Interview with John Grove

Cochrane Convenes will bring together key thought leaders from around the world to discuss the COVID-19 evidence response and develop recommendations to help prepare for and respond to future global health emergencies. Cochrane Convenes is co-sponsored by The World Health Organization.

In this interview, we talk to Dr. John Grove, Director of Quality Assurance, Norms and Standards at The WHO about Cochrane Convenes.

Why do you think it is important to hold Cochrane Convenes now?
I think at this point in the pandemic we have a huge amount of experience to take stock of. We have experienced an unprecedented historical event where we all needed to step in and do the best we could. Now we have a chance to see what we've learned and what we might harvest from that to inform future plans.

The World Health Organization, has joined Cochrane and COVID-END as co-sponsors of this initiative, tell us about your motivation for being involved?
At the start of the pandemic, we formed a very early partnership with COVID-END, and Cochrane called the Evidence Collaborative for COVID-19, hosted by WHO. The purpose was to get all of the partners working in the evidence retrieval and/or synthesis space to get together to share learnings and specifics about what we were all doing. This was also an opportunity for WHO to share our own priorities. As a result, we were able to engage more fully with the community and to leverage the various skills needed to feed right into the response that we were managing. I think we also helped to reduce waste and duplication of efforts.

The motivation for being involved in Cochrane Convenes is to continue that spirit of partnership beyond the pandemic response, and to solidify this way of working not only between the three entities, but with all of the partners doing this kind of work in the field. It is critical for all of us to leverage that expertise for future pandemics, and, put simply: it is also just good practice.

“It is critical for all of us to leverage our expertise for future pandemics. Put simply, it is also just good practice.”

What do you hope will come from Cochrane Convenes?
The plan is for it to inform an action plan which is exactly what we need right now. We need very practical recommendations to come out of this event, that are actionable right away, but that will help build towards the future.

In operational terms this should be about ways of working, ways to share information, ways to leverage technology together and how as a community we can remain connected for the good of global health.

Moreover, I’m hoping for a continued commitment to stay in communication, for the WHO to continue to share priorities, and for the sharing of information in a way that engages all of the partners in this space.

Which challenges do you think are critical for the evidence community to address in this forum?
There are three things I can immediately think of:

  • How can this community better marshal itself in the fight against misinformation? This means getting good solid evidence to decision-makers in understandable formats they can use in an expedited fashion.
  • Secondly, to work more on the open science agenda, to continue to share information, and to promote the sharing of publications. We also need to be able to pull that material together across the community.
  • The third one, is how do we become ready for future emergencies, and have standard operating procedures that allow us to always be on standby?

Who would you like to see attending Cochrane Convenes?
I think first and foremost I’d like to see the emerging talent we have out there in the community attending and that must include bright professionals from lower and middle-income countries. I think we also need to be a lot more intentional about building networks in those countries.

I’d like to have those there who are a bit radical in their willingness to change course, those who are interested in a living approach towards evidence and harnessing technology to do this work more efficiently.

Also, those who design the products for policymakers, the ones that are actually being referenced in the political sphere. I’d like them to be in the room with us, helping us think through the best ways to get information out to people in a way that changes their behaviour.

And finally, policymakers themselves, who can bridge policy and science, to help build up their literacy in weighing up trustworthy, actionable evidence.