The event featured a performance by the award-winning step show team “Shades of You” and Cold Beasts from Herdon High School, pictured here. The other guest performing group was Urbanknowlogy 101.

George Mason University is now home to a branch of the Cochrane Collaboration, making it the first university in the world to be so.
The mission of the Cochrane Collaboration College for Policy at George Mason University is to bring the highest rigor of evidence into U.S. policy on health care and social policy, according to Catherine Gallagher, director of the center.

“In other words, we’re giving scientific evidence to lawmakers on issues they’re considering,” Gallagher said.

The Cochrane Collaboration has existed since 1993 internationally, and has grown to be the gold standard in evidence of effectiveness. Cochrane is an international, nonprofit collaboration that generates information on health care and social issue decision-making by utilizing a process of systematic review. Cochrane is present in 113 nations and has roughly 30,000 contributors working as authors and systematic reviewers.

Cochrane wanted to establish a presence in the U. S. While they are leaders around the world in providing information, their presence was lacking in the U.S. policy arena, which as Gallagher notes, tends to be more value judgments than evidence and rationality judgments.

“It’s harder to get traction in the U.S. policy arena,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher came to Mason in 1999 and, has since, specialized in health care for persons involved in the justice system, such as prison inmates. She decided that the global organization on information concerning the issue was disorganized and that the Cochrane Collaboration could help with systematizing and networking.

Over the course of two years and a rigorous peer-review process, Gallagher helped to establish the justice-health field in the Cochrane Collaboration. Since she is a professor at Mason, Cochrane began to see Mason as a viable base of operations in the U.S.
This encompasses issues such as the effectiveness of scared straight programs, the DARE program implemented in school systems and cognitive behavioral interventions for adolescent law offenders.

The Cochrane Collaboration does not necessarily conduct all of the clinical trials needed, said Joel Censer, a research technician. They mostly synthesize large clinical trials and obtain information. This is known as systematic review and is a high-rigor, quantitative system of analysis.

“[Systematic review is] complicated in its technique, but simple in its outcome,” Gallagher said.

The College for Policy generally works at the federal level of government, and works with state representatives to the federal government.

Mason is somewhat of a test case for the Cochrane Collaboration to see if the center here can get the right information into the right hands, at the right time.

“You can generate tons of information and it can just sit there, even if it has very real implications for everyone’s lives,” Gallagher said.
The College for Policy is set to have a major impact on campus and beyond, despite the fact that it is barely two weeks old.

“We don’t even have our real furniture yet, and we have people knocking on our door all day long because we have a tremendous capacity in this faculty to be both policy-relevant and rigorous in our evidence around issues of health and social policy,” Gallagher said. “It’s taking off faster than we would have ever believed and people are very excited about it.”