Lots of carots and sticks, and things with teeth

This conference just seems to be getting better and better. I’d like to report back on a couple of sessions which I’ve found particularly topical – the Librarian’s Role in Systematic Reviews, and Global Data Sharing to Advance Science and Enviornmental Aspects of Global Health.

I’m beginning to see several trends from my home institution reflected in several of the presentations, not least of which is the growth in requests for assistance with systematic reviews, in part genunine systematic reviews, but in part, misnomers. Numerous people have found the definition of systematic review and use of the phrase to be nebulous by our academics and health practitioners.

Librarians as authors in systematic reviews have been found to increase the quality of the systematic review dramatically, and several support systems have been discussed, including the PRESS peer-review of searches. Common issues with poor-quality systematic reviews are searches that are difficult or impossible to locate, broken links to searches – there isn’t currently a standard method for the inclusion of searches by journals, and librarians have the power to lobby publishers about this issue.

Michigan State Uni is running several classes in supporting systematic reviews, and suggestedpossible future pathways for systematic reviews are for people to write librarian assistance into their grants; Claire Twoose spoke about an 8 week course in writing protocols and running searches for students intending to conduct systematic reviews. Search strategies were an assessable component of this course. And Linda Hartman is running systematic review courses for librarians – a 2.5 day workshop with 5 instructors, the ‘Nuts and Bolts for Librarians.’ She found this to increase librarians’ confidence in supporting and conducting systematic reviews, but also found that if you develop a service to support systematic reviews, it will be used; build it, and they will come.

A second session of major interest was that of data management. Several universities are developing both educational programs and support services in this area, including provision of repositories, data management plans and education in management of data. Several trends emerged across the presentations, including the seeming reluctance of researchers to take up these services, despite the risk of data loss with data stored on random USB drives in drawers. The speakers in this session did highlight the major incentives for research data management – the carots: finding data when you need it 9 (file labelling conventions), reuse of data and increased exposure and potential citation count; and the sticks – or things with big teeth: government mandate for the sharing of data and publisher requirements.

As we all grapple with similar issues across our institutions, it’s great that we can compare notes and ideas for solutions. Once again, a productive day.