ESMI news item: Jo Thompson-Coon RHS_218xfree

Jo Thompson-Coon (front, second from left) with the rest of the Evidence Synthesis Team

A new Professor in our midst

ESMI would like to congratulate Jo Thompson-Coon, Director of the Evidence Synthesis Team, on her recent promotion to Associate Professor. Jo is one of the long standing members of ESMI (formerly PenTAG). She has seen a lot of changes in that time. In light of her promotion, we asked Jo a few questions about her work and how things have changed in the land of evidence synthesis.

1. How have systematic reviews changed in the time you’ve been at UoE and how have you changed in the time you’ve been at UoE?

I’ve been at UoE for 16 years - when I first started working here we had a rota for using the internet! If you tried to go online when it wasn’t your turn everyone could tell because the modem made that funny squealing sound and the other person got thrown off… bad news if they were in the middle of a search.

How have SRs changed? They are much more commonplace now – everyone (thinks they) know(s) what a SR is… difficult to compare what I did when I first came to PenTAG with what I do now as everything ‘TAG’ is done so well with systems/processes that were ahead of the game but things like the fact that registering the protocol for a SR is now standard practice is very different to what people did 10 years ago.

When I joined PenTAG I had one 9 month old daughter and I was enjoying the challenge of breastfeeding whilst working 50 miles from home. I now have an 10 year old and an 13 year old, life is still very busy and full of challenges but they are a little different! I am much more adept at multi-tasking than 12 years ago in fact I’m not sure I even knew what it was back then

2. What advice would you give to a researcher keen on developing her career in systematic review work?

Not sure I have a sensible answer for this one…it wasn’t something I planned but I am very happy to be doing it.  Maybe – come and speak to me or my team and find out more about what we do.

3. Archie Cochrane, of Cochrane Collaboration fame, was always going on about how there is a pressing need to learn from the research that exists through summarising it, so why is it that despite this, many systematic reviews conclude with a version of ‘more research is needed’…?

Because so much original research is still not conducted appropriately

4. If you could change one thing about the research world to make it better for systematic reviewers, what would you do?

Enforce journal editors to ensure that the methods sections of trial papers actually describe what the researchers did and the results section actually reports everything they measured.

5. If evidence synthesis is a magic bus, where is it heading?

On a big adventure with lots of cake and maybe a cocktail or two.

6. There’s been talk recently about automatic data extraction from academic research by computers for evidence synthesis. Good idea or bad?

Two years ago I think I may have said ‘bad idea – when has replacing people with machines ever ended well? Just look at the self-service tills in supermarkets… ‘ But times are a-changing and the ways in which we do systematic reviews need to change too. Machine learning will cut down on many of the boring review tasks leaving more time for thought and interpretation.

7. What piece(s) of work that you’ve done whilst here have been the most satisfying and why?

I find all my work satisfying mostly because of the wonderful people that I am fortunate to work with.  For more of what I and the Evidence Synthesis Team do follow us on @evidsynthteam or read our blog