Scientific Fact-Checking is a Click Away: The Amazing Cochrane Collaboration

There’s a famous scene in the film Annie Hall, where Woody Allen is standing in line in a movie theater. Behind him, a pretentious professor is loudly proclaiming his opinions about the famous media thinker Marshall McLuhan. Allen’s character reaches the boiling point and from behind a film poster produces Marshall McLuhan himself, who proclaims to the pompous intellectual: “You know nothing of my work! How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!” Woody tells the camera: “Boy, if life were only like this!”

We all wish that we had an impeccable source of information like that at our fingertips, especially when it comes to research on human health and well being. Imagine if you were in a debate – at work or with family and friends – about an issue pertaining to health. What if you could pull up a website and say: “I have the definitive scientific opinion right here!”

Actually, you can. It’s called the Cochrane Collaboration. I urge you to make the first of what I am sure will be many visits today. It is the true mother lode for objective scientific evidence on hundreds of issues relevant to mental and physical health and human development. You really can know what science has to say about many issues.

In the Cochrane Collaboration, teams of scientific experts from around the world synthesize the research information and issue reports offering guidance for what both professionals and the general public should do. It’s a non-profit, entirely independent organization, and that lets it provide up-to-date, unbiased information about the effects of health care practices and interventions.

The site is organized so you can, free of charge, get the abstract of any Cochrane review. What you will get is a clearly-written abstract of the review, written in layperson’s language. These can be used in to help answer your clients’ questions and in any situation where it helps to show the scientific consensus on an issue. They even have podcasts you can download of the reviews.

The number and scope of reviews is mind-boggling, and the Cochrane reviews take a very broad view of health (so you are sure to find ones relevant to your work). Here are just a few examples of the conclusions of reviews:

The media are taking notice of the Cochrane Collaboration, in part because these objective reviews can help figure out what our health care system should be paying for — a nice report appeared in Sharon Begley’s Newsweek blog.

So hey – why are you still here and not looking at the reviews? The easiest place to start is on the review page, where you can search for topics or just browse through the reviews.


  1. […] systematic review published this month by the Cochrane Collaboration  – one of our favorite data libraries – found that regular health checks-ups have no effect on a patient’s risk of developing […]

  2. […] Health. It has lots of easily accessible information on supplements and alternative therapies. The Cochrane Collaboration is another site where you can find scientific reviews of alternative […]

  3. […] an aside, the Cochrane Collaboration has conducted all sorts of systematic review on Vitamin D supplements for specific medical […]

  4. […] The Cochrane Collaboration (one of our favorite resources here at EBL) reviewed 50 reports of the benefits of the influenza vaccine, including 40 randomized-controlled trials involving more than 70,000 people. […]

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