Some ideas for further development…

Exciting times are ahead for Cochrane, and the launch of an infographics product ties in perfectly with the recent rebranding. We are a world-leader in publishing independent, quality research for healthcare decision-making, and yet we’ve (so far!) struggled to become a household name synonymous with evidence patients can trust.

Working alongside Wikipedia to enhance and ensure healthcare pages reflect up-to-date evidence will certainly assist moving Cochrane in to the mainstream and away from the notion of dusty tomes that only clinicians and policymakers can make sense of, but creating infographics could potentially be the vehicle that places the headlines from our Cochrane reviews directly in the hands of those suffering from the conditions we study.

We need to define what are the key elements in Cochrane infographics that will assist decision-making while incorporating these very same elements in to a ‘sexy’ design that encourages people to share them. We should also consider what an efficient infographic production process might look like to get the evidence out there, and provide guidance for what an efficient dissemination strategy might look like.

Let’s break that down with a few ideas for further discussion…

Key elements

In terms of headlines, there needs to be the core outcome obviously (does the intervention work?), but we also need to be able to come up with a way of succinctly indicating overall risk. We could perhaps build on the Cochrane Risk of Bias threshold system where green indicates low risk of bias (i.e. everything A-OK), yellow means unclear (i.e. something iffy going on), and red means high risk of bias (i.e. serious problems). The result is a nice traffic light graph giving an overall impression of the included studies (see example below).

RoB summary example from Handbook

I’d particularly love to see the strength of evidence reflected in there too such as number of trials, number of participants, etc. It’s not only the right thing to do, as it acknowledges the contribution of all the patients who contributed to being able to determine whether the treatment works, but it also provides a more holistic view of the review process. To put this in context, would you personally trust the findings of a review with five studies conducted with 100 included patients as much as you would a review with 40 included studies and thousands of patients for making a decision about your own treatment?

We should be offering the public the opportunity to see this information clearly in the context of the headlines, and it also provides a talking point too. Furthermore, it’s also a nice way to clearly demonstrate the degree of work that has gone in to enormous reviews, and subtly indicate why the update hasn’t perhaps been published as soon as the public/clinicians/policymakers would have liked!


Aside from adhering to the new brand guidelines, I imagine the infographics to be clean and bold, with the secondary colour (and incremental variant shades of it) drawn from the originating CRG’s own selected logo choice (cyan, green, magenta, orange, red, or teal).

Further to this, it’d be quite nice if the CRG’s logo was used perhaps rather than the generic Cochrane logo, as it’d be a good way to build each CRG’s public presence to encourage consumers under their scope to engage with them directly, and would reflect each logo used by individual CRG’s on their own social media accounts (the route many will ideally use to field queries relating to the reviews) and get conversation started all the quicker. Infographics may well be an ideal way for us to break down the barriers on the way of people accessing our research. They can also help the public connect who it was that produced which review, instead of assigning the credit to a rather faceless enormous global network.

I’ll come up with some visuals of alternative infographic layouts in the next couple of weeks (after a holiday first!), so that we can drive the conversation forward a bit more about what we do (and definitely don’t!) want to see reflected on infographics to accompany our reviews.


It depends how people want to do this. Cochrane Review Groups are all unique with a degree of autonomy in their operation.

Considering this history of a DIY attitude, it would certainly be possible to produce a low-tech generic Word document template that MEs could enter the most salient details from a review in to predefined and preformatted fields that is then saved to PDF and converted (with clear instructions!) to JPEG for sharing as an image (the infographic).

Alternatively, I envisage the potential for Cochrane formulating a centralised team (working remotely, just like the copy editing team, and a named role in Archie to be incorporated in to the workflow system) of existing Cochranites with sufficient design skills to be drip fed reviews (supplied with the core content for inclusion in the infographic) at the point they’re sent for copy editing so that the infographic is ready at the point of publication.

This way, each review sent to the team would lead to an infographic with its own individual identity – looking distinct, whilst still coherent with the Cochrane brand – thereby increasing the likelihood of being shared repeatedly. Whereas the downside of the low-tech version would be to have fairly bland uniform visuals and a significant reliance on text to convey the message.

To assist in the efficiency of the production process, it’s probable that much of the iconography would be replicable across multiple reviews (e.g. blood droplets, syringes, anatomy sections [hand, heart, mouth etc.]) and therefore could be easily collated in a centralised repository to allow for quicker infographic composition.

Stylistically, if there are multiple audiences age-wise specific reviews want to appeal to, we could also look at a Cochrane Kids infographic product that is softer aesthetically (particularly in the choice of typeface and iconography) that parents can use to talk about healthcare with their children.


Shortened URLs are instrumental in delivering concise messages that users can reliably and quickly enter in their browser or share in a post (e.g.; and would ideally be typed at the bottom of each infographic so that the address was embedded when shared.

Obviously, the more our reviews are linked to and read will inherently affect each Group’s potential to bump up their Impact Factor (and other metrics). Ideally, we would have our own shortened URL domain rather than relying on another company, and perhaps for simplicity the URL would reflect the Cochrane Database number for ID purposes.

A further benefit in doing this would be that when new iterations of the review are published, although a revised infographic would be issued the previous version would still link to the most up-to-date evidence should the review’s conclusions have changed at update.

Huge communities set up for sharing content already exist and it’s up to us to make sure we get our research out there, with undiluted and accurate headlines that are less likely to be spun by parties with competing interests or those simply looking to sensationalise for their own profit.

In addition to the usual heavy hitters (Twitter and Facebook), other social media communities have been building serious traction for some time too (Pinterest, Instagram, etc. [the list could go on and on…]), and once accounts have been set up, distribution to each of these could easily be managed from a single platform like Hootsuite.

Away from social media, MailChimp’s new photo campaign product Snap seems like the kind of email distribution vehicle editorial bases can make use of for little or no cost to approach other online communities.

Hopefully this post has provided some food for thought about the possibilities and direction Cochrane infographics could take. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you want to comment on the post.

Jo Weldon
Research Coordinator, Cochrane Oral Health Group

(with a little tinkering by Jani)

6 thoughts on “Some ideas for further development…

  1. Yes, I really like your idea of building on the risk of bias table. I produced a poster about producing graphics from information in reviews about included studies such as number of participants. I will send it to you if you like – let me know.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you both for your feedback, I really appreciate it.
    It’d be great to see your poster please, Caroline. If you could please email a copy to me, that’d be brilliant: my address is
    Hoping to have some draft layouts for people to discuss in the next week (I’ve got lots of scrawly scribbles but just need a bit of time to sit at a computer and prettify them!)


  3. Pingback: Exploring Cochrane infographics | visually cochrane

  4. Pingback: Quo Vadis Cochrane visualisation? | visually cochrane

  5. Pingback: Infographic Abstracts | visually cochrane

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s