Prof. Peter C. Gøtzsche becomes member of the Cochrane Governing Board

With most votes of the 11 candidates, Professor Peter C. Gøtzsche joined the Cochrane Governing Board early in 2017. The Board is currently comprised of 13 members. Some are elected by the Cochrane Collaboration’s members and some are external directors appointed by the Board.

Peter is one of the co-founders of Cochrane and has made a number of significant contributions to the organisation throughout the years. Some of his key accomplishments have been: supporting software development with an amount corresponding to about £3 million; contributing to methods development; facilitating the establishment of four review groups and associate centres in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland and Russia; influencing EU policies about clinical trials and access to data; and writing 17 Cochrane reviews published in 11 different Cochrane review groups.

As a strong and dedicated advocate for good reporting of research, Peter has co-authored a number of publishing guidelines such as CONSORT for randomised trials (www.consort-statement.org), STROBE for observational studies (www.strobe-statement.org), PRISMA for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (www.prisma-statement.org) and SPIRIT for trial protocols (www.spirit-statement.org). Peter was also an editor in the Cochrane Methodology Review Group 1997-2014.

Peter is a strong patient advocate and is a co-founder and Board member of the International Institute for Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal, a member of the Council for Evidence-based Psychiatry and of the Critical Psychiatry Network, and Protector of the Hearing Voices Network in Denmark.

Why did you apply for the board member position within Cochrane?
Mainly because many people have raised concerns about the increasing bureaucracy and centralisation in the Cochrane Collaboration. It is essential that we constantly consider very carefully whether we have the right balance between what has always been a bottom-up organisation and the recently introduced pyramidal management structure. Even after 24 years, I still see the Collaboration much more as an idealistic grassroots organisation than a business, and we could face deep trouble if we start losing some of our many thousands of unpaid volunteers.

What makes the Cochrane mission meaningful to you?
Our reviews help people to make better decisions about healthcare interventions so that more will benefit and fewer will be harmed.

What do you think your biggest contribution will be as a new Board member?
I will advocate simpler reviews, with fewer outcomes that focus on what is reliable, relevant and important for patients. A difference on an elaborate, composite scale rarely says much about whether the patients’ lives have improved, particularly not when even major harms are regarded as a separate issue and are very often downplayed or omitted altogether from published trial reports.

What are the greatest challenges for Cochrane?
One of the greatest challenges is that Cochrane reviews have become very complicated and time-consuming to perform, and they are often very long, too. When the evidence that is available is flawed, it is not particularly meaningful to use a lot of energy and pages to point this out. I will, therefore, focus on reducing the bureaucracy and promote a more flexible approach towards the review process. I see this as being a necessity to ensure that our readership grows and that we do not lose our valuable contributors.

What does success look like to you?
Success to me means that we ensure that Cochrane reviews are regarded as the most reliable and relevant type of reviews that exist.

What motivates you as an individual?
To produce research results, which are both reliable and directly relevant for patients. Given that our prescription drugs are the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer, we are obviously doing pretty badly in healthcare at the moment. Something - indeed many things - need to be radically changed. I have recently submitted a paper that argues why we should abolish patents in healthcare and why drug research and development should be a public enterprise for the common good.

What qualities make a great board member?
To have visions and to pursue these without getting absorbed in details, with a minimum of bureaucracy and without using “politically correct jargon” so that we deliver what the public wants.

What would you like to say to Cochrane contributors, especially the Cochrane contributors that elected you?
I will do what I can to live up to my election statement and thereby honour the confidence people have shown by electing me.