Putting the equity lens on the work of Cochrane

Putting the equity lens on the work of Cochrane

Dario Sambunjak is a Learning & Support Officer at the Cochrane Central Executive and acts as the secretary to the recently established Cochrane Equity & Diversity Task Force. In this blog post, he discusses the first and last principles – “alpha and omega” - underpinning Cochrane’s work and invites Cochrane contributors to join in the effort of improving the goals of diversity, inclusiveness, and equity in the organization.

The spirit of working together in a welcoming, inclusive environment has always been the alpha and omega of Cochrane’s work. Literally. Just look at the 10 key principles underpinning Cochrane. The first one – ‘alpha’ – is collaboration. Cochrane built its success and reputation on co-operation and teamwork of many enthusiastic people across the globe. The last principle – ‘omega’ – is enabling wide participation. And how is this to be achieved? By reducing barriers to contributing and by encouraging diversity. Although much has been done in Cochrane to support this last principle, the words ‘diversity’ or ‘enabling’ are still far from becoming synonymous with ‘Cochrane’.

Principles are necessary guidance for persons and organizations as they grow and progress. But anyone who ever tried to live a principled life, knows that it’s not an easy feat. Which, of course, doesn’t mean that we should give up trying. The first step is to recognize that we are not fully up to the standard and explore the areas where improvement is possible. And that’s exactly the point where Cochrane is currently standing in terms of its ‘last’ principle.

Diversity and inclusiveness are explicitly mentioned in one of the four goals of Cochrane’s Strategy to 2020. In order to become a truly diverse and inclusive organization, Cochrane needs to ensure that involvement in its work, including production of systematic reviews, is fair and impartial. Or – to use another word – equitable. It is of note that Cochrane’s interest in issues around equity is not new. For more than a decade now, contributors of the Campbell and Cochrane Equity Methods Group have been active in putting the equity lens on the systematic reviews. Now is the time to use that same lens on Cochrane itself.
Some research and more anecdotal evidence indicate that in terms of engaging authors and other actors in the work of Cochrane, geographical and language background appear as some of the main sources of inequitable treatment within the organization. Other factors such as gender, race, and ethnicity also need to be considered in order to achieve the stated goals of diversity, inclusiveness, and equity.

The task is not easy and straightforward. Cochrane has to tackle underlying challenges such as the prevalence of dominant value systems and biases within its structures and ways of working. It also needs to be pragmatic and address immediately specific salient issues. To initiate these processes, the Equity and Diversity Task Force has been convened. However, it is clear that the work of improving equity and diversity in Cochrane cannot be entrusted solely to any small group of people. In order to engage a wider circle of interested people within Cochrane, the Task Force agreed to establish three Working Groups to review and address the following specific issues:

  1. Title registration process, e.g., ensuring that titles are registered based on the quality of work and the transparently established priorities, and not on any other factor.
  2. Other review production issues, including timeliness and nature of communications between Cochrane Review Groups and authors.
  3. Other Cochrane equity and diversity issues, including those around translation, governance, communications and outreach, knowledge translation, and promoting greater diversity in Cochrane meetings.

The Working Groups will consist of the Task Force members and other Cochrane contributors sharing an interest in any of the above topics. Persons joining a Working Group are expected to volunteer some of their time and energy in designing and delivering actions to improve the equity and diversity around a specific issue. To achieve any success in this endeavour, we have to build and rely on the enthusiasm of individuals. Which is, by the way, the second principle – or ‘beta’ – on which Cochrane is based.

So, if you’ve read this blog post up to this point, it may well be that you are a suitable candidate to join an Equity and Diversity Working Group. If any of the three Working Group topics resonate with you and you want to get actively involved in this work, write to dsambunjak@cochrane.org. In your e-mail briefly describe who you are, your relationship to Cochrane, reasons why you’re interested in a particular topic, and any ideas on how you could contribute to a Working Group. Let’s see what we can do together in a welcoming, inclusive environment that is called Cochrane.

11 August 2016

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