Cochrane is a British charity formed to organise medical research findings so as to facilitate evidence-based choices about health interventions faced by health professionals, patients, and policy makers. Cochrane includes 53 review groups that are based at research institutions worldwide. Cochrane has approximately 30,000 volunteer experts from around the world.
Cochrane's suggestion that methods used to prepare and maintain reviews of controlled trials in pregnancy and childbirth be applied more widely was taken up by the Research and Development Programme, initiated to support the National Health Service. Through the NHS research and development programme, led by Michael Peckham, funds were provided to establish a "Cochrane Centre", to collaborate with others, in the UK and elsewhere, to facilitate systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials across all areas of healthcare.
The Cochrane logo represents a meta-analysis of data from seven randomised controlled trials (RCTs), comparing one health care treatment with a placebo in a blobbogram or forest plot. The diagram shows the results of a systematic review and meta-analysis on inexpensive course of corticosteroid given to women about to give birth too early – the evidence on effectiveness that would have been revealed had the available RCTs been reviewed systematically around 1982. This treatment reduces the odds of the babies of such women dying from the complications of immaturity by 30–50%. Because no systematic review of these trials was published until 1990, most obstetricians had not realised that the treatment was so effective and therefore many premature babies probably suffered or died unnecessarily.
Studies comparing the quality of Cochrane meta-analyses in the fields of infertility, physiotherapy, and orthodontics to those published by other sources have concluded that Cochrane reviews incorporate superior methodological rigor. A broader analysis across multiple therapeutic areas reached similar conclusions but was performed by Cochrane authors. Compared to non-Cochrane reviews, those from Cochrane are less likely to reach a positive conclusion about the utility of medical interventions. Key criticisms that have been directed at Cochrane's studies include a failure to include a sufficiently large number of unpublished studies, failure to pre-specify or failure to abide by pre-specified rules for endpoint or trial inclusion, insufficiently frequent updating of reviews, an excessively high percentage of inconclusive reviews, and a high incidence of ghostwriting and honorary authorship. In some cases Cochrane's internal structure may make it difficult to publish studies that run against the preconceived opinions of internal subject matter experts.
Wikipedia and Cochrane collaborate to increase the incorporation of Cochrane research into Wikipedia articles and provide Wikipedia editors with resources for interpreting medical data. Cochrane and John Wiley and Sons, publisher of Cochrane reviews, make one hundred free Cochrane accounts available to Wikipedia medical editors´the financial value of which has been estimated by Cochrane at between thirty thousand and eighty thousand dollars per annum´and pay a nominal stipend and travel expenses to support a Wikipedian in Residence at Cochrane.
In 2014 the Cochrane blog hosted a rebuttal, written by four Wikipedia medical editors, of an article published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association that was critical of the accuracy of Wikipedia medical content.