Tag Archives: Team Science

Learn Something New Every Day

27 Aug

My spouse recently got a call from a couple of faculty members in the computer science department at the college where she teaches. Lynn teaches in the art department; graphic design, motion design, typography, and the like. The computer science guys wanted to explore the possibility of her teaching a course in data visualization. Knowing that I have both an interest in the topic, plus the need to fumble through learning it (and using the new-found skills) for my job as an evaluator, she asked me what I thought about the opportunity.

Lynn knows enough about data visualization to know there’s a computer programming aspect to it. The computer science guys know enough to know there’s a design element to it. They all know that there’s math involved, specifically statistical analysis. I also suggested that it involves writing and/or journalism. She was hesitant – and rightly so – to jump on board without thinking and talking it through, because what she is an expert in is only one area of a multi-disciplinary field.

“It’s team science,” my boss, Nate, said when I shared the story with him. Exactly. And in many ways it’s an example of how the ways we traditionally teach, research, and work need to be re-examined and re-worked.

Too often, I find, we search for collaborators within our own circles of expertise. Librarians collaborate with other librarians. They might be from different types of libraries or different library departments, but often we’re all librarians. Researchers collaborate with other researchers. Scientists with other scientists. In some ways, it can be argued, this is team science (or team-based work), but it falls short of the ideal.

At it’s best, team science brings together experts from across different disciplines to work on problems that simply cannot be tackled by any one group. Think about a health problem like obesity. It’s huge and as such, touches upon so many different aspects of life. Addressing it requires everyone from geneticists to behavioral psychologists to nutritionists to exercise physiologists to public policy makers to urban planners to educators to medical doctors to parents to science writers to … it’s probably easier to identify the experts not needed than those who are. The point being that some of the most successful efforts at addressing obesity are those that bring as many of these fields of expertise together, to work together towards a solution. (The UMass Worcester Prevention Research Center is an example, close to home for me.)

But back to data visualization, what I’ve found is that those who do it best are either freakingly gifted (there’s always an Edward Tufte in any area) or they’re smart enough – and talented enough – to assemble good teams for the work. As I’m seeking to discover the best resources to learn and practice the skills for this job, I’m continually reminded to look across lots of different disciplines. I look to evaluators (Stephanie Green and Chris Lysy), graphic designers (Nigel Holmes), business intelligence consultants (Stephen Few), journalists and journalism professors (David McCandless and Alberto Cairo, respectively), artists (Manuel Lima), statisticians (Nathan Yau), doctors (Hans Rosling), and the people in my very own Quantitative Health Sciences Department. I read things by people who are good presenters, experts in visual communication, and those skilled in improvisation. In other words, while I’m limited in resources to actually form a real team of experts to do data visualization for the UMCCTS, I’ve learned enough to seek them out from across lots of corners so that I can do a better job. (I’m also lucky enough to be working in an environment where people don’t mind me trying things out on them. It’s a benefit of being in academia.)

Thanks to Chris Lysy’s (DiY Data Design) weekly creative challenge, this week I practiced using design icon arrays to report on the findings of a course evaluation with a small (n=15) class size. We get so hung up on “big data” that it’s easy to forget the real challenges of working with and presenting the results from small data sets. I really enjoyed taking this challenge and putting it to use. Here are a couple of examples. For the sake of privacy, I’ve redacted the questions being reported.

Time

Sample Arrays

Now, here’s one lesson that I learned for the next time that I use this visualization device. I need to make them like this:

better copy

This example allows me to better show that each response is represented by a single box, thus 11 people answered “Yes” and 4 answered “Somewhat.” Live and learn. Every day.

Next Tuesday, I’m taking a workshop on creating podcasts. It’s something that I’ve wanted to try and I found a 2-hour, evening class in Boston. Stay tuned to see what that new learning might bring. 

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

25 Jun

I’ve been in Cambridge the past couple of days; two very long days at a Software Carpentry Boot Camp sponsored by Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE) of Boston. It was an intense time of learning, more akin to climbing the Mount Everest of learning curves than a classroom experience. Fortunately, the instructors divided the attendees (120 of us in all) into three groups based upon experience. I’m a novice in the realm of programming. I know my way around web design and its associated HTML, XML, and CSS, but when it comes to using “the shell” (as I’ve learned the terminal window is called), I’m a newbie.

Spending time writing out code to add numbers only makes me think, “Isn’t this why Thomas Edison invented the calculator?” Somebody already did this work for me. Still, I also once took an auto mechanics class so that I could learn how my car runs. I changed the oil a couple of times, then thought that there’s a reason Jiffy Lube exists, and let it go at that. There’s obviously a part of me that’s intrigued by how things work. There’s a part of me that definitely likes knowing that if I really wanted to, I could take the reigns (busted timing belts and erased hard drives aside).

It was that part of me that led me to sign up for the camp. In my work on research teams, I hear many of the same issues expressed when it comes to data management, information management, work flow and communication. I keep thinking to myself that surely there HAS to be a way to solve some of these problems, yet when I go hunting for the answer, I too often find myself limited by my abilities to work with open source programs that just might do the trick. My rationale for the self-inflicted alpine quest is that if I can learn enough to at least talk intelligently to someone who knows more about programming, then I’m better off than I was on Sunday.

And after the sprint to the top of the past two days, I’m happy to report that I’m at least there. Knowing more than I did on Sunday, that is.

Learning Curve

I learned many things that are – fortunately for you, my reader – available online at the Software Carpentry website. Beyond the classroom instruction, they offer many self-paced learning modules, links to more information, suggestions on groups to join and/or where to find support. This is a marathon (to switch sporting event metaphors) that we’re on. Those books might claim that they can teach me Python in a day, but … well, we’ve obviously never met, me and the authors of said books.

But I did learn a good bit about the shell, “an interactive interpreter: it reads commands, finds the corresponding programs, runs them, and displays output.” That last sentence alone was new to me. I’m on my way!

I also learned about the scripting program, Python. Python is a dynamic programming language that lets you write “small programs quickly, and be able to manage the complexity of larger ones;” programs like C++ or Fortran. I learned that there are a ton of Python programs (modules) available, all ready to be plugged in to help the knowledgeable person accomplish a task or two. And again, that was my goal going in, i.e. to become knowledgeable enough to know that somebody else has already written the tool that can help me. And after the practice of boot camp, I at least know how to play with them enough to not destroy my computer.

Quick aside: On Sunday night, I dreamt that my computer literally blew up in my face. Ka-BOOM!! Pieces everywhere. I ducked and covered my head, escaping any real injury. Pre-programming camp anxiety, Dr. Jung?

I learned about GitHub and how individuals and teams can use it to share and/or collaborate on projects that involve coding. I learned about version control, something we librarians know an awful lot about already. I learned about SQL and found myself dragging up old tricks from days of building databases in Access, back when I managed HR records for a company. I remembered how much I’d forgotten about writing queries in that format. I also couldn’t help but notice how much of what our instructors taught in this section is what I teach when I’m instructing students and researchers on using PubMed. Same principles, really. Good query construction is good query construction.

Which brings me to a really significant thing that I learned – perhaps the most significant, in terms of relevance to my work as an informationist and the whole world of embedded librarianship that is open to our profession. The boot camp was taught (with the help of a whole bunch of roaming helpers) by two PhD researchers (bioinformatics and biology) who learned most of what they know because they taught themselves. Why did they teach themselves? Because they had to do somethings for their work that they  just knew could be done easier, more efficiently, and better through the use of certain programs.

Hold it! Scroll back up the page and re-read what I wrote in the third paragraph. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Did you see it? I took this class because I sit on research teams where people continually express the need(s) for something to get done, yet no one has the time and/or inclination to solve the problem. In other words, I am sitting in the exact same seat that the two women who were standing in front of the class for these days once sat. They are both scientists and neither one computer scientists. I doubt that when either of them began studying whatever their discipline is, they anticipated becoming programming instructors. But they did. They are. Because no one else could/would. They took the initiative.

This was an incredible insight for me. I knew that a lot of young students in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences know computing. I assumed it’s because they studied it formally. I assumed it’s because it’s something that came along in their tool kit as scientists. What I’ve now learned is that this isn’t the case at all – or at least not in the vast majority of cases.

Scientists learn things because they need to learn them to solve a problem. If we take the initiative to learn the same things, imagine the value we suddenly bring to a team that has no such person on it already. Both Tracy Teal and Sarah Supp, the lead instructors in my class, admitted that they had opportunities in their careers open up to them because they had taught themselves these skills. It’s not a skill set that every scientist automatically has. They added it to theirs.

The audience for this boot camp was scientists and engineers, colleagues of Tracy and Sarah and the other instructors in the other classes. They see the need to bring these lessons to other scientists, because it’s clearly (1) missing and (2) beneficial to both the individual scientist and research as a whole. As an embedded librarian/informationist, I wasn’t their target. I doubt that they could have even imagined why I was there (along with a couple of other familiar faces). But what they don’t know is that there are others out there, people like me and others doing similar work, who can take these same lessons and apply them to the research teams that we are part of.

Some of the teams where I’m working have programmers on them, but not necessarily to do the things that I’m brought on to do. Further, they are often computer programmers and lack the specific science background that an informationist brings to a team. They have a really advanced skill set in programming and I’m hardly one to take on that role, but for other projects; projects within the greater Research Project, I’m pretty sure that I can learn enough to bring something that’s valued to the team. That’s what I saw in the researchers who taught me the past days. And it was a great, unexpected lesson!

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One other thing that I was reminded of last night that also just happens to have some relevance:

As I was in the big city of Boston on the same evening that my friend, Suzy Becker (you might recall her as my hero from a post a few weeks back) was giving a reading / signing to promote her new book, One Good Egg, at Brookline Booksmith, I slogged across town on the hottest day of the year (because that’s what friends do) to enjoy the event. Plus, there was free cake. In a short documentary by Mollie West, Suzy mentioned that she tries to take advantage of the early hours of the day, writing and drawing before her inner critic is awake. I jotted down a note that it’s a good rule to follow in the context of learning something as daunting as programming, too. I need to try and set aside time during each week, preferably early in the morning, to work on honing my new skills before my inner “you’ll never learn how to do that!” self gets going. Message to heart.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

6 Jun

I’ve been away from work for almost a week, spending time with my father and doing those things that make people say, “Oh, you are such a good daughter,” despite the fact that I wasn’t feeling like one. Watching your parents age, as well as helping with things that come along with the aging process, is difficult. It can bring out both the best and the worst in you.

outofficeThe time away also made me miss my Librarian Hats blog. I missed time with my teams and I missed time in the library. I missed my projects and the work that I’m doing and the weekly sharing of that with all of you. It’s great to get away. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m hardly one to shy away from a break from work and I’ll never turn down a good vacation, but it’s also a really nice feeling to know that I’ve come to a place where I enjoy my work so much that I miss it when I’m away. Fortunately, I know a lot of people in this profession who feel similarly. It’s a nice bonus for being a librarian.

Last week, before leaving town, I had the chance to speak at a staff development day for the librarians at Tufts University in Boston. I always like getting to meet colleagues outside of the health sciences and/or medical library world. While Tufts Medical School librarians were present at the event, so were others from their different libraries, making the meeting a great chance to hear about some ideas, projects, innovations and tools that I don’t usually stay up to date on. Discovery tools and on-demand purchasing are the kind of topics that don’t make their way across my radar, so it was a nice opportunity to hear about them.

Two librarians shared their experiences being embedded in different programs and projects. Regina Raboin, Data Management Services Coordinator and Science Research & Instruction Librarian for the Tisch Library at Tufts described her work as part of the faculty teams for 4 different undergraduate courses. A couple of things that Regina said that really struck me, (1) “I was part of the team” and (2) the courses that she was embedded in were all multi-disciplinary in nature. A couple were in environmental studies and the other two were seminar courses. In other words, the classes involve bringing together faculty from different parts of the campus – different schools, different disciplines. This reminds me of what I’ve experienced in my work as an informationist, i.e. all of the studies and projects that I work on require a lot of different kinds of people with different skill sets in order to be successful. I wonder if this isn’t an important key to librarians finding a home on research teams. When the team is made up of people from lots of backgrounds, no one discipline and/or skill set dominates. Team members naturally look to the expertise of the different members, making the skills of the embedded librarian and/or informationist not stand out as such a foreign thing, different from everyone else.

Jane Ichord, a clinical librarian for the Hirsch Library of Tufts Medical School shared her experience being embedded one day each week, attending rounds and working with the pediatricians and other providers at one of their hospitals. Jane also mentioned a few things that I wrote “blog” next to in my notes, my reminder to myself to expand on the thought in one of my posts here. First, she said that when she was first asked to take on this role it was several years ago and while she really wanted to do it, the administration and structure of her library at the time were not in the right place for it to happen. More recently though, things changed and she was given the okay to pursue the role. One cannot stress enough how important this is in the success of embedded librarian programs. Library administration has to be supportive in time, structure, direction, and mission for these programs to work. Librarians wanting to become embedded have to feel empowered to make a lot of decisions on their own. They have to know that it’s okay to be away from the library. They have to be assured that their bosses trust them to build relationships. I feel really fortunate in my current position that this is true, but like Jane, it wasn’t always the case. We weren’t always ready for me (or others) to take on this role. However, when I heard my director say that she would give me the role of informationist on the mammography study whether we got the NIH grant or not, I knew that she was fully supportive of the work. It’s that kind of attitude that gives a librarian the feeling of autonomy necessary to become fully embedded in a team.

Lastly, Jane said regarding her Mondays at the Floating Hospital, “It’s changed my life. Well, it’s changed my work life.” When it comes to my own experiences as an informationist, I can’t say it any better. I have the job today that I always wanted in a library, even when I didn’t know it existed. Heck, even before it did exist! And I’m happy to be back at it today.

Repeat After Me

13 Mar

Quote from Science

Preparing for some upcoming work, I took part in a webinar on systematic reviews yesterday morning. It was a brief, but good, review/overview of the process and the roles librarians and/or information scientists have in it. One thing that stuck out for me was the reminder by Dr. Edoardo Aromataris of the Joanna Briggs Institute, one of the program’s speakers, that a systematic review is a type of research and as such, it needs to be reproducible. He noted that the search strategy ultimately constructed in a review should yield pretty much the same results for anyone who repeats it.

Replication is a hallmark of the scientific method. As Jasny et al state in the above-referenced quote from a special issue of Science on data replication and reproducibility, it is the gold standard of research. Science grows in value as it builds upon itself. Without the characteristic of replication, such growth is thwarted and findings become limited to a study’s specific subject pool. If a study’s design becomes so complicated and the research question(s) keep changing along the way, the study’s value gets clouded, if it remains at all.

I remember during my master’s thesis defense, one of my advisers asked me why I hadn’t done a particular statistical analysis to answer another question about the data I collected. I admit that the question threw me, but after thinking about it for a moment, I said, “Because that isn’t what I said that I would do.” My statistics professor, who was also sitting in on the defense, said calmly, after I hemmed and hawed and tried to defend my answer in a long and drawn out way, “That’s the right answer.” In other words, when I proposed my study and laid out my methodology, I stated that I would do “x, y, and z.” If I later decided to do “q” simply because I thought “q” was more interesting, I wouldn’t have necessarily answered the research question that I set out to answer, nor would my methods be as strong as I initially put forward.

I bring all of this up this week because as I’ve been sitting in on the weekly meetings of my research team these past months, I can’t help but notice how often new questions are asked and how often those questions result in an awareness that the data needed to answer them is missing. This fact then leads to a lot of going back and gathering the missing data. Sometimes this is possible and sometimes it isn’t. For instance, you might go to see your doctor one time and you’re asked the question, “Do you smoke?” But the next time you visit, the nurse doesn’t ask you that same question. Usually, you’re asked something like, “Are you still taking (name the medication)?” You answer, “Yes,” but you fail to mention that you’ve changed dosage. Or that your doctor changed the dosage sometime during the past year. Is that captured in the record? Maybe, maybe not. And further, some insurance carriers require certain patient information while others do not. If you’re drawing subjects for a study from multiple insurance carriers, you’d better be sure that each is collecting all of the data that you need, otherwise you cannot compare the groups. As the analyst on our study said yesterday, “If you can’t get all of the data, you might as well not get any of it.”

Now please remember that I am working as an informationist on a study led by two principal investigators and a research team that has being doing research for a very long time. They have secured any number of big grants to do big studies. They are well-respected and know a whole helluva lot more about clinical research than me and my little master’s-thesis-experienced self. I’m not questioning their methods or their expertise at all. Rather, I’m pointing out that this kind of research – research that involves a lot of people (25+ on the research team), thousands of subjects, a bunch of years, several sources of data (and data and data and data…), and a whole lot of money over time – is messy. Really, really messy! In other words, an awful lot, if not the majority, of biomedical and/or health research today is messy. And as an observer of such research, I cannot help but wonder how in the world these studies could ever be replicated. As that issue of Science noted, research today is at a moment when so many factors are affecting the outcomes that it’s a time for those involved in it to stop and evaluate these factors, and to insure that the work being done – the science being done – meets high standards.

More, as a supposed “expert” in the area of information and a presumed member of the research team, I’m feeling at a loss as to what I can do, at this point in the study, to clean it up. Yes, I admit that yesterday just wasn’t my best day on the study and maybe that’s coloring part of my feelings today. I didn’t have anything to offer in the meeting. I didn’t feel like much of a part of the team. It happens.

So can I take a lesson from the day’s events? The answer to that is equivocally “YES!” and here’s why…

In the afternoon, I had a meeting with a different PI for a different study. We’re exploring areas where I can help her team; writing up a “scope of work” to embed me as an informationist on the study. It’s a very different kind of study and not as big as the mammography study (above), but it still involves multiple players across multiple campuses, and it ultimately will generate a whole bunch of data from a countless number of subjects. The biggest difference, though, is timing. And this is the take-away lesson for me in regards to what brings success to my role. When a researcher is just putting together his/her team, when s/he is just beginning to think about the who and what and where and why of the study, if THEN s/he thinks of including an individual with expertise in information, knowledge, and/or data management, the potential value of that person to the team and to the work is multiplied several fold.

This is because it’s in the beginning of a study when an informationist can put his/her skills to use in building the infrastructure, the system, and/or the tools needed to make the flow of information and data and communication go much more smoothly. It’s hard to go back and fix stuff. It’s much easier to do things right from the beginning. Again, I’m not saying that the mammography study is doing anything wrong, but building information organization into your methods from the get-go can surely help reduce the headaches down the road. And fewer headaches + cleaner data = better science, all the way around.

Something to SHOUT About!

28 Feb

Team Science Syllabus 1-7-13_Page_1

 

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’m giving a lecture in a course on team science next week. Check out one of the objectives from the syllabus for the class! Now THIS is progress. When we can get faculty to teach that the informationist has a role in research teams, we are on the right track! Thanks to Drs. Sherry Pagoto and Judy Ockene for their support of me, the Library, and our ventures into this arena.

Life on the Playground (Everyone Wants to be Picked for a Team)

17 Jan

I just returned from a seminar hosted by the Office of Faculty Affairs at my workplace (University of Massachusetts Medical School) entitled, “Team Science: The New Normal”. It was led by Dr. Robert Milner, Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Development. Along with his role in administration, Dr. Milner’s research background and focus is in neuroscience.

The reason I’m writing this post is twofold. First, it was my first real formal attempt at utilizing the things I learned reading Mike Rohde’s book, The Sketchnote Handbook (and watching the accompanying DVD). I’ve also worked through Sunni Brown’s online course on visual note taking and read all three of Dan Roam’s books on using pictures in the practice of problem solving. If you find that you’re looking for a new, different, and I’d attest, better, way to think and process and take notes, you might want to give these leading folks in the field a look see. So really, my first reason for writing this post is to show off my new skill.

The second reason is because the seminar had a slant towards junior faculty, those early in their careers who are trying to find their way, make connections, and both raise awareness of and gain recognition for the work that they do. As I took my notes, I couldn’t help but think of how much of what Dr. Milner was sharing about team science, as it applies to junior faculty, sounded so much like what we talk about when we’re trying to figure out how to be successful as embedded librarians and/or informationists.

  • How do you find collaborators?
  • How do you get invited to be on a team?
  • How do you weigh out your contributions?
  • How do you not get lost in the work of others?

These are exactly the same questions we’re asking! And the answers shared were similar, too.

  • Tap into your networks,
  • Be known for what you do,
  • And bottom line, learn how to communicate well.

I went to this session, hoping I’d find a way to better articulate how informationists fit on research teams. Happily, I came away with one more bit of proof that we’re really not that different from scientists at all. I’m going to remember this as I continue to do my work and make my way in this “New Normal”.

Team Science Notes

Click on my notes for a bigger picture. If something doesn’t make sense in them, feel free to ask in the comments section below.

Top 10 Informationist Moments of 2012

27 Dec
Closing the Whiteboard on 2012

Closing the Whiteboard on 2012

I’ve only been at this informationist work for a few months, thus a true “Top 10” list is a bit of a stretch for my New Year’s post, but a few really terrific things HAVE happened, thus I figured coming up with some list warranted at least a college try. Here goes:

#10. An Invitation to the Party

I was invited to attend a retirement party for the project administrator of the research study I’m working on. What makes this special is that the invitation came before I officially became a part of the research team and while I wasn’t able to make it, it let me know that I was included in the group, by the group, before I ever even became part of the group. Inclusion, both physically and cognitively, is an important part of success in this arena.

#9. A Weekly Schedule

It took a little while, but eventually I was able to carve out some semblance of a regular weekly schedule that included the hours I’m committed to working as an informationist on the study. It’s not perfect yet, but we’re headed in the right direction. I imagine that balancing time and tasks between being in and out of the Library will remain a key focus in 2013.

#8. Office Space

Going along with a weekly schedule, securing a physical place outside of the Library to work on the project was also a coup. I was lucky in that the research team has other consultant-type people as members, thus having a research staff office was both known to be important and already existent. I’ve found that if/when I go into the Library on the days that I’ve scheduled myself to work on things related to the project, I too easily get pulled into other things. Staying away is important!

#7. Impromptu Conversations on Sidewalks

Being able to bring up my role as an informationist to researchers that I already know on campus is both easy and productive. I’ve had several conversations with individuals in the process of writing grants and as they tell me about their ideas, because I know them personally, it’s easy to say, “Have you thought about including an informationist on your team and/or in the proposal?” What I’ve also discovered is a lot of overlap between the researchers that I know. Part of this is expected (you do a lot of work in one department or division, and you tend to know many people who naturally work together), but it’s the unexpected connections that have been the biggest thrill. They’re also the ones with the greatest potential to build further collaborations. Cross-discipline research is really important in translational science and an informationist is very well suited to help build the bridges between the people and research currently happening in different areas.

#6. The Bucket List

During about the third or fourth weekly team meeting that I attended, I confessed that I was completely confused by the word “eligible”. It seemed to me that women were eligible for the study several different times. In other words, there were different levels of eligibility. I said, “I’m lost. Who is eligible for what, when?” In voicing what might appear like a weakness (after all, I was brought on board as the “expert” in communication), I hit on something that everyone was struggling with! Too many times, people were using the same word to describe different things. It was confusing not just me, but others as well. The result was my first tangible item to the team – a very simple list of what we would all agree to call each “bucket” of subjects. Producing something (an actual THING, in this case a list of words) was the first step to make me feel like I was a contributing member of the team.

#5. Presentation Proposal with a PI

It was a 2012 highlight that one of the principal investigators on the study agreed to submit a presentation proposal with me to the New England Chapter of ACRL’s next annual meeting. I hope it will be a 2013 highlight that we are chosen to present on our work together as informationist and researcher. The more that we can get researchers themselves to talk about the importance of embedded librarians and/or informationists in their work, the further we will advance in this area of our profession. I’m convinced of this.

#4. Informationist Invasion 2012

If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you know that in early November, informationists representing each of the NIH-funded awards gathered in Worcester, MA to share with science and medical librarians from New England about their new roles. “Embedded with the Scientists: Librarians’ Roles in the Research Process” was a big success! Personally, I was really happy to have the chance to meet my colleagues from around the country; to share ideas, talk about issues and roadblocks and how we might overcome them, to plan ways to support one another in our work, and to make new professional friends. Pursuing new directions is a lot easier with the support of colleagues.

#3. I Lost My Old Job

It’s nice to know that people care about you. When the announcement that my Library was (still is!) accepting applications for my current position as the Head of Research and Scholarly Communication Services, I got more than a few phone calls and emails from friends and colleagues. “Is everything okay?!” “Where are you going?” “What happened?” For once, I was happy to say that I’d lost my job. Even before we received the supplemental grant award, the management team of my Library saw that charging a librarian with the task(s) of becoming embedded in research teams was a direction we both wanted and needed to go. Receiving the grant only further solidified this commitment and my Director began to work the budget as she was able to move me into this new position, thus freeing me from the responsibilities of the former. To be successful in this area, we need such commitment. In today’s environment, creating new positions requires structuring budgets and workloads in ways we might not have thought before, but unless a Library is willing to do this, the work of the informationist, if it proves valuable, will ultimately be consumed by research departments or Information Technology, and the library profession will find itself missing out on a very relevant path.

#2. Supplemental Grant Award

It kind of goes without saying that there likely is no “Top 10 Informationist Moments of 2012” without the awarding of the NIH Supplemental Grant for the R01 study that I’m now a part of. It was not the beginning of the embedded librarian/informationist idea and/or role by any means, but as noted above, it solidified our movement forward into this new direction. My Director and the PIs stated, while we prepared the grant application, that we would pursue the project regardless of whether or not we got funded. This showed the level of commitment to it. But the fact that we DID get funding, opened doors that otherwise might have taken a bit longer to unlock. By offering these awards, the National Library of Medicine, through NIH, demonstrated that the role of the informationist in biomedical research is one worth supporting and examining to determine its longterm value. Sometimes professions need this kind of support to make big changes.

#1. Guest Lecture Invitation

You might think that #2 would be #1, and I admit that I went back-and-forth on deciding what moment I’m giving top billing to. What I ultimately decided is that moment #1 happened only yesterday, squeaking in just under the wire! I got an email yesterday morning from a researcher I’ve worked with in the past in a different capacity. She told me that she’s teaching a class this coming semester on Team Science. To avoid misquoting, I’ll share the text of the email:

“I’m teaching a class called Team Science in the Spring, the focus of which is to help students (in the MSCI program) to understand the importance of teams in science, how to build their research teams, and how to effectively function in teams.  You have talked a lot about how many researchers and docs don’t understand the role of the informationist in their work, so I wondered if you might be interested in coming as a guest some time and talking about the role of the informationist on an academic team?”

Perhaps you can see why this invitation wins out in the “Big Moments of 2012” contest. Here is a pretty prominent researcher on my campus who gets it – or at least is willing to give me a shot to convince her, as well as a classroom of future researchers, of the important role librarians and/or informationists can play on research teams. Here is an opportunity to make my case that we are, in fact, part of the team. We’re not just a supporting cast on the sidelines.

Of course, I took her up on the offer right away. Stay tuned for a post in early March telling how it all goes.

So, while it’s only been a short few months in Informationist-landia, I feel confident saying that it’s been filled with more than a few memorable moments. In short, I’ve learned a great deal about the importance of building relationships, of harnessing the possibilities of existing relationships, of finding and exuding confidence, of setting boundaries and limits, of setting priorities, of finding balance, of speaking up, and of accepting change. And perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned the importance of articulating what I can do, what I can’t (or won’t) do, and what I’m capable of learning to do. Above all else, I believe being able to state these things clearly to a researcher is the way to open the door to their world, but it takes some work to be able to do that. Do the work.

In his book, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon writes, “Ironically, really good work often appears to be effortless. People will say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ They won’t see the years of toil and sweat that went into it.” To step into a new area professionally requires work. You need to take the time to read and explore and emulate and try and eventually find your own way; a way that is ultimately a blending of who you are and what you can do. This is the “you” that succeeds. This is what I learned, maybe more clearly than anything else, in 2012. I learned it in this new role as an informationist and I learned it in life. As I close the calendar on this year, I can’t complain much about that.

[Looking for a New Year’s book for yourself? Pick up a copy of Kleon’s book. You can read it over a cup of coffee on a Saturday (or a snowy) morning and you’ll come away with 10 pretty good tips (or more) for being creative in your work and in your life.]