Tracking Grant Outcomes with PubMed Alerts

Caitlin_Suzy-thumb-271x202-742My name is Caitlin Kelley and I am a earning an MSI from the University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) in order to become a health sciences librarian. I chose my career path because it enables me to help connect people to the latest information and research to help connect communities and individuals with important health information. Through UMSI’s Alternative Spring Break program, I spent a frigid week in March at the National Library of Medicine in Washington, DC where I got a firsthand perspective of how funding and research are connected, and the larger role libraries play in the practical application of research.

I set out to complete a project on research outcomes from NLM grants. The project was an exciting opportunity to learn more about different ways libraries can contribute to scientific pursuits, along with other special issues facing researchers.

Since the scientific community is constantly asked to justify grant spending on research, it has become increasingly important to know exactly how grant money is being spent and the results of the research. My project was designed to promote accountability for NLM grants by tracking the publication outcomes from individual grants. Being able to point to tangible statistics on publications helps the NLM demonstrate the success and importance of their awards. To do this, I generated a semi-automated grant tracking mechanism that searches PubMed for publications attached to any NLM grant from a particular year. I turned every year of searches into a PubMed alert, which sends a monthly email with any new publication information to the NLM Extramural Program. From there, they are able to import the data and curate it to show the research impact of grants they’ve awarded.

Creating these alerts is a part of a larger trend in research justification and accountability. Tracking publication outcomes is just one way of doing this, albeit an imperfect one because of a myriad of issues, including inconsistencies in grant acknowledgement in publications or a failure to publish results from a grant. Despite its imperfections, the importance of trying to understand the impact of research is undeniable, especially since funding is only getting more competitive.

My experience at the NLM was a professionally important experience as I begin my career. It helped lay a foundation for understanding the medical research environment and the type of practical role the library can play in broader issues.

Get more on the story at the NLM’s In Focus news release: http://infocus.nlm.nih.gov/2013/05/spring-break-at-the-nlm.html

Caitlin Kelley is an Information Services Intern at Taubman Health Sciences Library. She is earning an MSI from the University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI). After graduation next May, she hopes to continue working to promote health information and literacy.

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