#SaveCochraneCanada | The Body of Evidence


When two scientists meet at a private party, the topic of funding comes up within the first five minutes. At least, that was my experience a few days ago. "Oh, you're a scientist! What did you study?" And then, boom, the mood sours as the giraffe in the room is promptly put out of its misery and dissected publicly. The job market for scientists in North America right now is abysmal. So what did I learn from our impromptu dissection on the topic?

The main funding agency of Cochrane Canada will no longer fund Cochrane Canada.

The Cochrane Collaboration is a fantastic, worldwide organisation that conducts systematic reviews and meta-analyses. You see, one study on whether red wine consumption lowers the incidence of heart disease is meaningless; a dozen studies, weighed according to their rigor and methodology, pooled together, that's interesting. And that's what the Cochrane Collaboration does, producing the highest level of evidence on health-related topics. This is important because governmental health policy should be based on the best, most objective evidence there is, and not on gut feelings and lobbying.

So, naturally, our federal government will no longer be funding Cochrane Canada, established in 1993 as one of fourteen Cochrane Centres in the world.

It's not that the funding agency--the Canadian Institutes of Health Research or CIHR--doesn't appreciate the work that Cochrane Canada does. CIHR calls them a "vibrant organization,
internationally-recognized for its excellence", according to Cochrane Canada.

And it's not that they are stopping funding. They have simply changed the types of grants available, and Cochrane Canada is no longer eligible for a grant. From 2010 to 2015, Cochrane Canada held a "directed" grant from CIHR: these grants are no longer available. Instead, CIHR offers "open operating" grants, which are typically used by researchers who investigate a specific hypothesis, not by organizations that conduct meta-analyses. In fact, when Cochrane Canada applied for one of these "open operating" grants, they were given the lowest possible score and told their "approach to research" didn't fit CIHR's definition.

So, here is what CIHR is saying. Cochrane Canada, we love the work you do. You are a leader in evidence-based health care. However, we will stop funding you, not because we don't have the money, but because we have decided to fund projects differently. You're still a leader and we still love your work. We just don't want to pay the bill anymore.

If rigorous science is important to you, if you want our federal government to make policy decisions based on the best scientific research has to offer, I would implore you to go here and also to spread the word using #SaveCochraneCanada.