The Cochrane Skin Group (CSG) is one of about 50 Collaborative Review Groups that together make up the Cochrane Collaboration. This international organisation has developed in response to a challenge issued by Archie Cochrane, a British epidemiologist, who, in his book published in 1972, pointed out the deficiencies of reviews of the medical literature and the lack of access to up-to-date information about health care.1 In 1979 he wrote2:
It is surely a great criticism of our profession that we have not organised a critical summary, by specialty or subspecialty, adapted periodically, of all relevant randomized controlled trials.
Archie Cochrane recognised that there was a great collective ignorance about the effects of health care. The amount of information available to both health professionals and the general public is overwhelming but much of it is not evidence based and some is contradictory. There was a great need for a systematic approach to organising and evaluating the information available from clinical trials. In 1987 (the year before he died), Cochrane referred to a systematic review of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of care during pregnancy and childbirth as "a real milestone in the history of randomized trials and in the evaluation of care", and suggested that other specialties should copy the methods used.3 This suggestion was taken up by the UK's Research and Development Programme, which had been set up to support the National Health Service (NHS). Funds were provided to establish a "Cochrane Centre" which would collaborate with people, both in the UK and elsewhere, to facilitate the production of systematic reviews of RCTs across all areas of health care.4,5 The first "Cochrane Centre" was opened in Oxford in October 1992, and 6 months later the New York Academy of Sciences organised a meeting to discuss the possibility of an international collaboration.6 Then, in October 1993, 77 people from 11 countries met to set up "The Cochrane Collaboration". This meeting was the first in what became a series of annual Cochrane Colloquia.
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