On Saturday 13th October, Cochrane UK hosted a free half day workshop for students interested in studying medicine and other health-related courses.
29 AS- and A-Level students from eight Oxfordshire schools attended the day, which took place in the Cochrane UK office in Summertown, Oxford.
To begin, Lynda Ware and Selena Ryan-Vig gave an overview of evidence-based medicine, its origins, why it's important, and how evidence is brought together in a systematic review. The students were challenged to think critically about health claims they see in the media (such as 'bacon causes cancer') and were surprised to learn the evidence (or lack thereof!) behind a variety of interventions for preventing and treating the common cold.
Next, Anna Noel-Storr introduced the students to Cochrane Crowd, a collaborative volunteer effort to help categorise and summarise healthcare evidence, and TaskExchange, which connects people working in health evidence with people who have the time and skills to help. With the students logged into Cochrane Crowd, Anna set up a challenge for them to screen as many abstracts as they could within 10 minutes, and they managed an impressive 300+!
Students then heard from Professor Martin Burton, who shared insights about the university application process, why it's important that trials are double-blinded, why you shouldn't confuse 'statistical significance' with 'importance' and why 'absence of evidence' is not the same as 'evidence of absence'. He also tried to convince the students that there's been an invisible unicorn grazing in his office...
There are plans to run a similar, albeit shorter, workshop for students in the Reading area in November 2018.