Advocating for high quality evidence: The good, the bad and the ugly in appraising risk of bias

2.45 - 4.15pm


Following this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Identify common sources of risk of bias within trials
  • Conduct a rigorous risk of bias assessment using the Cochrane risk of bias tool
  • Identify common challenges involved in appraising risk of bias
  • Utilise the risk of bias assessment so as to inform a better interpretation of the results of systematic reviews and meta-analyses.


A rigorous risk of bias assessment is a vital component in informing the validity of results from systematic reviews. Yet appraising risk of bias may often be an arduous process as the quality of reporting in many trials may be confusing and/or incomplete. This workshop will provide an in-depth, ‘how to’ practice and discussion session of the various challenges involved in conducting a robust risk of bias appraisal, as well as highlighting methods by which the risk of bias assessment should be incorporated into the interpretation of the results of systematic reviews.

Target audience

Relevant for current and prospective authors of Cochrane reviews. Helpful for those who formulate clinical guidelines and indeed all researchers who want to know how to better evaluate the validity of evidence for interventions.




Dr Mairead Furlong; Dr Andy Cochrane

Dr Mairead Furlong

Dr Mairead Furlong is a postdoctoral researcher within the ENRICH research programme, a 5-year, Health Research Board (HRB)-funded evaluation of complex wraparound interventions for ‘at risk’ children and families in Ireland. Her primary research interests lie in child development and mental health, and since 2008, she has been involved in several evaluations of services and interventions to improve health and psychosocial outcomes for vulnerable families. In particular, the Incredible Years Ireland Study utilised mixed methodologies (i.e. RCTs, process evaluations and cost effectiveness analyses) in evaluating the Incredible Years parent, child and teacher training series within community-based services in Ireland. Dr Furlong was awarded funding from the HRB from 2008 to 2011 to conduct a Cochrane review that examined the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of parenting programmes for behavioural problems in young children. Since then, she has been involved in conducting several other Cochrane and Campbell systematic reviews in the fields of crime prevention, child and family mental health, childhood dyscalculia and cognitive functioning, and independent living for older adults. She is also currently involved in planning systematic reviews in palliative care and in the field of disability. Dr Furlong is an Associate Lecturer with the UK Cochrane Centre, Oxford. In 2014, she set up a research and training hub in Maynooth University (Ireland) to develop expertise and capacity in conducting systematic reviews in Ireland. She delivers regular workshops in systematic review methodology to academics, researchers, students and clinicians in Ireland

Dr Andy Cochrane

Dr Andy Cochrane is a research psychologist and has been involved in age-related research for the past seven years. She has experience in applied policy- and practice-relevant health and social care evaluation research using a range of methodologies. Andy has a particular interest in evidence-based research to support ‘ageing-in-place’, and was awarded a Health Research Board Cochrane Fellowship (2012-14) to conduct a systematic review of re-ablement services for older people.  Along with Dr Furlong, she has been involved in training workshops for current and prospective authors of systematic reviews.