Recently, my Library, the Lamar Soutter Library, University of Massachusetts Medical School, collaborated with the co-principal investigators for an ongoing breast cancer screening intervention study on a supplemental grant proposal to the National Library of Medicine. These grants, the NLM Administrative Supplements for Informationist Services in NIH-funded Research Projects, seek to:
… provide funds to supported research and center grants in order to enhance the storage, organization, management and use of electronic research data through the involvement of informationists, also known as in-context information specialists.
The purposes of this administrative supplement program are (1) to enhance collaborative, multi-disciplinary basic and clinical research by integrating an information specialist into the research team in order to improve the capture, storage, organization, management, integration, presentation and dissemination of biomedical research data and (2) to assess and document the value and impact of the informationist’s participation.
We were pleased to receive one of these awards and in September 2012, I began working on Promoting Breast Cancer Screening in Non-Adherent Women, a study funded by the National Cancer Institute and led by Drs. Roger Luckmann and Mary Costanza. You can read a description of the study by searching the grant number, 5R01CA132935-04, on the NIH RePORT website.
By placing librarians into the research team this way, our role takes on a different meaning than the traditional support the Library always offers our research community. Or does it? As noted, assessing and documenting the value and impact of this role is very much a part of these awards. Do researchers gain more by having librarians on their teams? Are the outcomes of their research affected positively in any significant way? Some medical libraries have assumed this role for awhile, but by the NLM awarding these grants, the profession is stating clearly that the need to discover and support new roles for librarians in the research venue is imperative. Supporting from the sidelines is no longer acceptable, neither from funders nor academic health sciences libraries themselves. We need to become more involved.
Much like journalists become embedded with troops to better report from the front lines, I have been embedded in this study to provide my expertise in information management. I’ve also been asked to report my findings. What’s it like to be on the team? What is expected of me, the informationist? Does having a different name make a difference? Is it different work, requiring different skills and, if so, what are those skills? These are all questions that I hope to find answers to as I assume this role over the next 18 months.
When the Medical School sends students abroad to work in clinics or other medical projects, they are required to keep a journal, a personal reflection of their time. It is a learning tool, a way for them to remember the experience while it is fresh in their minds and to draw from the experiences lessons that they can carry with them in their careers. This is a learning tool for me, a report on a long-term continuing education experience. I wanted to share it here in case others find benefit from it. Discussions of the emerging role of librarians is a hot topic among my colleagues in the field, as well as those both teaching and preparing the next generation of librarians. If my reflections lead you to have thoughts and comments, please feel free to share them. This is my experience, but it’s an open experiment. I welcome others on the journey.
PLEASE NOTE: This blog serves as my own personal reflection of being placed in a different landscape. Please respect the fact that these are MY reflections, my opinions, and my thoughts. They do not necessarily reflect those of the PIs, other research team members, or my Library’s administration. If you want their opinion and/or thoughts, ask them. Do not assume that mine are theirs.