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Workshop Report for “Supporting Open Access: Librarians as Advocates, Researchers, Educators and Role Models”

by Mabel A. Trafford, Medical Librarian
Tripler Army Medical Center Library
Honolulu, Hawaii

On March 28, 2013, the Health Sciences Library and the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, Honolulu, HI, hosted Supporting Open Access: Librarians as Advocates, Researchers, Educators and Role Models, a workshop sponsored by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Pacific Southwest Region (NN/LM PSR); with presenters Lauren A. Maggio, MS (LIS), MA, Lane Medical Library & Knowledge Management Center, Stanford University Medical Center; and Laura Moorhead, MS, Stanford University School of Education.
Open Access workshop in Honolulu, Hawaii

The Open Access (OA) workshop was designed to reveal the current thinking about OA and how librarians can promote it to their clientele. Laura’s presentation included a wealth of interesting statistical facts about the growth of OA journals and was sprinkled with illustrations from Creative Commons, which was full of useful and memorable information. Articles in OA journals are generally free to readers, but often the author or the author’s institution is asked to pay a fee before an article will be published. One of the advantages of OA journals is that they are available primarily in electronic format, therefore the turnaround time for articles to be published is very fast, less than one month in some cases, even for peer-reviewed OA journals. Currently more than half the biomedical articles published in a given year appear in conventionally published journals, partly because authors want to publish in high profile journals. But this is changing due to several driving factors: 1) NIH, the source of 28% of biomedical research funding in the U.S., has required OA publishing since 2008; 2) Subscription costs for STM (Science, Technical, and Medical) journals has outpaced inflation by over 250% during the past thirty years; and 3) Digital format and online publishing have been embraced by publishers, end users, and librarians. There are twice as many OA journals now, about 8,000, as there were in 2008 (Enserink, Science 2012).

At this point in the workshop, participants were wondering how to involve themselves in this process. Lauren and her colleagues designed a research project, based on the fact that in order to do this, the best way to start is by understanding how health personnel directly access research literature in patient care. They analyzed web traffic passing through Lane Library at Stanford University Medical Center for 2011, and they captured data on PubMed and UpToDate access. Data points from PubMed included PMID, article title, year, publication type, and journal. The wealth of data from this research stimulated the class participants to think about the various possibilities for involvement. A few results included: 30% of the site visits analyzed were to PubMed; 70% were to UpToDate; 83% of the articles viewed were dated 2002-2011; 54% of publication types viewed were reviews, clinical trials, case reports, comparative studies, guidelines or meta-analyses. One audience member commented that it would be interesting to see if the library users usually went first to PubMed or UpToDate.

The second part of the study involved phone or in-person interviews with physicians, who were asked to describe a specific clinical incident, which led to a clinical question. They described their search strategy, whether they used PubMed or UpToDate, and how the information found impacted their patient care decision(s). These interviews revealed that the physicians searched the literature for certain specific reasons: to refresh or confirm their own knowledge, for personal learning, to find specific facts such as dosage information, for teaching or researching purposes, or to gather new ideas for a treatment or diagnosis. Lauren reminded us of the excellent concept first published by Slawson and Shaughnessy (1999) that the usefulness of information is not only related to its relevance and validity, but also how easy it is to obtain. The original equation is simply expressed as: (relevance x validity) ÷ work (or time), but Lauren and Laura enhanced the equation by better defining these terms.

Later in the session we broke up into four discussion groups. We were each assigned an actual conversation that had occurred with a physician during the interview phase of the research. In addition to reflecting on how each of us personally felt about how we would help this person in our own libraries, we were asked to focus our group discussion around: 1) the person as educator: did we feel they were projecting an effective role model image for their students or residents, with regards to their approach to finding and using medical research information; 2) our collection development strategies: what would we change, based on our knowledge of the physician’s literature seeking habits; and 3) how would we raise the person’s awareness of the OA literature. Each group presented the results of the group discussion. The physician interviewees differed in age and gender and attitudes towards PubMed and UpToDate; therefore, we had a variety of reactions from the groups.

By the time the workshop ended, we were all standing and talking to each other and wishing we could go on with the discussions. It was a great workshop and we appreciate Lauren Maggio and Laura Moorhead for coming to Hawaii, and for NN/LM PSR for sponsoring the session. There were 18 attendees from 10 different libraries and institutions around Oahu, which was a very impressive turnout and a day well spent!

Enserink M. Scientific publishing. As open access explodes, how to tell the good from the bad and the ugly? Science. 2012 Nov 23; 338(6110):1018. PMID: 23180837.

Slawson DC & Shaughnessy AF. Teaching information mastery: creating informed consumers of medical information. Journal American Board of Family Practice. 1999 Nov-Dec; 12(6):444-9. PMID: 10612362.

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