Taubman Librarian Acknowledged in American Heart Association Scientific Statement

WhitneyIn the August 5th issue of Circulation, the magazine of the American Heart Association, our very own Whitney Townsend was lauded for her contributions to the latest scientific statement from the American Heart Association: Patient Safety in the Cardiac Operating Room: Human Factors and Teamwork.

Working in tandem with a team of librarians from a wide range of institutions, Whitney was instrumental in conducting the extensive critical literature searches which underpin the research and inform recommendations made in the scientific statement. A hearty kudos to Whitney and her far-flung colleagues!


And with that, dear readers, I wish you a fond farewell as I end my tenure managing the Taubman Health Sciences Library News Blog. It has been tremendously fun and educational, and I am honored to pass the baton to Caitlin‘s capable hands!

Spotlight On: Data Citation Index

One of the major factors underlying the rapid rise of altmetrics is that the web has enabled research outputs to be more diverse. The measure of research is no longer solely the publication – they are becoming research “products” (so much so that NSF now requires products rather than publications to be listed on their grant applications). The data set is one of the strongest examples in that research product category – yet finding, and citing, data is still cumbersome at best.

So when we had a Thomson Reuters customer education product specialist give a webinar to our library (among others), I jumped at the chance to learn more about their Data Citation Index (DCI).



I personally have not used DCI yet – but from what I can tell it is a souped-up federated search. It lets you search for datasets across different repositories (institutional and broader ones such as Figshare) as well as across different disciplines. Another added value feature is that DCI then links out to the actual research publications that are based on these datasets.

The rationale for DCI is quite clear – having data sets live in individual repositories, which have varying search structures – in effect, creating data silos. DCI aims to transcend those barriers.

Being the librarian that I am, I also love the DCI “suggested citation” feature. There is no current set of best practices when it comes to attributing data sets, but attribution is crucial nonetheless. Whenever you look at a record within DCI, each record has a “How to Cite this Resource” button that will generate something like this:



You can also set citation alerts to be notified whenever a publication (within Web of Knowledge) cites a specific data set.

University of Michigan affiliated readers should feel free to explore this resource, and if you have any questions you can always contact us at the Taubman Health Sciences Library.

Resources: Affordable Care Act in Michigan

Michigan map from The Century Company's 1897 atlas, digitized by the Stephen S. Clark Library, University of Michigan. Public domain.

Michigan map from The Century Company’s 1897 atlas, digitized by the Stephen S. Clark Library, University of Michigan. Public domain.

Michigan representative John Dingell has created a locally relevant guidebook on the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and how it relates to Michigan residents. We’ve previously covered resources from the federal government, but Dingell’s efforts focus on questions and information specifically tailored to Michigan residents.

You can see the full list of questions here and access a PDF of Representative Dingell’s guidebook here.

All About Altmetrics: NISO’s Information Standards Quarterly

We’ve written quite a bit here on altmetrics, so I was quite thrilled to get an update (via my colleague and fellow altmetrics enthusiast Jean Song) that the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) has just released a special themed issue of its Information Standards Quarterly (ISQ) publication, focusing solely on altmetrics.


An announcement on the Library and Information Technology Association’s listserv (lita-l) from ISQ’s managing editor give some more detail into the content of the special issue:

“The guest content editor for this September 2013 issue (volume 25, issue 2) is none other than Martin Fenner, the Technical Lead Article-Level Metrics for the Public Library of Science (PLOS) and Project Manager for the ORCID DataCite Interoperability Network (ODIN). Collaborating with NISO and ISQ, he has assembled a set of articles that go beyond the basics of what altmetrics are to look at emerging best practices and challenges presented by this burgeoning field. “Altmetrics have grown up,” states Fenner, “and the articles in this issue of ISQ reflect this shift in the discussion.”

The feature article, Consuming Article-Level Metrics, by Scott Chamberlain (Simon Fraser University) discusses the issues encountered when using scripting interfaces to obtain data from the four largest article-level metrics providers: PLOS, ImpactStory, Altmetric, and Plum Analytics. Commonalities and differences in consistency, provenance, and context are illustrated and metrics users are cautioned about combining data across providers.

While much of the focus to date has been on the use of altmetrics by and for individual researchers, Robin Chin Roemer (University of Washington Libraries) andRachel Borchardt (American University) in the second feature discuss Institutional Altmetrics and Academic Libraries, specifically how altmetrics has begun to address the needs of institutions and the key roles that librarians can play as partners, liaisons, and advocates in such endeavors.

Three “in practice” articles provide case studies for the way altmetrics are being used today. Jennifer Lin and Martin Fenner describe how altmetrics can be classified into different categories and how PLOS developed a new ontology to make sense of it all. Mike Taylor (Elsevier) discusses how altmetrics can expand our vision of scholarly communication and social impact, well beyond what bibliometrics and citation has done. William Gunn explores how the addition of papers to the Mendeley academic social network can provide a different view of research impact both within and beyond a particular discipline.”


You can access a PDF of the full issue here.

The Speed of Innovation

"Speedometer" by Dan Melanson (2010) CC BY NC SA 2.0

Speedometer” by Dan Melanson (2010) CC BY NC SA 2.0

A tip of the hat to my colleague Anna for sending this article along:

The New Yorker recently ran a piece by Atul Gawande, surgeon and author of three bestsellers, including The Checklist Manifestoexamining why some innovations catch on and spread like wildfire, while others take decades to witness widespread adoption. His opening comparisons are between anesthesia in medical procedures (rapid adoption) and antiseptics (a much slower process).

Gawande writes,

In our era of electronic communications, we’ve come to expect that important innovations will spread quickly. Plenty do: think of in-vitro fertilization, genomics, and communications technologies themselves. But there’s an equally long list of vital innovations that have failed to catch on. The puzzle is why…So what were the key differences?

Unsurprisingly, some of the divergence lay in the nature of the problems that the innovations addressed:

One [anesthesia] combatted a visible and immediate problem (pain); the other [antiseptics] combatted an invisible problem (germs) whose effects wouldn’t be manifest until well after the operation. Second, although both made life better for patients, only one made life better for doctors…This has been the pattern of many important but stalled ideas. They attack problems that are big but, to most people, invisible.

Second is the nature of the solution or innovation itself:

In the era of the iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become enamored of ideas that spread as effortlessly as ether. We want frictionless, “turnkey” solutions to the major difficulties of the world—hunger, disease, poverty. We prefer instructional videos to teachers, drones to troops, incentives to institutions. People and institutions can feel messy and anachronistic. They introduce, as the engineers put it, uncontrolled variability.

We have an affinity for quick, simple fixes – that affinity has only increased and tacked on the word “scalable” in the last decade. Yet many of the primary challenges we face as a society – Gawande mentions climate change, and national debt among his list – defy simplistic solutions that are the fodder of quick innovation.

I highly recommend sitting down with Gawande’s superb writing style and fascinating insights; you can read the full article here.

Pharma & Data Transparency

"self portrait" by shawnchin  (2005) CC BY-SA 2.0

self portrait” by shawnchin (2005) CC BY-SA 2.0

I absolutely adore those instances when my job and my degree dovetail, so reading about the pharmaceutical industry’s latest proposal for more transparent data was quite interesting. The interplay between data transparency to validate the effectiveness of clinical trials and protecting the privacy of the patients involved in those trials is certainly proving to be a delicate balance to strike.

The New York Times reports:

Representatives of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies pledged … to release detailed data about their drugs to outside researchers, a move that was applauded by some but also seen as an effort to head off more extensive disclosure requirements that are under review in Europe.

Yet, just a few months ago the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) had released a statement in response to Dr. Ben Goldacre’s Bad Pharma, which criticized the recommendations for transparent clinical trial data as “encourag[ing] second-guessing of the regulatory approval process, which would be disastrous for patients,” and could potentially “jeopardize patient privacy and could serve as a deterrent to individuals considering participation in trials.”

The New York Times goes on to point out that “proponents say doctors and patients need independent information — not just that provided by manufacturers — about the risks and benefits of drugs.” Meanwhile, there is already skepticism brewing in the wings. These developments should prove quite fascinating to follow in the months leading up to the proposed January 2014 adoption date.

Guidelines International Network Webinars


The Guidelines International Network North America (G-I-N NA) partners with Kaister Permanente to sponsor a monthly webinar series on topics of interest to the North American guideline community. Information on upcoming webinars, as well as audio files and slides from past webinars, is available on the G-I-N Web site.

The above is posted from the AHRQ Weekly Digest bulletin, July 21st (you can subscribe to the digests here).

Archived G-I-N webinars (all available at the following links) include:

The Myth of Supplements

Via The Atlantic’s The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements :

"Vitamin" by James Keuning 2012 for The Noun Project, CC0

Vitamin” by James Keuning 2012 for The Noun Project, CC0

Nutrition experts contend that all we need is what’s typically found in a routine diet. Industry representatives, backed by a fascinating history, argue that foods don’t contain enough, and we need supplements. Fortunately, many excellent studies have now resolved the issue.

A bevy of recent research studies have actually shown detrimental effects of supplement usage (including cancer risk, heart disease, and shortened lifespan ) – and yet we continue to purchase supplements in droves. The frenzy can be largely attributed to one man, Linus Pauling, “a man who was so spectacularly right that he won two Nobel Prizes and so spectacularly wrong that he was arguably the world’s greatest quack.

Vitamins have been billed as essential in the battle against free radicals, and “although it’s clear that free radicals can damage DNA and disrupt cell membranes, that’s not always a bad thing. People need free radicals to kill bacteria and eliminate new cancer cells. But when people take large doses of antioxidants, the balance between free radical production and destruction might tip too much in one direction, causing an unnatural state in which the immune system is less able to kill harmful invaders. Researchers have called this ‘the antioxidant paradox.’ Whatever the reason, the data are clear: high doses of vitamins and supplements increase the risk of heart disease and cancer; for this reason, not a single national or international organization responsible for the public’s health recommends them.

Read the full article here.

Now, I take vitamin supplements regularly, and I don’t believe that this article or the studies mentioned in it are wholesale indictments of the entire  process – but I do think they signal important points that consumers and patients should be aware of: that vitamins should not be viewed as a panacea of variety of conditions, and that we need to be cognizant of dosage levels.

New Report: The Global Burden of Disease & the State of US Health

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington has recently released a new report, The State of US Health: Innovations, Insights, and Recommendations from the Global Burden of Disease Study

Significant changes in life expectancy by county, The State of US Health: Innovations, Insights, and Recommendations from the Global Burden of Disease Study page 40, CC BY NC ND 3.0

Significant changes in life expectancy by county, from The State of US Health: Innovations, Insights, and Recommendations from the Global Burden of Disease Study page 40, CC BY NC ND 3.0

“The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) approach…is a systematic, scientific effort to quantify the comparative magnitude of health loss due to diseases, injuries, and risk factors by age, sex, and geography.” The IHME report is based on seven papers from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors study (2010) that appeared in The Lancet and American results from the July 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

IHME also has a complementary report on GBD evidence to guide policy.


A tip of the hat to Patricia, for telling me about this publication.