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Archive for the ‘Communications Tools’ Category

NTC Webinar: Teaching Topics on February 19

Join members of the National Library of Medicine Training Center for three quick online presentations related to teaching topics. Jessi Van Der Volgen will discuss tips and tools for creating video tutorials. Cheryl Rowan will talk about including audience culture and diversity in your training sessions and Rebecca Brown will demonstrate how to integrate Zaption into your online training to add interactive opportunities to videos. Register now for this one-hour session on Friday, February 19, at 10:00 AM PST!

NIH unveils FY2016–2020 Strategic Plan

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has just released the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2016–2020: Turning Discovery Into Health, which will ensure the agency remains well positioned to capitalize on new opportunities for scientific exploration and address new challenges for human health. Developed after hearing from hundreds of stakeholders and scientific advisers, and in collaboration with leadership and staff of NIH’s Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICOs), the plan is designed to complement the ICOs’ individual strategic plans that are aligned with their congressionally mandated missions.

The plan focuses on four essential, interdependent objectives that will help guide NIH’s priorities over the next five years as it pursues its mission of seeking fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and applying that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. The objectives are to:

  1. advance opportunities in biomedical research in fundamental science, treatment and cures, and health promotion and disease prevention;
  2. foster innovation by setting NIH priorities to enhance nimbleness, consider burden of disease and value of permanently eradicating a disease, and advance research opportunities presented by rare diseases;
  3. enhance scientific stewardship by recruiting and retaining an outstanding biomedical research workforce, enhancing workforce diversity and impact through partnerships, ensuring rigor and reproducibility, optimizing approaches to inform funding decisions, encouraging innovation, and engaging in proactive risk management practices; and
  4. excel as a federal science agency by managing for results by developing the “science of science,” balancing outputs with outcomes, conducting workforce analyses, continually reviewing peer review, evaluating steps to enhance rigor and reproducibility, reducing administrative burden, and tracking effectiveness of risk management in decision making.

To inform development of the strategic plan, NIH solicited input from a wide range of stakeholders through a Request for Information, which generated more than 450 responses; a series of interactive webinars, which attracted more than 750 participants; and meetings with 21 NIH advisory councils, including the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director. The plan concludes with a bold vision for NIH, listing some specific achievements and advances that the agency will strive to deliver over the next five years.

New NLM VSAC Collaboration Tool Launched

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) Value Set Authority Center (VSAC) has just launched VSAC Collaboration; a tool to support communication, knowledge management and document management by value set authors and stewards. VSAC Collaboration provides a central site where value set authors can post value sets for collaborative discussion. In that site, teams can share threaded discussions about the value sets, view recent value set expansions posted by site members, organize their value sets by usage and by team’s workflow needs, and receive activity and change notifications from VSAC.

VSAC Collaboration Tool training webinars and slides are available. Access to the VSAC and to the VSAC Collaboration Tool requires a free Unified Medical Language System® Metathesaurus License.

Measuring What Matters in Your Social Media Strategy

We’re all trying to find ways to improve evaluation of our social media efforts. It’s fun to count the number of retweets and “likes.” But are these numbers meaningful? A recent program at the American Evaluation Association Conference in Chicago, “Do Likes Save Lives? Measuring What Really Matters in Social Media and Digital Advocacy Efforts,” presented by Lisa Hilt and Rebecca Perlmutter of Oxfam, provided a presentation designed to build knowledge and skills in planning and measuring social media strategies, setting digital objectives, selecting meaningful indicators and choosing the right tools and approaches for analyzing social media data. The presenters did not want to rely solely on what they called “vanity metrics,” for example the number of “impressions” or “likes.”  Alone these metrics show very little actual engagement with the information. Instead they chose to focus on specific social media objectives based on their overall digital strategy.

Develop a digital strategy:

  • Connect the overall digital strategy to campaign objectives: (for example: To influence a concrete change in policy, or to change the debate on a particular issue.)

Develop social media objectives:

  • You want people to be exposed to your message.
  • Then you want people to engage with it (for example, sharing your message) or make them work with it (for example: sign an online petition after reading it.)

Collect specific information based on objectives:

  • Collect data about social media engagement supporting your objectives that can be measured (for example “the Oxfam Twitter campaign drove 15% of the readers to signing its petition” vs. “we got 1500 likes”.)

The presenters suggested some types of more meaningful metrics:

  • On Twitter you can look at the number of profiles who take the action you want them to take, and then the number of tweets or retweets about your topic.
  • For Facebook, the number of likes, shares and comments mean that your audience was definitely exposed to your message.
  • Changes in the rate of likes or follows (for example if you normally get 5 new followers to your fan page a week, but due to a particular campaign strategy, you suddenly started getting 50 new followers a week.)
  • Number of “influential” supporters.
  • Qualitative analysis: Consider analyzing comments on Facebook posts, or conversation around a hashtag in Twitter.

Overall, the goal is to have a plan for how you would like to see people interact with your messages in relation to your overall organizational and digital strategies, and find metrics to see if your plan worked.

NIH Manuscript Collection Optimized for Text-Mining and More

NIH-supported scientists have made over 300,000 author manuscripts available on PubMedCentral (PMC) since 2008. Now, NIH is making these papers accessible to the public in a format that will allow robust text analyses. You can download the entire PMC collection of NIH-supported author manuscripts as a package in either XML or plain text formats. The collection will encompass all NIH manuscripts posted to PMC since July 2008. While the public can access the articles’ full text and accompanying figures, tables, and multimedia on the PMC website, the newly available article packages include full-text only, in a form that facilitates text-mining. This resource was developed to increase the impact of NIH funding. Through this collection, scientists will be able to analyze these manuscripts, further apply the findings of NIH research, and generate new discoveries. For more information visit the PMC author manuscript collection web site.

Pie Charts: Pros and Cons

Data visualization expert Stephen Few explained the problem with pie charts during this interview with the New York Times: “When looking at parts of a whole, the primary task is to rank them to see the relative performance of the parts. That can’t be done easily when relying on angles formed by a slice.” An article by American Evaluation Association’s president-elect John Gargani argues for retirement of the venerable pie chart. He make points that are repeated in many anti-pie chart blog posts. On the other hand, this post by Bruce Gabrielle of Speaking PowerPoint describes situations where pie charts can shine.

In general, most experts believe that the times and places to use pie charts are few and far between. If you have found one of those rare times, then here’s a post at Better Evaluation with design tips to follow. And for humorous examples of what not to do, check out Michael Friendly’s Evil Pies blog!

How to Throw a Data Party

A data party is another name for a kind of participatory data analysis, where stakeholders are gathered together to help analyze data that you have collected. Here are some reasons to include stakeholders in the data analysis stage:

  • It allows stakeholders to get to know and engage with the data.
  • Stakeholders may bring context to the data that will help explain some of the results.
  • When stakeholders participate in analyzing the data, they are more likely to understand and use it.
  • Watching their interactions often reveals the person with the power to act on your recommendations.

To begin the process, you need to know what you hope to gain from the attendees, since you may only be able to hold an event like this one time. There are a number of different ways to organize the event, such as the World Cafe format, where everyone works together to explore a set of questions, or an Open Space system in which attendees create their own agenda about which questions they want to discuss. Recently the American Evaluation Association held a very successful online unconference using MIT’s Unhangout, an approach that could be used for an online data party with people from multiple locations.

Here are suggested questions to ask at a data party:

  • What does this data tell you?
  • How does this align with your expectations?
  • What do you think is occurring here and why?
  • What other information do you need to make this actionable?

At the end of the party it might be time to present some of your findings and recommendations. Considering the work that they have done, stakeholders may be more willing to listen, since people often tend to support what they helped to create.

Infographics Guide from NIH Library Informationists

The Medical Library Association’s October 28 continuing education webinar, Data Visualization Skills and Tools for Librarians, was presented by Lisa Federer, Research Data Informationist at the NIH Library. The session provided information on different aspects of data visualization, including information about elements of design, such as color, line, and contrast. Lisa has also created the LibGuide Creating Infographics with Inkscape, which contains the resources for a class she taught with NIH Informationist Chris Belter. The LibGuide includes a Power Point presentation from the lecture part of the class. The slides cover design principles and design elements with links to resources such as Vischeck, a tool for finding out how colors in a chart appear to someone who is color blind, and The 10 Commandments of Typography, with suggestions for choosing font combinations that work well.

The second part of the class is a hands-on section for using Inkscape, a free, open-source graphics program, to make infographics. Inkscape allows you to use “vector graphics” to design infographics. Vector graphics are useful for image design, since they are based on pathways defined by mathematical expressions like lines, curves, and triangles, allowing images to get larger and smaller without losing any quality. If this sounds hard to do, there are Inkscape tutorials available to help. Other vector graphics editors are available, such as Apache OpenOffice Draw, a free service, or Adobe Illustrator. Comparisons with links to detailed information are available in Wikipedia’s “Comparison of Vector Graphics Editors.”

Tips for Writing Effective Survey Invitations

You may think of a survey invitation letter or email message as simply a delivery mechanism to send the questionnaire link to prospective respondents. The invitation may be an afterthought, hastily composed after the process of developing the questionnaire itself. However, a carefully crafted invitation has been proven to boost response rates, which are a key concern when conducting surveys. The following tips for writing invitation messages are all included in the 4th edition of Internet, Phone, Mail, and Mixed-Mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method, by Dillman, Smyth, and Christian (2014), an excellent resource for conducting all aspects of the survey process. It is evidence-based, drawing on an extensive body of research literature on survey practice.

Think of the survey invitation as a “communication plan,” utilizing multiple contacts with participants to elicit good response rates. Plan for a minimum of four contacts:

  • A preliminary message to let your participants know you will be sending them a questionnaire. (Do not include the questionnaire link)
  • An invitation message with a link to the questionnaire (2-3 days after the preliminary contact).
  • A reminder notice, preferably only to those who have not responded (one week after the invitation message).
  • A final reminder notice, also specifically to those who have not responded (one week after the first reminder).

Emphasize how the participants’ feedback will help your organization improve services or programs. This simple request appeals to a common desire among humans to help others. If applicable, emphasize that you need their advice specifically because of their special experience or expertise. It is best to use mail merge to personalize your email messages, so that each participant is personally invited by name to submit their feedback. If you are contacting people who have a relationship with your organization, such as your library users or members of your organization, play up that relationship. Also, make a commitment to share results with them at a later date. And be sure to keep that commitment!

Phishing and email scams may cause leeriness about clicking on links if an email message seems odd in any way. Make sure participants know they can trust your invitation email and survey link. Take opportunities to publicize your institutional affiliation. Incorporate logos or letterhead into your emails, when possible. Provide names, email addresses, and phone numbers of one or two members of your evaluation team, so participants know who to contact with questions or to authenticate the source of the email request. You may never get a call, but they will feel better about answering questions if you give them convenient access to a member of the project team. It is also helpful to get a public endorsement of your survey project from someone who is known and trusted by your participants. You can ask someone influential in your organization to send the preliminary letter or message on your behalf. Also, publicize the project over social media channels or through organizational newsletters or blogs.

Be explicit about who will have access to individual-level data. Be sure you know the difference between anonymity (where no one knows what any given participant specifically said) and confidentiality (where identifiable comments are seen by a few specific people). You can also let participants know how you will protect their identity, but don’t go overboard. Long explanations also can cast doubt on the trustworthiness of your invitation.

And finally, provide status updates when sending reminder messages. If you mention that you are getting great feedback from other respondents, it may motivate the late responders who want to match the behavior of their peers!

HHS Launches Resources System to Improve Disaster Preparedness

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), the Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange (TRACIE) features resource materials, a help line, just-in-time suggestions and tools to share information gleaned from real-life experiences in preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters. This effort resulted from the collaborative efforts of local, state and federal government agencies, regional health-care coalitions, academia, and partners from the private sector and nongovernmental organizations.

TRACIE provides technical resources and a technical assistance center, a comprehensive national knowledge center, and multiple ways to share information between federal, state and local officials. TRACIE’s technical resources include a living library of audience-tailored and subject matter expert-reviewed topic collections and materials highlighting real-life tools and experiences. TRACIE’s resources include user rating and comments, which can be used to help choose the best resource for a particular need. Through TRACIE’s assistance center, state, tribal, local and territorial officials can reach subject matter experts for technical assistance and consultations on a range of topics. Technical assistance could vary widely, including pediatric preparedness resources, crisis standards of care, tools to assess the readiness of hospitals and health care coalition for emergencies, lessons learned about delivering dialysis care during disasters, and more. Officials also can find training related to preparedness, response and recovery. The assistance center is available through a toll-free number, email, and online.

TRACIE also includes an information exchange. Through this forum, health care emergency preparedness stakeholders can discuss, collaborate and share information about pending and actual health threats and promising practices. Users also can exchange templates, plans and other materials through this feature. Users can get advice, including just-in-time advice, from hundreds of health care, disaster medicine, public health and public safety professionals, through TRACIE. TRACIE’s free registration allows users to rate the usefulness of the resources and to access the information exchange.