A network for students interested in evidence-based health care

Students 4 Best Evidence (S4BE)

Posted on 13th June 2023 by


This blog was originally published in October 2016. Updated and republished in June 2023.

…the young people are the most striking phenomenon. They’re bringing a blast of energy, enthusiasm, idealism and cutting edge scientific work with them… the most exciting things are the signs of change in medical and health professional education that are bubbling up. (Hilda Bastian, 2013).

In 2012, Syrian student Norah contacted the director of Cochrane UK, Martin Burton, to ask for assistance in setting up a group for students interested in evidence-based healthcare. In recognition of the need for such a group, and with input from a small group of pioneering students, Students 4 Best Evidence (S4BE) was born: a growing network of students interested in evidence-based healthcare. Now in its tenth year, S4BE continues to provide an online space where students can help one another to learn (more) about what evidence-based healthcare entails and to help foster within one another the skills to critically engage with evidence.

So what exactly is S4BE?

S4BE is a website comprising blogs written by students of all ages (from school-age to PhD level) from all over the world, including the UK, the Americas, Mexico, The Netherlands, India, Australia and many more. It’s by – and for – students with bloggers studying a range of different subjects. This includes, but is by no means limited to, those studying medicine, physiotherapy, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry and so on. Not all registered bloggers study a healthcare-related subject though, with one studying chemistry for instance, and another studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics. This reflects the fact that the ability to understand evidence cuts across numerous disciplines; both healthcare and non-healthcare related.

On average, one or two blogs are published each month (although this fluctuates in accordance with students’ busy academic calendars!). As of June 2023, 600+ blogs have been published, written by more than 300 students from all over the world. S4BE has around 13,000 followers on Twitter, 11,000 on Facebook, and also 3,000+ individuals signed up to receive the S4BE newslette

What do students blog about?

hand holding a measuring tape

Student-written tutorials tend to be particularly popular, helping readers get a handle on some tricky topics

Students blog about any topic or issue related to evidence-based healthcare they feel vocal about, have knowledge of, or an interest in. For example, a number of bloggers have taken a critical look at some fundamental issues and debates in evidence-based healthcare: concerns regarding over-treatment, debates around cancer screening, publication bias and so on. Broadly though, students’ blogs tend to fall into one of three main categories:

  1. Tutorials on, or explanations of, evidence-based concepts. This might be a blog explaining different types of bias that can affect research, or a tutorial on a methodological or statistical concept. For example, our most read blog is ‘a beginner’s guide to interpreting odds ratios, confidence intervals and p-values’. Written by (now former) medical student Tim Hicks, it has racked up over 1.1 million views since publication in 2013.
  2. Critical appraisals of the latest health evidence. For example, are psychological interventions effective in fostering resilience in healthcare students? Or, are the healthcare claims that hit the headlines, really backed up by evidence? For instance, have scientists really made a breakthrough that could ‘halt leukaemia in its tracks’.
  3. Reviews of evidence-based resources and tools (such as online courses, videos or articles); giving detailed descriptions and feedback on how useful the resource is.

A comments section under each blog enables the blogs to be ‘peer-reviewed’, as fellow students, or any interested reader, can comment on them post-publication.

The S4BE website also features a ‘library’; where resources and tools have been pulled together into one handy page which is continually updated as new resources become available. This can be anything from articles on how to read and interpret different kinds of research papers, to weblinks to a series of accessible videos about statistics. These resources aim to assist students in asking questions; searching for evidence; appraising and acting on research and evaluating practice (whether their own or others’).

What can students get out of S4BE?

  • S4BE offers a (free) international platform for students to share their thoughts and knowledge with (as well as learn from!) like-minded peers, and to experience having their work published.
  • “By teaching, we learn”: There is some evidence to suggest that explaining a concept to others is an effective way to understand that concept for yourself (Chase et al. 2009).
  • Blogging for S4BE is good way to boost your CV or portfolio: each blogger receives a URL to a webpage featuring all of the blogs they’ve written for S4BE. This can be listed in a CV or application. Additionally, individuals who publish at least three blogs over a 12-month period receive a certificate signed by the director of Cochrane UK.
  • Subscribers (whether they choose blog or not) get free access to Trip Pro (the premium version of a healthcare database, featuring thousands of journal articles).

Any student is welcome to join; they need not have ever blogged before. Even if students do not wish to blog, hopefully they will find other students’ blogs, and the variety of other resources on the website, useful and interesting. We’d love for as many students as possible to get involved with S4BE. The more who do, the more we envisage students’ understanding of evidence will increase. Ultimately, we hope, this will benefit patients, as today’s students become tomorrow’s practitioners committed to practice that is evidence-based.

If you would like to know more about getting involved with S4BE (s4be.cochrane.org), contact Emma Carter at general@students4bestevidence.net or @Students4BE on Twitter or through our Facebook page (/Students4BE). If you’d like to register to blog for Students 4 Best Evidence, or know a student who would, you can do so here: https://s4be.cochrane.org/register/

S4BE also currently partners with over 25 organisations that are mutually committed to getting evidence-based healthcare into student education. A list of which can be found here. If you would like to know more about becoming a partner, contact Emma at emma.carter@cochrane.nhs.uk

Selena Ryan-Vig has nothing to disclose.


Selena Ryan-Vig

Selena Ryan-Vig is a Knowledge Broker at Cochrane UK. Her role involves sharing Cochrane evidence in accessible ways, managing Cochrane UK's website and social media accounts, and producing newsletters. With a colleague, Selena delivers interactive sessions to students from Years 10 to 13 to teach about evidence-based practice and to encourage critical thinking, particularly around healthcare claims made in the media. She also co-delivers talks for students to raise awareness of Cochrane and reliable, evidence-based resources. She has a psychology degree from the University of Bath. During her degree, she worked for a national charity which provides support for young women. View more posts from Selena

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