Perspectives on the Systematic Review Workshop at the University of Pittsburgh
by Bethany Myers, Research Informationist, UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library; Xan Goodman, Health & Life Sciences Librarian, Assistant Professor at the UNLV Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and Kay Deeney, Educational Services Coordinator, NN/LM Pacific Southwest Region
From Sunday July 13th through Wednesday July 16th, three members of the PSR Region ventured to the University of Pittsburgh to attend the Systematic Review Workshop: The Nuts and Bolts for Librarians. Xan Goodman, Health & Life Sciences Librarian, Assistant Professor at the UNLV Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Bethany Myers, Research Informationist, UCLA Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library; and Kay Deeney, Educational Services Coordinator, NN/LM Pacific Southwest Region attended.
The event started with a hosted dinner at the University of Pittsburgh Faculty Club Sunday evening. The following two and a half days were spent learning all about Systematic Reviews from five librarians based at the University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences Library System. Some of the topics covered were study design, librarian as co-investigator, the reference interview, reporting bias, grey literature, choosing databases, methodology filters, hand searching, data management, and writing the methods section of a systematic review article. Charlie Wessel, Mary Lou Klem, Barbara Folb, Linda Hartman, and Andrea Ketchum were the instructors.
The three attendees all addressed the following questions about the workshop!
Why did I want to take this workshop?
Xan: I was interested in taking this workshop to have a skill set to support the research initiatives at my institution. Also my university has plans to open a medical school and I anticipate that having Systematic Reviews skills will be helpful to clinicians and researchers who join the medical school.
Bethany: I was interested in taking this workshop because I haven’t had formal training in systematic reviews searching, and I wanted to improve my searching skills in order to support evidence-based publications such as systematic reviews and meta-analyses.
Kay: I was interested in taking this course in order to incorporate some more detail about Systematic Reviews into PubMed classes. Also, at PSR we get questions from librarians about Systematic Reviews that their nurses or doctors are interested in tackling with them.
What surprised me about the Workshop?
Bethany: I did not know what to expect, but had an idea that it might involve hands-on experience with MEDLINE or EMBASE. Instead, the workshop gave a high level overview of the whole process of creating a systematic review. The instructors emphasized that a systematic review is a research project in itself, and the search strategy is just one component of a long and arduous journey to evidence. This approach helped clarify the role(s) of the librarian as part of a larger team of investigators.
Xan: One surprising thing about the workshop is that it allowed me to reflect on my role as a librarian, teacher and scholar. There seems to be a tension in our field surrounding what our roles are in academia. This workshop brought back to my remembrance the importance of searching and the sense making involved in that activity, one of the fundamental differences between my role as librarian faculty member and other disciplinary faculty members is my experience as a searcher. Searching is a fundamental skill for librarians and it is essential to systematic reviews; our workshop instructors helped reinforce this concept for me. I was also pleasantly surprised by the great hospitality extended to us. A welcome dinner the evening before the workshop began and tasty snacks to keep us energized during the workshop!
Kay: I was pleasantly surprised that the class was interesting and well-taught by five different instructors. They were very responsive to questions, and it was nice meeting librarians from all over the US and Canada. The course material which I feared might be quite dry was actually very engaging!
How will I apply what I learned?
Xan: I plan to work with faculty in the School of Nursing at UNLV on systematic review projects. The School of Nursing has sent one of their faculty members to systematic review training at Johns Hopkins University. I will also apply the section of the workshop on grey literature to other non-systematic review search projects. Also, I will share the grey literature information with graduate students working on theses, dissertations, and capstone papers.
Bethany: I am hoping to take on a systematic review search soon, but in the meantime I am applying other strategies I learned during the workshop. I’m better at term harvesting, organizing search strings and search results, and explaining the rationale of systematic search methods to students who come to me for consultations.
Kay: As I mentioned, I will include more Systematic Review information in PubMed classes. And naturally, we are planning a Midday at the Oasis session on this topic in November!
Xan: The “green” aspect of the workshop was great too. There was no paper involved. Each workshop participant received all of the workshop materials on a handy flash drive. I liked this because of the environmental factors and because it helped to keep you organized. It is an excellent approach!
Xan: Our instructors were impressive. They were very knowledgeable, had lots of experience with systematic reviews, and inspire me to become more of an expert searcher.
Kay: Yes, the course was well organized. We were the 15th cohort to go through the class with 24 attendees. Our instructors were also very open to suggesting restaurants around Pittsburgh for our evening adventures!
The course is currently offered three times a year. The next class is expected to be held in October or November, 2014. For a description of the course, see their Systematic Review Workshop website.