Unlock the full post by becoming a patron
Join Now
#CochraneForAll - Bagpipes, science, and crisis comms

Starting last Saturday, I was at the Cochrane Colloquium - I’m quoting directly from their website here, “the Colloquium is an annual event, bringing people together from around the world to discuss research into important global health questions and promote evidence-informed health care.  This year the theme is ‘Cochrane for all - better evidence for better health decisions’.” Since this year the Colloquium was #PatientsIncluded, yours truly got a ticket, some travel money, and the chance to see old friends, make new ones, and eat haggis. The Colloquium this year was in Edinburgh, so eating haggis was a requirement. Go Google it if you don’t know what haggis is. I’ll wait ….

You’ll hear from two of my colleagues who were at the Colloquium - Lyubov Lytvyn, a PhD student at McMaster University on Gordon Guyatt’s team, working on her doctoral thesis on patient, caregiver, and public partnership in the development of clinical practice guidelines; and Janice Tufte, who works as a consultant under the heading of “Patient Partner in Health Systems Improvement Research” - Janice and I have spent time together at conferences over the last few years, and we both were granted #PatientsIncluded scholarships to attend the Colloquium. 

Lyubov Lytvyn on Twitter

Lyubov Lytvyn on LinkedIn

The BMJ Rapid Recommendations project, which Lyubov works on (and on which I’ve served)

Janice Tufte on Twitter

Janice Tufte on LinkedIn

The COMET/PoPPIE project Janice mentions

There were LOTS of bagpipes. Some of them with an arena rock spin, courtesy of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers (I shit you not). 

It wouldn’t be a party without a fight breaking out, right? #CochraneForAll became a party when a board member got drop-kicked through the goal post of life, just before the conference, for something that was never made entirely clear - can you say “non disclosure agreement” and “purposefully vague”? - which then turned into a dust-up with duelling headlines, and blog posts, and a whole lot of sotto voce conversations in corners. I’ve put some links in the show notes that will clarify at least some of the specifics, but what I’m going to talk about now is something I actually know about, and that’s crisis communications.

Imagine you’re a big global scientific body, and you’re planning a big global conference. As a PR consultant, I would strongly advise you to NOT drop-kick a problematic board member immediately before the conference. In crisis communications, you get demerits if you cause your own crisis. 

If you DO drop-kick a board member, right before your biggest conference of the year, you might want to put the story out yourself. If your lawyers tell you to hold that news, you’re getting bad advice. ‘Cause you drop-kick somebody, and let them get the story out first? You’ve lost the PR advantage, and the now drop-kicked former board member has the bully pulpit. And will undoubtedly take pleasure in spitting in the soup at your event’s gala.

Gotta confess that I’m a little amazed that the communications team at Cochrane didn’t have a full court press crisis communications plan in place for this. If they ask me, I’ll tell ‘em exactly what I just told you: have a plan for when bad news, or controversy, crops up. Because it will. Have that plan, and work that plan. Have a specific set of team members ready to run to the guns when bad stuff happens, and you’ll own the story. Let the cause of the bad stuff get the story out first? Your soup has now been spit in, kids.

That’s crisis comms, and why you need them, parts one thru eleventy million and five.

Trish Greenhalgh: The Cochrane Collaboration—what crisis? - The BMJ

The HPV Vaccine: A Critique of a Critique of a Meta-Analysis - Hilda Bastian on PLOS One 

‘Merica! It’s a vunderful country! Just don’t get sick! 


Danny van Leeuwen, also known as Health Hats - with his diverse and prolific health experience, Danny uses his multiple hats to empower people as they travel toward their best health. To join Danny on that best health journey visit his blog.

The Society for Participatory Medicine - a not-for-profit membership organization devoted to the concept of participatory medicine, where empowered patients engage as drivers of their health, and where providers encourage and collaborate with them as full partners in their care.  SPM stimulates dialogue, influences policy, advocates for research, and educates patients, health care professionals, and others. Our members include stakeholders from across the healthcare continuum.

Beyond The Room at #CochraneForAll broadcast session insights live via Twitter, and captured podcast interviews with keynote speakers and attendees to take the ongoing quest for science and evidence in medical treatment beyond the room, and across the globe. Funded by the UK National Health Service and the Cochrane Library.


Movin’ On Up by Podington Bear

Podcast distribution rights:

Creative Commons 3.0 license

Become a patron to

Unlock 2 exclusive posts
Listen anywhere
Connect via private message