Cochrane's 30 under 30: Selena Ryan-Vig

Cochrane's 30 under 30: Selena Ryan-Vig

Cochrane is made up of 11,000 members and over 67,000 supporters come from more than 130 countries, worldwide. Our volunteers and contributors are researchers, health professionals, patients, carers, people passionate about improving health outcomes for everyone, everywhere.

Cochrane is an incredible community of people who all play their part in improving health and healthcare globally. We believe that by putting trusted evidence at the heart of health decisions we can achieve a world of improved health for all. 

Many of our contributors are young people working with Cochrane as researchers, citizen scientists, medical students, and volunteer language translators and we want to recognize the work of this generation of contributors as part of this series called, Cochrane’s “30 under 30." 

In this series, we will interview 30 young people, 30 years old or younger who are contributing to Cochrane activities in a range of ways, all promoting evidence-informed health decision making across the world. 

We will be hearing from them in a series of interviewees published over the coming months.

The Cochrane 30 Under 30 series is now closed. However, we are keen to hear from early career professionals about their work with Cochrane for future series. If you would like to be added to our waitlist, please conact Or if you want to know more about Cochrane's work contact where our community support team will be happy to answer your questions.

Name: Selena Ryan-Vig (on Twitter: @CochraneUK)
Age: 26
Occupation: Communications & Engagement Officer, Cochrane UK

How did you first hear about Cochrane?
I have to admit that it was only in my final year at university that I became familiar with Cochrane. I was studying a module about ‘the psychology of pain’ and my lecturer was an author on Cochrane Reviews assessing interventions for the treatment and prevention of pain. He asked the class whether we’d heard of Cochrane Reviews and, if not, why not. I made sure to brush up at that point.

It didn’t take much reading to realise the importance of Cochrane’s work. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I was keen to work for an organization whose mission – of generating reliable health information which is free from commercial sponsorship – I respect. 

How did you become involved with Cochrane? What is your background?
I studied psychology at the University of Bath, with a placement year spent working in a national mental health charity for women. After graduating, I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of job I was looking for, but I was interested in research and I knew I’d like to work within the charity or public sector. When I saw an opening at Cochrane UK on the NHS jobs website, it felt like a good fit. I began working at Cochrane UK as an information and administration assistant and moved into my current role about a year and a half later.

What do you do in Cochrane?
My role primarily involves sharing information about Cochrane and Cochrane Reviews with different audiences, such as researchers, healthcare professionals and the public. For example, I make video summaries and ‘blogshots’ (a kind of infographic) to share the key messages from Cochrane Reviews in ways which can be easily and quickly accessed and understood. I also produce our newsletters, curate Cochrane UK's website and social media accounts and monitor the analytics on these.    

Additionally, with a colleague, I run interactive sessions in schools with students aged 15-18. We give an overview of evidence-based health care and why it’s important, and encourage students to think critically, particularly around health claims they may see in the media (such as ‘bacon causes cancer’). I also give occasional talks in universities or at conferences to raise awareness of Cochrane’s work.

What specifically do you enjoy about working for Cochrane and what have you learnt?
The global nature of Cochrane is amazing and something which I only really appreciated when I was fortunate to attend my first Cochrane Colloquium in Seoul in 2016. Everyone has to make decisions about health, and when we do it’s important that those decisions are informed by the best available research evidence. It’s inspiring to be part of an organization made up of so many people from around the world who are driven by that ethos. I enjoy the variety of my role at Cochrane UK. I’ve been given many different opportunities and feel lucky to be part of a team so generous with their support and time.


What are your future plans?
To be decided! I’m interested in science communication; particularly how nuanced and complex research findings can be conveyed accurately but accessibly to different audiences. Equally, it’s been really rewarding working with young people to hone their critical thinking skills about some of the (mis)information about health we’re bombarded with every day. Both are potential avenues I’d be keen to gain more training in and explore further.

In your personal experience, what one thing could Cochrane do better to improve its global profile?
I’m bound to be biased given my role in communications, but I would love to see even more resources in Cochrane being allocated towards the dissemination of Cochrane Reviews. So much work goes into conducting a Cochrane Review, but if the target audiences of that review don’t know it exists – or are unsure how to access it – a lot of that effort is undermined.  We’re fortunate at Cochrane UK to have two full time members whose primary focus is on disseminating Cochrane evidence, but not every centre or group has this luxury.

What do you hope for Cochrane for the future?
Making decisions about health that are informed by the best available evidence seems like such a no-brainer, that it’s scary to think that – globally - this is often far from the current reality. With so much misleading and sensationalised health information in circulation, I hope that Cochrane – and other organizations like it – can be ‘louder’. It would be great to see Cochrane doing more outreach work to help better equip individuals to distinguish between reliable, and less reliable, sources of evidence.

How important is it that young people get involved in Cochrane? Why is this, do you think?
It’s really important that young people get involved with, and become more aware of, the importance of evidence-based decision-making and Cochrane’s role in that. This is particularly true of early career researchers or health professionals but more broadly than that too. That’s because everyone needs to make decisions about health at some stage in their lives and being aware of reliable, trust-worthy sources of information is a key part of that.

What would your message be to other young people who want to get involved with Cochrane’s work but not sure where to start….?
Students could look up Students 4 Best Evidence; a blogging website for, and by, students interested in evidence-based practice for introductions to some of the fundamentals of evidence-based practice. TaskExchange is also good if you’d like to get stuck in contributing to some of the tasks involved in producing a systematic review; from data extraction to translation. There’s lots more information about getting involved here too.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019