When we first saw the request for proposals that ultimately secured the supplemental grant for an informationist and brought me into this work, we began to think about the roles I would take, the tasks I would assume, and the skills I would bring to a research team. In short, we put together an argument for the value of having an informationist on a research team. It’s no secret that this is an argument in the making. One of the main reasons that the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health funded the program was to study the role and to evaluate its worthiness. Making our case was somewhat easier in that we had a template, i.e. the requirements of the RFP. Still, it was a new concept to our researchers and thus we had to invest some time and effort towards explaining what we hoped to achieve in this new partnership.
Since I began working on the mammography study in September, I’ve also been talking to other researchers on campus about the possibility of working with them. For the most part, I’ve leveraged relationships already formed between myself and certain researchers and/or departments. When trying to make my way in this new arena, I’m looking for all of the help I can get. At least with established relationships I have a head-start on arguing for the importance and relevance of the library. I’ve also taken advantage of attending meetings, symposia, and other forums where researchers present their work. One of these was the Community Engagement Symposium last November, hosted by our CCTS Section of the same name. I attended this event intending to try and talk to a couple of people in particular. When that didn’t happen, I used the meeting’s evaluation form to both thank the organizers of the event (who, by the way, I knew thanks to past collaborations) and to state my desire to meet with the leadership of the Section to talk about possibilities of being an informationist for them. Some time passed, but then a couple of weeks ago I got the following email from one of the organizers:
Thanks for coming to the Symposium!
You had requested a meeting to discuss forming partnerships for the library work of informationist. We are wondering if we could set up a time for you to talk with us as a group. We have a meeting on Feb 5 from 1-2. Would you like to join us? Or, is there a better time?
WOW!! GREAT!! I was delighted with the invite. I shared it with both my library director and my immediate supervisor, and they were really pleased, too. Then, a week later I got another email:
So that we could make the best use of our time, could you please share with us:
- 3-5 questions that you would like to discuss
- Background information on this new work
My immediate response was, “Uh oh.” I’m not sure why, but it was. Despite the fact that I’ve been doing this work for a few months now AND that I’d asked for the meeting, the thought of having to articulate the who, what, and why of it all gave me pause. Instinct, perhaps. This is all still new, not only the work itself but the selling of it to others. I’ve been reading and writing about being entrepreneurial, but now is the time to put all of that learning to work. How will I do?
I thought about my response for over a week. I traveled to the Miner Library at the University of Rochester Medical School last week to lead a workshop on these very things. As I spent almost a dozen hours driving solo to and from Rochester, I had a lot of time to talk to myself and formulate some ideas on how to proceed. This morning, I sat down and wrote my response. What do you think? If you were (or are) a researcher, is it enough to set the stage for a meeting? If you’re a librarian, would you present other skills or ask other questions? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. In the meantime, I’ll prepare myself for this opportunity – one that I really am excited about. And next week, I’ll report back on how it went.
Proposal: To provide informationist/embedded librarian services to the Department of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, specifically, though not limited to, projects related to the UMass CCTS Community Engagement and Research Section.
Background: Informationists are librarians with a disciplinary background in biomedical, behavioral or biological sciences, as well as library and information science. Medical librarians began serving as informationists in the clinical setting approximately 10 years ago, but more recently have begun to find a relevant place embedded in research teams and/or projects.
In the summer of 2012, the Library successfully collaborated with two principal investigators at UMMS, as well as their research team, to receive a supplemental grant from the National Library of Medicine. The award, an “NLM Administrative Supplements for Informationist Services in NIH-funded Research Projects”, was one of eight awarded nationally. It provides funding to support an informationist, or in-context information specialist, who serves the research team by offering expertise in the areas of data and information management.
For 18 months (Sept 2012 – Jan 2014), I’m serving as a member of the research team on the grant, “Promoting Breast Cancer Screening in Non-Adherent Women” (R01 CA-132935, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health). I’m devoting a quarter of my scheduled work time to the project, undertaking projects such as developing data management tools (a data dictionary and data request form), providing an in-depth literature review and report on the issues facing researchers and internet technology professionals when building and implementing research tools, assisting with a systematic review on the effectiveness of telephone intervention protocols for preventive screenings, and instructing the members of the team in advanced searching techniques and bibliographic management.
As we prepared this proposal with Drs. Luckmann and Costanza, Elaine Martin, Library Director, became convinced that this was both a relevant and exciting new opportunity for the Library and decided to commit to the service. I’ve been given a new role in the Library, informationist or embedded librarian, and charged with seeking out other opportunities where I can be integrated into research teams to provide library, information, and data management expertise as needed.
With an educational background in both exercise physiology and library science, years of providing support to the UMMS research community, and additional work as an exercise physiologist for a couple of Sherry Pagoto’s studies, I feel there’s likely not a better fit for me on this campus than the Department of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine and/or the UMass CCTS Community Engagement and Research Section. When we meet on 2/5, I’d like to talk about this further and answer any questions you might have regarding the work I’m doing now for the Luckmann/Costanza study. Additionally, I’d like to hear your thoughts and experiences regarding how (or if) you think an informationist could be of benefit to your team(s). Specifically:
- What is your current process for obtaining relevant literature and other supporting information for preparing grant proposals, thinking of new research projects, staying current in your research areas, etc.?
- Could members of the Department benefit from regular training in areas such as searching the literature, managing and organizing information, and/or improving communication between team members?
- Do you have an established protocol for training new members to the Department or projects in the above-referenced areas? If not, would you be interested in having such?
- How do you currently communicate and share information between team members?
- When beginning research projects, do you establish standards for data collection, management, and sharing? Are these methods sufficient for your work?
- Has anyone considered writing a formal systematic review on the topics studied by your group? If so, have you considered the benefits of having a dedicated librarian involved in such an endeavor?