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Archive for July, 2013

Mobile Devices Transform Disaster Relief

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Man on cell phone in flood

As reliance on and use of mobile devices continues to grow worldwide, the use of these devices to aid in disaster recovery and relief efforts is becoming more commonplace. Earlier this month the Center for Technology and Innovation at the Brookings Institute released the report “How Mobile Devices Are Transforming Disaster Relief and Public Safety” which provides a more in-depth assessment of how mobile devices and mobile technology are transforming disaster relief and public safety.

Mobile devices including smart phones and tablets are enabling both the general public and emergency responders to stay connected to important information in times of crisis. According to the report mobile devices provide early warning systems, aid in the coordination or emergency response, and improve public communications.

The report provides real world situational examples of how mobile technology has been used in response to natural disasters such as earthquakes and as well as for emergency preparedness. According tot he report, mobile devices are also playing an important role in alerting the public to events such as terrorist attacks and shooting incidents. The report includes examples of smartphone applications that have been created to help individuals in an attack scenario find safety. The use of mobile devices for improved public safety has also led to the development and use of mobile applications for sending alerts to notify users of events happening or reported in their area.

The report includes many examples of applications and uses of mobile technology for emergency preparedness, disaster recovery, emergency education, alert systems, and other forms of communication. The global reach of mobile devices continues to transform disaster response efforts around the world.

NLM requests feedback for new Discovery Tool

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Locator Plus Logo

The National Library of Medicine recently started a new project for selecting and implementing a modern Web-based discovery and delivery platform to provide innovative search and delivery of the wide range of NLM collection resources.  The project will be carried out in phases with the initial goal of replacing LocatorPlus, the NLM online public access catalog.

As you are aware NLM recently requested feedback on how you use LocatorPlus. This is in support of a project to implement a new system to provide search and delivery of the wide range of NLM collection resources. We sent a number of specific questions seeking this feedback. Rather than responding to these questions we would like to ask you to provide us general feedback on how LocatorPlus meets your needs and what we could improve.  Your comments can still be provided to Iris Lee at

NIH Commits Funding for Big Data Centers of Excellence

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Big Data Road Sign

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced plans to fund up to $24 million per year for four years to establish six to eight investigator-initiated Big Data to Knowledge Centers of Excellence. The centers will improve the ability of the research community to use increasingly large and complex datasets through the development and distribution of innovative approaches, methods, software, and tools for data sharing, integration, analysis and management. The centers will also provide training for students and researchers to use and develop data science methods.

Biomedical research is increasingly data-intensive, with researchers routinely generating and using large, diverse datasets. Yet the ability to manage, integrate and analyze such data, and to locate and use data generated by others, is often limited due to a lack of tools, accessibility, and training. In response, NIH launched the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative in December. This initiative supports research, implementation, and training in data science that will enable biomedical scientists to capitalize on the transformative opportunities that large datasets provide. The investigator-initiated BD2K Center of Excellence funding opportunity is the first of several BD2K funding opportunities to be announced in coming months.

An information webinar for prospective applicants will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. EDT. More details about this event and the overall BD2K initiative can be found at NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) website. Applications will be due on Nov. 20, 2013.

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Resources Page Now Available

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Health Insurance Marketplace Badge

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been much in the news recently. It is becoming evident that libraries, particularly public libraries, will be called upon to serve a role in the rollout of the ACA. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has been in conversations with several government agencies regarding the role of the NLM, the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM) and the eight regional offices, which continues to develop.

To assist our Network members with this endeavor, the NN/LM SCR has recently developed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Resources page.

We will continue to monitor and update the information on the page and keep Network members updated as we gain additional information.



Three Librarians from Region Visit Lister Hill Center

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Group of people poses around table at Lister Hill Center

Recently three librarians from the South Central Region were invited to Bethesda, Maryland for an inside look at the National Library of Medicine (NLM), Lister Hill Center for Biomedical Communications. Through the support of the South Central Academic Medical Libraries (SCAMeL) Consortia and their libraries, John Goodell, Reference and Outreach Librarian at the University of Arkansas for Health Sciences Library, Mark Hopkins, Library Technology Manager at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Robert M. Bird Library, and Jason Bengtson, Emerging Technologies/R&D Librarian at the University of New Mexico Health Science Library and Informatics Center were able to travel to Maryland for an informative tour and learning session at the NLM. Provided below they have shared a few of the take-away points from their experience.

The group spent two days interacting with the team responsible for the development of an impressive new literature based discovery tool. Semantic MEDLINE is a visual literature based discovery tool used for identifying previously unrecognized relationships in the biomedical literature. It provides a new approach for hypothesis generation and creativity enhancement.

The group not only discussed how Semantic MEDLINE functions as a product or works with the literature, but how librarians can become more active and use Semantic MEDLINE to support users in new ways that will enhance their research capacity, making librarians even more integral in the research process. The group found this to be an extremely rewarding and positive experience and left feeling energized, having set in motion a good relationship that will allow them to continue working closely with NLM so that their libraries and the Region can be leaders as these new products become available to everyone.

Text provided by: Jon Goodell, Jason Bengtson, and Mark Hopkins
Photo by: Mark Hopkins

Do You Know Your Microbiome?

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Microbes“Not so long ago, most people thought that the only good microbe was a dead microbe. But then scientists started to realize that even though some bugs can make us sick and even kill us, most don’t. In fact, in the past decade attitudes about the bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes living all over our bodies has almost completely turned around. Now scientists say that not only are those microbes often not harmful, we can’t live without them.”

These words, from a recent feature story on National Public Radio, “Staying Healthy May Mean Learning to Love Our Microbiomes,” are part of the rationale behind the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Human Microbiome Project (HMP). “The vast majority of them are beneficial and actually essential to health,” says Lila Proctor, program director for the HMP. The project is identifying microbes on key body parts, including the nose, gut, mouth and skin, in order to get a better sense of the microbes’ role in human health. While scientists have known for a long time that humans depend on microbes to digest food, there is a growing realization that they’re really like an “11th organ system.”

This week, scientists from NIH and research institutions are gathering in Bethesda, MD, to discuss to discuss the human microbiome and its relationship to disease and human health, including obesity, behavior, heart disease and cancer. Human Micorbiome Science: Vision for the Future, takes place July 24 – 26, 2013. The meeting will also be broadcast live.

This expanding view of the microbiome is changing how some people think about humans — not as individual entities but as what Rosamond Rhodes, philosopher  and bioethecists calls a “supraorganism.”

Big Data to Knowledge BD2K

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Commonfund recently launched the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) imitative. The mission of the BD2K initiative is to enable biomedical scientists to capitalize more fully on the Big Data being generated by those research communities.

Big Data Tablet

With advances in technologies, these investigators are increasingly generating and using large, complex, and diverse datasets. Consequently, the biomedical research enterprise is increasingly becoming data-intensive and data-driven. However, the ability of researchers to locate, analyze, and use Big Data (and more generally all biomedical and behavioral data) is often limited for reasons related to access to relevant software and tools, expertise, and other factors. BD2K aims to develop the new approaches, standards, methods, tools, software, and competencies that will enhance the use of biomedical Big Data by supporting research, implementation, and training in data science and other relevant fields that will lead to:

  • Appropriate access to shareable biomedical data through technologies, approaches, and policies that enable and facilitate widespread data sharing, discoverability, management, curation, and meaningful re-use;
  • Development of and access to appropriate algorithms, methods, software, and tools for all aspects of the use of Big Data, including data processing, storage, analysis, integration, and visualization;
  • Appropriate protections for privacy and intellectual property;
  • Development of a sufficient cadre of researchers skilled in the science of Big Data, in addition to elevating general competencies in data usage and analysis across the biomedical research workforce.

Overall, the focus of the BD2K initiative is the development of innovative and transforming approaches as well as tools for making Big Data and data science a more prominent component of biomedical research.

As biomedical tools and technologies rapidly improve, researchers are producing and analyzing an ever-expanding amount of complex biological data. New analytics tools are needed to extract critical knowledge from this vast amount of data, and new policies must be developed to encourage data and software sharing to maximize the value of the data for all researchers across the spectrum of biomedical research. In addition, data and metadata standards to ensure data quality and uniformity must be developed, with broad input from the scientific community to ensure that these standards will have maximum utility and value.

Funding and educational opportunities are provided through the BD2K initiative.

Each day more and more data is generated. Through efforts such as the BD2K initiative it is hoped that the data can be widely used across disciplines  and lead to scientific discovery or breakthroughs, particularity in the fields of health and medicine. Health science librarians also play an important role in the organization and curation of data. With expert skills in organization of information librarians are well suited to participate with researchers in data organization processes.

Surviving the Swelter

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Thermometer and Sun According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), heat kills an average of 1,500 people a year in the US—a number higher than any other weather-related event.  The Red Cross defines some terms that you may hear regularly during hot weather months:

  • Excessive Heat Watch – Conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed local Excessive Heat Warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.
  • Excessive Heat Warning – Heat Index values are forecasting to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least 2 days (daytime highs=105-110° Fahrenheit).
  • Heat Advisory – Heat Index values are forecasting to meet locally defined advisory criteria for 1 to 2 days (daytime highs=100-105° Fahrenheit).

During times of extreme heat everyone–but especially infants, children and adults over the age of 65–are at an increased risk of suffering from a heat-related illness. Some of the most common include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (or sunstroke).

So what can you do to stay safe during the hot weather?

For more information about extreme heat safety, visit the following:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention site on Extreme Heat Emergency Preparedness and Response

Environmental Protection Agency’s Excessive Heat Events Guidebook

NOAA Tips for Staying Healthy and Cool During the Summer

National Weather Service/NOAA page on Heat (including heat index numbers and information)


PubMed Health SCR CONNECTions Recording Now Available

Friday, July 19th, 2013

PubMed Health Logo

The recording of Wednesday’s SCR CONNECTions webinar, PubMed Health and Systematic Reviews with guest speaker Hilda Bastain from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) is now available in the SCR CONNECTions archive. A link to the presentation materials can also be found at that site. The class is available for 1 hour of MLA CE through August 2.

Hilda provided an overview not only of PubMed Health but also of systematic reviews and the systemic review process. Hilda has over 25 years of experience with systematic reviews and is an expert in the field.

Join us August 21st for the next SCR CONNECTions webinar. Topic: Video Creation Tools and Tips with speaker Emily Hurst.



Disaster Preparedness Comics

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Cover of Eye Over Houston comic

Looking for a new way to get the word out on disaster preparedness? The National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO) and  the Public Health – Seattle & King County Advanced Practice Center have created the Survivor Tales series; three short comic books featuring real-life stories from natural disaster survivors. These three comics (all illustrated by David Lasky) cover preparedness and recovery stories for three different natural disasters including hurricanes (titled Eye Over Houston), flooding (titled In Deep Water), and earthquakes (titled Aftershocks). Listed after each story is more information on disaster preparedness, including emergency kit basics, creating a plan, and getting involved.

The goals and objectives of this project (as found on the NACCHO site) are as follows:

• Engage adults and youth in emergency preparedness through a compelling visual style and narrative that highlight positive messages of resilience, community support, and the benefits of preparedness.
• Provide basic information about emergency preparedness and specific hazards in a pictorial format that is more accessible and appealing to lower literacy and immigrant populations.
• Illustrate real-life disasters to help readers anticipate how a disaster might play out and determine what they need to be ready.

In order to access these comics, an account must be created on the NACCHO site. Users can register for an account for free (please note that an account on the website is not the same as membership to NACCHO) by selecting the “Sign In” button in the top right-hand corner and then choosing the “Create Account” option. Once the account is created,  the comics will be available to download.