2024. Cochrane members usually receive the accounts at an Annual General Meeting. 

The Remuneration Committee also met in February 2024 and received an update on a global staffing review. This project, which is looking at how we contract with and reward all our staff fairly, will be bought back to the Committee, and Board, for further deliberation. 

The Governance and Nominations Committee has met several times since the last Board meeting as it is overseeing the recruitment of a Chair and other actions that came out of the governance review. Tamara Kredo reported to the Board that following a robust recruitment exercise, shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in late March 2024 and early April 2024. The panel will be made up of members of the Governance and Nominations Committee and an external member. It is hoped that the Chair will be able to take up the role as soon as possible. A Vice Chair will be appointed from within the Board once the Chair has been appointed. 

Karen Kelly comes to the end of her term as Treasurer in September 2024 and so a new Treasurer will be recruited too.  

The Product Development Oversight Committee met in January 2024 and the Board noted the minutes of the meeting which covered a quarterly report on product development  and income. Income from Cochrane Interactive Learning to the end of November 2023 was slightly behind the income target due to a delay in introducing a module for interactive learning.  

RevMan web was launched for non-Cochrane reviews in 2023.  We have been pleased with both institutions and individuals taking out subscriptions. 

Other product portfolio opportunities were in the discovery stage and the Board will consider all of the opportunities for generating income from products and services together at the next meeting. One of the OKRs which will be used to embed and report on the new Strategy for 2024-2027 will relate to revenue generation.  

The Future of Evidence Synthesis Oversight Committee met in February 2024 and considered the regular performance dashboards and metrics which are used to track progress and performance with the ten projects that together make up the Future of Evidence Synthesis programme of work. As the Committee has previously reported to the Board, the Central Editorial Service project is under pressure due to a backlog of submissions. 
A report from The Future Engagement Mechanisms Working Group was noted. 

The group met December 2023 and in February 2024 to consider new and improved ways of ensuring two way engagement between the Board and the Cochrane Community. The group will meet again in May 2024 and will bring a proposal to the Board later on in the year. 

The Board will meet again (virtually) on 25 June 2024 and then face to face in Prague in September 2024.  

The agenda and papers for Governing Board meetings are published here

26 March 2024