PLOS’s open data fever dream

I wanted to bring attention to this post on the fear’s of PLOS’s new open data policy from the blog of a neuroscience researcher. It addresses many of the concerns from the scientific research community concerning sharing data, and also highlights several ways that libraries can contribute. I encourage you to read through the comments section to learn more about additional (and innovative) ways researchers are working towards meeting this requirement. The PLOS policy is only the beginning, as many other requirements  will begin to emerge in the near future – including government mandates.

The publisher of the largest scientific journal in the world, PLOS, recently announced that all data relevant to every paper must be accessible in a stable repository, with a DOI and everything. Some discussion of this is going on over at Drugmonkey, and this is a comment that got out of hand, so I posted it here instead.

What is the purpose of this policy? I don’t see how anyone could be fooled into thinking this could somehow help eliminate fraud. Fraud is about intent to deceive, and one can deceive with a selective dataset as easily (or, actually, much more easily) than with Photoshop.

What else? Well, you could comb through the data of that pesky competitor or some other closely related work, looking for mistakes or things they missed that you could take advantage of. Frankly, I can’t imagine bothering. I mean, how could you not have…

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DataCite Releases Metadata Generator Tool – Here’s how it works

A post I wrote this morning for the Canadian Community of Practice for Research Data Management in Libraries about the new DataCite Metadata Generator Tool.

Canadian Community of Practice for Research Data Management in Libraries

Last week DataCite – the international registry of data citations – released a new tool designed to allow users to create metadata using text inputs through a quick and easy form in HTML.  What’s great about this tool is that it doesn’t require any software installation whatsoever, and it represents DataCite’s most recent version of their metadata schema – version 3. I tried out the tool myself and found it to be quite useful. The tool is very easy to install – DataCite’s description page of the metadata generator provides a link to a GitHub page. From there, you simply have to find the download option, and save the link with a .html file extension. Then, you can open the html file, and start generating metadata. I’ve included some screenshots of the tool below to give a clearer picture:

DataCite Mandatory Metadata


These elements represent DataCite’s most minimal metadata…

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Practicing what we preach: Data sharing & results reporting in library research

Recently I’ve been working on a survey of studies that focus on how libraries are reaching out to their institutions’ faculty and researchers about how they produce, share and store their data. Where I’m currently working we are trying to implement the same time type of research, but wanted to see what other libraries have done before launching into a project. I was even optimistic that some of the research I turned up might even give me the answers to our questions:

What type of data are biomedical researchers creating in a variety of disciplines?

Where do they stand in terms of sharing data?

How are they currently storing their data?

While I was pleased to find a number of articles that were excellent and exactly the type of research I was looking for (see the end of the post), I was ultimately disappointed in the content that I found. Let me explain the good first however, before I start with the bad.

The Good.

The methodology used in many of the articles I found was comprehensive, highly detailed, and provided me with a wealth of information about how I could go about finding out the answers to my data-related amongst my institution’s researchers and facutly. For example, many of the research studies described and provided (in detail) the interview questions that they used (Bardyn et al; Westra); focus group strategies (Adamick et al.; Jones et al.; and bibliographic analyses (Williams et al.; Xia et al.) – this was excellent material for me that I could reuse to structure my own institution’s approach to developing data-related services.

The Bad.

Where everything came apart for me was in several of the authors’  approach to the results section of their research. Very few articles excluding (Lage et al.; Scaramozzino et al.; Walters; Westra; Xia et al.) provided full results from their interviews or focus groups, and quantitative data was scarce. The reason I chose to survey existing research in the first place was to find out answers to my questions, and when I turn to research in my field, I expect to read concrete findings that will inform my own research.

For example, if I am reading  articles that state in the methodology that they surveyed their school of medicine researchers about their data-related habits, I am hoping to find data pertaining to the types and size of data their institution creates. This would be especially helpful if my institution serves similar biomedical disciplines and could ideally supplement a lot of work that would be required by a number of different libraries across the globe. Why wasn’t all of the data included in the article? Is there an underlying understanding that if I actually want to see full results I need to contact the author(s) directly to get it? This has to change.

The lack of results reporting is also a concern of mine because I have no evidence that these studies were actually completed. Sure you can say that the research study interviewed X number of people, and based on their responses you started a data management service. But what does that tell other people in our field about the behaviour, and work practices of researchers and faculty? Why omit the most interesting and useful data from the article?

The Promising.

Fortunately, I was able to find some excellent information from a select number of articles; Walters and Westra both provided articles that gave me a full indication of the types, size and department from which their data came from. Furthermore their description of their interviews were comprehensive, and strong quantitative data about their responses was collected and presented in the paper. This is what I come to expect from strong library-related research. We need to start thinking about presenting our data more clearly, and presenting all of it to our fellow information professionals.

Let it be known that I am not trying to condemn a large portion of library research because it does not provide the comprehensive level of data and results one comes to expect from quality research. Instead, I am hoping to encourage us all (myself included) to be more thorough in our data collection and results reporting, and think about who our research can be useful for. Is the purpose of publishing research just to publish? Or is it to help others advance the profession and implement products and services that have been proven to be effective?  We are a profession that prides itself on our encouragement and passion for information sharing; by following this mantra in our research more effectively I believe we have the capacity to produce outstanding research that will be of direct benefit to librarians in their work, and ultimately to the institutions that we serve. Thanks for reading – I’m happy to discuss this further in the comments if anyone is interested.


Adamick, Jessica, MJ Canavan, Steven McGinty, Rebecca Reznik-Zellen, Maxine Schmidt, and Robert Stevens. 2011. Building as We Climb: The Data Working Group at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. University of Massachusetts and New England Area Librarian e-Science Symposium.

Bardyn, Tania P., Taryn Resnick, and Susan K. Camina. 2012. “Translational Researchers’ Perceptions of Data Management Practices and Data Curation Needs: Findings from a Focus Group in an Academic Health Sciences Library.” Journal of Web Librarianship 6 (4) (October): 274–287.

Carlson, Jacob, Michael Fosmire, C.C. Miller, and Megan Sapp Nelson. 2011. “Determining Data Information Literacy Needs: A Study of Students and Research Faculty.” Portal: Libraries and the Academy 11 (2): 629 – 657.

Delserone, Leslie M. 2008. “At the Watershed: Preparing for Research Data Management and Stewardship at the University of Minnesota Libraries.” In Library Trends, 57:202–210. Urbana-Champaign, Illinois: John Hopkins University Press and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science.

Harrison, Andrew, and Sam Searle. 2010. “Not Drowning , Ingesting : Dealing with the Research Data Deluge at an Institutional Level.” In VALA2010 Proceedings.

Hruby, Gregory William, James McKiernan, Suzanne Bakken, and Chunhua Weng. 2013. “A Centralized Research Data Repository Enhances Retrospective Outcomes Research Capacity: a Case Report.” Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association : JAMIA (January 15): 1–5. doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2012-001302.

Johnson, Layne M., John T. Butler, and Lisa R. Johnston. 2012. “Developing E-Science and Research Services and Support at the University of Minnesota Health Sciences Libraries.” Journal of Library Administration 52 (8) (November): 754–769.

Jones, Sarah, Seamus Ross, and Raivo Ruusalepp. 2009. “Data Audit Framework Methodology”. Glasgow.

Lage, Kathryn, Barbara Losoff, and Jack Maness. 2011. “Receptivity to Library Involvement in Scientific Data Curation: A Case Study at the University of Colorado Boulder.” Portal: Libraries and the Academy 11 (4): 915–937.

Newton, Mark P, C C Miller, and Marianne Stowell Bracke. 2011. “Librarian Roles in Institutional Repository Data Set Collecting: Outcomes of a Research Library Task Force.” Collection Management 36 (1): 53–67.

Peters, Christie, and Anita Riley Dryden. 2011. “Assessing the Academic Library’s Role in Campus-Wide Research Data Management: A First Step at the University of Houston.” Science & Technology Libraries 30 (4) (September): 387–403.

Piwowar, Heather a. 2011. “Who Shares? Who Doesn’t? Factors Associated with Openly Archiving Raw Research Data.” PloS One 6 (7) (January): e18657. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018657.

Raboin, Regina, Rebecca C. Reznik-Zellen, and Dorothea Salo. 2012. “Forging New Service Paths: Institutional Approaches to Providing Research Data Management Services.” Journal of eScience Librarianship 1 (3).

Reznik-Zellen, Rebecca, Jessica Adamick, and Stephen McGinty. 2012. “Tiers of Research Data Support Services.” Journal of eScience Librarianship 1 (1): 27–35. doi:10.7191/jeslib.2012.1002.

Scaramozzino, Jeanine Marie, Marisa L. Ramirez, and Karen J. McGaughey. 2012. “A Study of Faculty Data Curation Behaviors and Attitudes at a Teaching-Centered University.” College & Research Libraries 73 (4) (July 1): 349–365.

Soehner, Catherine, Catherine Steeves, and Jennifer Ward. 2010. “E-Science and Data Support Services” (August).

Trinidad, Susan Brown, Stephanie M Fullerton, Julie M Bares, Gail P Jarvik, Eric B Larson, and Wylie Burke. 2010. “Genomic Research and Wide Data Sharing: Views of Prospective Participants.” Genetics in Medicine : Official Journal of the American College of Medical Genetics 12 (8) (August): 486–95. doi:10.1097/GIM.0b013e3181e38f9e.

Walters, Tyler O. 2009. “Data Curation Program Development in U.S. Universities: The Georgia Institute of Technology Example.” International Journal of Digital Curation 4 (3): 83–92.

Westra, Brian. 2010. “Data Services for the Sciences: A Needs Assessment.” Ariadne (64).

Williams, Sarah C. 2013. “Using a Bibliographic Study to Identify Faculty Candidates for Data Services.” Science & Technology Libraries (May 9): 1–8.

Xia, Jingfeng, and Ying Liu. 2013. “Usage Patterns of Open Genomic Data.” College & Research Libraries 74 (2) (March 1): 195–207.

Guest Post from Diana Almader-Douglas: Raising Awareness about the Importance of Culture on Health Literacy for Librarians

This isn’t something i’ve done before, but one of my fellow colleagues – Diana Almader-Douglas, has spent the last 6+ months updating some excellent resources on culture and health literacy at the National Library of Medicine. Diana is incredibly knowledgeable about these issues, and has asked if I would be willing to let her write a short post on my blog. You can read the post in its entirety below, and it is full of useful information about this issue – especially for health sciences librarians. I will make a disclaimer that this post is more focused on issues in the US, but I think that issues surrounding culture and health literacy presented here are applicable to Canada as well. Enjoy!

Diana Almader-Douglas:

Through a National Library of Medicine Associate Fellowship Project, I evaluated and enhanced the National Network of Libraries of Medicine’s (NN/LM) Health Literacy resource by adding content and resources related to culture in the context of health literacy.

By providing information about the relationship between culture and health literacy, the highly-utilized resource has the ability to impact a wider audience by encouraging the dissemination of culturally relevant health information by librarians and information professionals.

Through this project, I aimed to raise awareness about vulnerable and special populations while highlighting the connection to health disparities and health literacy.

Culture is one component of health literacy, but it is also a critical element of the complex topic of health literacy. Culture shapes communication, beliefs, and the comprehension of health information.  By enhancing the NN/LM Health Literacy Web page with content about health literacy in a cultural context, users of the page, and end users will be able to better meet the health information needs of vulnerable and diverse population groups they are serving. 

For more information about culture and health literacy, visit:

Benjamin RM. Improving Health by Improving Health Literacy. Public Health Rep. 2010, Nov-Dec; 125(6):784-785. Available from:

United States Department of Health & Human Services. Health Resources and Services Administration (HSRA). Culture, Language and Health Literacy. Available from:

United States Department of Health & Human Services. National Library of Medicine Specialized Information Services Outreach Activities & Resources.Multi-cultural Resources for Health Information. Available from:

Thanks for reading. I hope health sciences librarians will find this information to be useful. Just to add a bit of Canadian content, I have included some Canadian health literacy resources below – many of which could use the cultural focus that Diana has implemented for the NNLM:

Canadian Public Health Association Health Literacy Portal:

Canadian Council on Learning. Health Literacy in Canada: A Healthy Understanding:

Health Literacy Council of Canada:

Public Health Agency of Canada:

Podcast on Health Literacy and Cultural Competence. Centre for Literacy: 


Why don’t Canadian medical librarians (#canmedlibs) have/use a Twitter hashtag?

I have spent the last 2+ years of my young medical library career pondering this question. I have benefitted from interacting with medical librarians on Twitter through the fantastic #medlibs hashtag – I use it for finding new information about the field, interacting with colleagues, and sharing great information I find those I know will find it useful. When it comes to Canadian library content however, I have no easy way of sharing this information. The same can be said for when I want to find useful information for Canadian medical librarians – I have no easy way to look for it on Twitter. That is not to say traditional methods of finding useful information on websites is a bad thing, but I personally think Canadian medical librarians would really benefit from a hashtag that would synthesize all of this great content and news. I’m going to spend the rest of this post trying to point to some great content i’ve found from Canadian medical librarians on Twitter, and hopefully prove my own point as to why a #canmedlibs hashtag would be useful. Here it goes.

Canadian Medical Librarian Tweeters

Below is a perfect example of a tweet that would benefit from a Twitter hashtag for Canadian medical librarians, and Dean Giustini has tried to incorporate the #canmedlibs hashtag to make it more searchable. This is a great tweet about the research papers published from the Canadian Health Library Association journal – what #canmedlibs wouldn’t want to know about that?

Here is a tweet from Natalie Clairoux, a medical librarian from the University of Montreal. Here she is posting some wonderful information about registration for the upcoming Canadian Health Library Association conference in May. This tweet would be incredibly useful for #canmedlibs, but Natalie has to use the #medlibs hashtag where a Canadian might have a hard time finding the information amongst the rest of the American-focused tweets. Natalie also posts excellent information related to bioinformatics, data management and medical information that would be very useful for #canmedlibs.

Another tweet from Mary-Doug Wright that introduces a new health innovation portal – this is a perfect opportunity to share this information with other #canmedlibs.

Aa tweet from Carol Cooke that provides a link to her health sciences library subject guide. This is another chance to provide #canmedlibs with insight into how other libraries are building their guides and providing services.

Below is another example of a Canadian medical librarian – Karen Neves – tweeting about Dalhousie University’s work with patron driven acquisitions, this provides more useful information about what other Canadian institutions are doing with their library services.

Doug Salzwedel is another great #canmedlibs tweeter who works at Cochrane and always provides great information with a Canadian focus. He also posts and retweets Cochrane-related information which I find useful:

Sarah McGill provides excellent tweets about systematic reviews and local Ottawa library-related events. I always enjoy her Twitter feed and I think a lot of other #canmedlibs would too.

Franklin Sayre is another colleague and relatively new medical librarian in Canada that tweets a lot of useful information about medical librarianship:

Canadian Health Library Associations and Libraries

The other obvious group that provides useful information about Canadian medical libraries are all of the wonderful medical libraries and professional associations across Canada; if they were using a common hashtag like #canmedlibs it would provide a one stop shop for information. The Canadian Health Libraries Association (CHLA-ASBC) is the most obvious Twitter feed that would do well to provide a #canmedlibs hashtag, as they offer some of the premier and seminal information in the field:

The Health Library Association of British Columbia also provides some great tweets that have a more local Canadian focus:

The University of Toronto Gerstein Health Sciences Library  has a great feed that offers student experience pieces from time to time about their time spent within the library:

The University of Alberta John W. Scott Health Sciences Library has a great Twitter account that introduces new library databases, discusses ongoing health research at the U of A, and provides retweets with a Canadian focus:

There are many more examples I could include, but for the sake of brevity I will stop it there as I hope there are enough examples to prove my point that Canadian medical librarians would benefit from a #candmedlibs hashtag.

Why is this important?

I think it is important to have an official #canmedlibs hashtag because it took me almost TWO FULL HOURS to find all of this great library-related information with a Canadian focus. If I had the hashtag, it would have taken me less than a minute. That should be reason enough for us all to start using #canmedlibs. 

Another reason is I think that because we as Canadian medical librarians are so dispersed across the country (and in my case across the continent), that the use of a hashtag could really bring us together more easily and start a new collaborative culture. I know it already exists on the #medlibs chat, so why shouldn’t we have it too? I already talk to #canmedlibs regularly on Twitter, but it would be great to get more people in on the conversation. 

Finally it is important because I love sharing information, and I think other librarians do too. If I have found some useful piece of information that I know will be of interest to #canmedlibs, I want to make sure that I know they are going to see it. Using a hashtag would at least help this process along. The same idea can be said for the other way around; I’m always looking for medical library material with a Canadian focus but it is exceedingly hard to find. In the most selfish way possible, #canmedlibs would really help me find the information I need.

Currently only myself and Dean Giustini have used the #canmedlibs tag on our tweets – but I’m hoping that this blog post might encourage other Canadian medical librarians to do the same. I know there are lots of us out there because many of them are listed on the HLWIKI International website. Sharing is caring after all! I would love to hear from any #canmedlibs who might think this is a good (or bad) idea. Feel free to weigh in!

****I’m sorry if I missed any fantastic Canadian medical librarian tweeters, if you use #canmedlibs next time you tweet i’ll be able to find you more easily :)*****

Excellent list of medical apps for medical librarians. I would also add some of the other NLM apps not mentioned that are useful here: I’m also a big fan of Medscape, Epocrates and Skyscape and have found that many physicians like them too.

Emerging Technologies Librarian

Last night, in the #MedLibs chat on Twitter, there was a conversation about benefits of librarians going on rounds with the doctors (shorter stay, reduced mortality, increased patient safety, reduced costs) (bibliography from “Librarians on the Front Lines“).

A side conversation about our favorite apps took on its own life. I wanted to collect all my notes in one place for easy reference, so when I have more time I can come back to download any of the apps I don’t already have. Here we go!

Sensitivity Specificity App for iPad

Sensitivity & Specificity
($0.99) iTunes | Google Store | Amazon

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Great overview of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) research data management course. The post goes through the steps of the course and the lessons learned. I’m glad Canada is starting to jump on to this trend as I think there are many opportunities for librarians to assist in research data management. I can’t wait to share what I’m learning about data sharing and data management at the NLM with Canadian libraries once my fellowship is finished!