Plain Language Summaries for Translation in Science

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At MLA last May, I was walking around the vendor hall, like most of us who attended, I assume. I was on a mission, though. I stopped by every vendor table that had anything to do with publishing or translational science, and talked with them at length about the idea of having plain language abstracts. I’ve been a fan of plain language initiatives for a long time, as evidenced by our library’s Plain Language Medical Dictionary app from some years ago. I wish I could say that I was doing this as a direct result of the PNAS article on the topic published in March, but no such luck. That would have helped make my arguments more compelling, I’m sure. I found the article today, thanks to the National Science Communication Institute retweeting Len Fisher.

A circuitous route, but effective enough to reach me. The article in question was this.

Lauren M. Kuehne and Julian D. Olden. Opinion: Lay summaries needed to enhance science communication. PNAS 112(12):3585–3586. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1500882112 http://www.pnas.org/content/112/12/3585

The article was short and sweet. It talked briefly (very briefly) about alternative modes of science communication, such as social media and blogs, and how they impact on audience, understanding, and adoption of new ideas. The authors then pointed out that these are limited to the few who choose to follow that channel, and it misses the benefits and affordances of mass media channels, a concept which they illustrated with a diagram of how they perceived the connections between the information channels and the audiences. Here’s the gist of it.

Scientists communicate with the public through these channels:
1) Social media and press releases
2) Journalist contacts
3) Lay abstracts
4) Traditional abstracts

The potential audiences are:
1) Public
2) Managers and decisionmakers
3) Scientists in other fields
4) Scientists in your own field

So far so good? There are obviously many more potential audiences as you subdivide these. In my conversations I was rather fond of mentioning insurance companies and agents as critical links in the chain of adopting healthcare innovations who are perhaps more likely to benefit from a plain language abstract. I also talked about the importance of highly motivated patients who take new articles to their clinicians as a recent and influential loop in the information chain that changes practice. For benefits to come through these channels requires not simply that there be a version of the abstract that is in plain language (a lay summary) but also, and equally important, that those lay summaries not be behind a paywall. One of the publishers was absolutely sure their abstracts were not being a paywall, and then when they went to show me, well (ahem), they found they were. As in, the abstracts were locked behind a paywall. Oops.

The most important part of the article’s diagram was the very subtle sideways dashes. Where do the journalists get the hook, the info that leads them to ask more questions and write those mass media articles that reach such large audiences? What triggers the journalist to reach out for those important conversations with the scientists? Well, the press releases, of course. That’s why our organizations work so hard on them. Seeing something posted and reposted on social media is another good way to reach them. But the traditional abstract? Not so much. The traditional abstract is crafted explicitly for other scientists in your field, and only partly for scientists beyond that. Now, a lay summary, a plain language abstract, that has HUGE potential as a way to reach journalists. It’s another marketing tool, beyond being the right thing to do to help patients, or to help get science into the hands of those who actually use it, or to help influence clinical practice and foster more rapid adoption of new discoveries and treatments.

Why Do You Visit the MLA Exhibit Hall?

A while back ago MLA sent out its meeting survey asking attendees their opinions about the meeting.  Lots of questions are asked so that MLA staff and future NPC (National Programming Committees) can learn from the responses.

I noticed one question needed a little bit of updating.  The question is regarding the exhibit hall and what types of information or products you (the librarian) is looking for.

(Question from the survey)
Check the types of information or products you were looking for: (Check all that apply)

  • Publications
  • Integrated information systems
  • Subscription services
  • Computer hardware & software
  • Online services
  • Binding services
  • Photocopying equipment
  • Security systems
  • Films & videotapes
  • AV equipment
  • Data-retrieval systems
  • Library furniture
  • Other health organizations
  • Other (has a text box to specify)

So my first thought is this question, specifically its answers, is dated.  Who is looking for films and videotapes in 2015. Online image bank collections yes, but films and videotapes?

My second thought is, how many people are clicking publications and subscription services and can/should those answers be more specific? For example aren’t a lot of our services subscription services?  Do we need something like journal subscription services, ebook subscription services, database subscription services? Or, does journal and ebook subscription services handled with the publications answer?

There are probably two reasons for the existence of this question.

  1. MLA wants to find more vendors that are relevant to librarian needs.
  2. MLA wants vendors to share what librarians are looking for/need.

So dropping the question is not a good idea, MLA staff and NPC’s still need that type of information.  However, we it needs to be revised.  This is where I am asking for your help.  Please either comment here on the blog, Twitter (@Krafty) or on my Facebook page with a few things of what you are looking for when you visit the exhibit hall.

 

 

 

Section Programming Changes at MLA Meetings

The MLA Futures Task Force investigated things members within MLA should/would/want to change going forward.  One of the big things that members wanted to see change was the annual meeting, specifically section programming.  Members expressed frustration that section program themes were too narrow or the program themes were too closely married to the overall annual meeting theme (which was sometimes very narrow). Members wanted an abstract submission process that was responsive to the current topics and trends of librarianship, not dependent on any theme.

In an effort to address members concerns the NPC for the 2016 has changed the submission practice for section programming.  Starting in 2016, the NPC will send a call out for papers and posters and they will not be asked to submit to any specific section driven theme.  Once submission deadline has passed members of section programming will select the best overall abstracts then base the themes and categories off of the approved abstracts.

This is a big change for section programming.  As result, the section planners for 2016 will be meeting in 2015 to discuss the changes going forward with programming planning because it will be a completely different process.  2016 section planners should be aware these changes will be happening, Amy Chatfield sent an email to all sections describing things.

Basically instead of forcing a square abstract peg into a round section programming hole, the section programming hole will be shaped around the shape of the abstract peg. This type of responsive programming is often found at biomedical conferences.  The intention is for this type of responsive programming to continue in 2017 and beyond.  Will it be perfect in 2016, no but we can learn from our mistakes and make tweaks to the process so that we can have the type of programming that our members and the Futures Task Force said we need.

**Update**
There will be a #medlibs tweet chat discussing the upcoming section programming for 2016 on May 7, 2015. Check http://medlibschat.blogspot.com/ for more information as time gets closer.

MLA Austin Hotel Rooms: BOOK NOW

Unfortunately MLA’s housing block is full, BUT rooms are STILL available outside the block.

If you are going, you can reserve a room by calling OnPeak or by using OnPeak’s reservation system on MLANET at
https://compass.onpeak.com/e/42MLA15/6#hotels

MLA’s dates overlap UT Austin’s pre-graduation activities with commencement scheduled on Saturday, 5/23 and as you can imagine there is a big demand for rooms.

We are are working to get additional rooms for the MLA block.  OnPeak and MLA have requested the additional rooms and when approved, more rooms will be opened in the online reservation system.

Why didn’t MLA and OnPeak get a bigger block of rooms?!  MLA is on the hook (in the form of penalties) if we don’t fill our room block.  MLA has been penalized before for failing to fill our room block.  So MLA and OnPeak are careful about the size of the block due to the high cost of penalties for unsold rooms.  Basically, we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.  Book a big block of rooms and people don’t stay in the conference hotel and MLA gets financially penalized.  Book a smaller block of rooms and we sell out of our block and people have a hard time getting the block rate.  Neither way is perfect, you just hope you can guess close to size block you need.

According to MLA,  as we get closer to the meeting, rooms open because there is significant wash of about 10% – 20%. These rooms will be shown on the online system as soon as they become available.

Bottom line: Don’t wait any longer to get a room. Anyone who needs a room should make their reservation NOW!

MLA 2016 Toronto: Problems Traveling Internationally

The 2016 annual meeting will be in Toronto and the NPC is looking to see if there are any barriers to going to an international meeting in Toronto that normally wouldn’t be a barrier if the meeting was withing the continental U.S.

Obviously people traveling to the meeting in Toronto will need an updated passport.  Plan early to get your passport if you don’t already have one.  Also check its expiration date, sometimes you may not be able to travel on a passport that is set to expire within three months.

The one nice thing is that the US dollar is stronger than the Canadian dollar so that gives us little bit of a “discount” when buying things over there.  However that usually isn’t realized on air travel and the cost of flights really depends on the airports.  For example, Cleveland is one of the more expensive airports to fly out of, so airfares for me are often painful. We all have budget issues to consider, I don’t think Toronto being an international conference is on the same cost level as an international conference overseas.  Based on a very brief look at the expenses, it doesn’t appear the cost to be any more or less of a barrier then one would typically encounter going to MLA.

I am not saying cost isn’t important, but my blog post today is more focused on the barriers unique to an international meeting.  One such barrier that may be related to this meeting is the permission or the ability to attend an international meeting.  Some hospitals, government entities, and other places will not fund travel to an international meeting (even if international is within North America and is closer than flying to San Francisco).  In this case the barrier is the fact that it is an international meeting and the institution will not fund international meetings.  So it isn’t the amount of the trip that is the barrier, but the fact that the institution will not pay for the trip at all.

Do you typically attend MLA?  If you typically attend, will you have some problems attending a conference in Toronto because it is international or will it be just fine?  Please make a comment and let us know.  I know the NPC would like to try and address any issues ahead of time.

 

Catch the Leiter Lecture Live Online Thursday

The Joseph Leiter NLM/MLA Lecture will be on Thursday June 12, 2014 at 1:00pm ET online http://videocast.nih.gov and on the campus of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

Terrence Sejnowski, PhD, will discuss “The BRAIN Initiative: Connecting the Dots.”
Dr. Sejnowski is a pioneer in computational neuroscience and his goal is to understand the principles that link brain to behavior. He is interested in the hippocampus, believed to play a major role in learning and memory; and the cerebral cortex, which holds our knowledge of the world and how to interact with it. His laboratory uses both experimental and modeling techniques to study the biophysical properties of synapses and neurons and the population dynamics of large networks of neurons. New computational models and new analytical tools have been developed to understand how the brain represents the world and how new representations are formed through learning algorithms for changing the synaptic strengths of connections between neurons. By studying how the resulting computer simulations can perform operations that resemble the activities of the hippocampus, Dr. Sejnowski hopes to gain new knowledge of how the human brain is capable of learning and storing memories. This knowledge ultimately may provide medical specialists with critical clues to combating Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that rob people of the critical ability to remember faces, names, places and events.
(from NIH website)

If you are in or nearby Bethesda, I highly recommend going because it is always interesting to hear the lecturer speak in person. But if you are in Cleveland or some other place that makes it impossible for you to physically be at the lecture, then you can watch it online. If for some reason you can’t watch it live then don’t worry the lecture will be recorded and available at http://videocast.nih.gov.

Engage with McGovern Lecturer Prior to MLA 14

It is crunch time and I know everybody going to MLA 14 in Chicago is scrambling to tie up lose ends at work or for Chicago.   But as you go over your schedule for MLA you might want to check out the McGovern Lecturer, Dr. Aaron Carroll’s blog or his Facebook page. Dr. Carroll has invited MLA members and attendees to begin a conversation with him in advance of the annual meeting on topics of interest by posting on his blog, friending him on Facebook, following him on Twitter, or emailing him.

For his lecture, Dr Carrol will be addressing issues on the Affordable Care Act and health care policy.  His blog, “The Incidental Economist: Contemplating health care with a focus on research, an eye on reform,” is “mostly about the U.S. health care system and its organization, how it works, how it fails us, and what to do about it.”  Dr Carroll is one of the Editors in Chief of the blog which also has several contributors who have “professional expertise in an area relevant to the health care system” as researchers and professors in health economics, law and other health service areas.

The Affordable Care Act and its impact on libraries and how librarians can help hospitals deal with certain aspects of it is a bit of a interest for me.  I have taught several classes to library groups in the past year about librarians can better align their goals to that of the hospital.  Since many hospitals goals are now focused around parts of the Affordable Care Act it makes sense that medical libraries develop strategies to support their institution’s Affordable Care Act goals.

For example…How can the medical library help the hospital

  • Prevent readmissions
  • Increase focus on preventive care
  • Improve patient satisfaction
  • Deal with Meaningful Use (not exactly ACA but very entwined)

Depending on the focus of the library or librarian, we might be able to help more than we or our administration realize.  Here is what some libraries are doing already…

  • Partnering with IT or CIO to provide evidence based medicine resources within the EMR
  • Partnering with IT or CIO to make sure that order sets are based on best available evidence
  • Embedded librarians rounding with patient care teams to help provide necessary information for patient care
  • Help provide patient education documents and information and make them accessbile to patients through the patient portal
  • Work with doctors to provide a prescription for health information to the patient through the EMR

Not only is it important the librarians do these things to help their institutions (BTW no one librarian can do it all but they should be doing something) achieve their goals, but it is equally important that we need to be MEASURING our impact.  If we don’t measure it, it didn’t happen.  Measuring can be tricky but it is necessary, especially if you want to keep your library and your job.  Gone are the days where you can say I did 103 MEDLINE searches for doctors and that helped them treat patients.  Really? How do you know those MEDLINE searches helped them? Did you ask what became of the search? Did you track how your information was being used?  All you know is that you did 103 searches. You don’t know whether that was a benefit to the institution or not.  We assume it was, but administration doesn’t assume anything.

I am looking forward to hearing Dr. Carroll speak.  But before I see him at MLA, I am going to try and start to engage with him to find out what we librarians can do to help our institutions deal with the ACA and make our ourselves more valuable to the institution.  I encourage everyone else to do the same with their own thoughts and questions prior to MLA.

 

 

Learn More About MLA Sections and Chapters in Chicago

Every other year at the annual meeting MLA used to hold the Section Shuffle where each of the sections would man a table and talk to members about their section.  Often there were themes and the sections would dress up or have candy and little prizes at the their table to try and entice members over to their table so that they could talk about everything the section is doing and encourage the member to join their section.

Section Council and Chapter Council decided to conduct a survey to determine what members were getting out of Section Shuffle, why people became a member of a Section or Chapter, why they continued (or didn’t) to be a member, and whether there could be alternatives to the Section Shuffle.

To sum the survey up….

  • Members found the Shuffle to be too crowded
  • Some did not like the food at the Shuffle or there wasn’t enough of it
  • Members weren’t always able to get in depth information they about the Sections due to the crowded and chaotic nature of the Shuffle
  • While members may have signed up during the Shuffle…Section engagement was the driving factor for renewal

So the Section and Chapter Council decide to change things up this year.  Instead of a Shuffle, Section and Chapter will be staffing posters during Poster Session 1 on Sunday May 18th highlighting their activities and unique characteristics at MLA ’14 in Chicago. Posters for participating Sections and Chapters will be on display at the MLA Registration Center. While the posters will be staffed during Poster Session 1 they will remain on display throughout MLA ’14 so members can drop by and learn more about the Sections and Chapters any time during the conference.

I have found Sections and Chapters to be a great way to get involved in MLA and my participation in my Sections and Chapters has significantly enriched my MLA membership experience.  So I encourage everyone to stop by a poster and join a Section and/or Chapter.

 

Help Choose the MLA Leadership

Do you know somebody who is innovative, inspiring, and basically would make a great leader within MLA?  Well time to step up and take action. The MLA Nominating Committee is identifying potential candidates for the 2014/15 election.  That means if you know of somebody you think would be good as a Board Member or President, then you need to submit their name (or yours), current current curriculum vitae and a paragraph outlining why the recommended person (or you) would be a good candidate.

This information must be sent to one of the members of the Nominating Committee (see below) by May 12th.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to help shape the future of MLA.

The 2014 Nominating Committee members have reviewed the job descriptions for President Elect/President/Past President and Board members, and have discussed key qualifications needed for candidates, including a person who has *broad experience within MLA, significant professional achievements,  a great capacity for leadership, a vision of the future of health sciences libraries, and an infectious enthusiasm for the excitement of librarianship at the present time*.  The Nominating Committee also discussed the importance of diversity in selecting the slate – key issues to consider are geographic region, library or information service type, and amount of experience.

Please read through the process for selecting candidates and electing the MLA president-elect and members of the MLA Board http://www.mlanet.org/members/pdf/2009_bylaws.pdf  (pages 2–3  MUST be MLA member and logged in to MLANET to read this document).

The slate will contain at least two candidates for president-elect (president during 2016/17) and at least four candidates for the two vacant board positions (2015–2018).

Job descriptions:

President http://www.mlanet.org/pdf/mla_officer_jobdesc_201002.pdf

Board members http://www.mlanet.org/pdf/mla_bod_jobdesc_200905.pdf

Remember, you need to submit by 12th because the Nominating Committee will meet at MLA ’14 to finalize the list of potential candidates.

Submit your candidates to the MLA 2014/2015 Nominating Committee:

  •  Jane Blumenthal, Chair – janeblum[at sign] umich [dot]edu
  •  Amy Blevins – blevinsamy[at sign] gmail [dot] com
  •  Jonathan Eldredge – jeldredge [at sign] salud.unm [dot] edu
  •  Susan Fowler – susanfowler.library [at sign] gmail [dot] com
  •  Mark E. Funk – mefunk [at sign] med.cornell [dot] edu
  •  Sally Gore – Sally.Gore [at sign] umassmed [dot] edu
  •  Heather N. Holmes – holmesh [at sign] summahealth [dot] org
  •  T. Scott Plutchak – tscott [at sign] uab [dot] edu
  •  James Shedlock –  jshedlock [at sign] rcn [dot] com
  •  Laurie L. Thompson – lauriethompson [at sign] ymail [dot] com

MLA Party With a Purpose

At this year’s annual meeting the final party will be slightly different.  It is a “Party with a Purpose.”

National Planning Committee is hosting a Silent Auction and the goal is to highlight the creative talents, passions (rare books, memorabilia) and other interests of attendees. Proceeds will benefit the MLA Scholarship fund, Section Project of the Year award, and the Chicago adult literacy organization Literacy Works (www.litworks.org/mission_and_history.html).

Ways you can donate…and what the NPC is looking for:

  • Do you have gift cards from places that you will never use? Example: I hate coffee, Starbucks gift cards are wasted on me, so I would donate any I have.
  • Do you have season tickets to the theater, orchestra, sports teams?  Are you really able to make every one of those dates? If not consider donating them.
  • Time shares, frequent flier points tickets/stays, etc. might also be good to donate.
  • Are you crafty (no not Krafty) and have jewelry, clothing, art, etc. that you can donate? Come on MLA I know there are a ton of knitters out there. How about donating a knitting basket or a cool throw?
  • Did you get an extra iPad or some other new technology that you don’t use for Christmas/birthday that you just haven’t gotten around to selling on eBay. Donate it to the the party.

Be creative! Fill out the donation form by May 5th.

YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO BE GOING TO MLA TO HELP!
You can still fill out the form and ship your item(s) to MLA (to arrive before May 6th) or ship them directly to the winner!

If the item is to be shipped directly to the winner you will want to take a picture or do something visual so that people can see what they are bidding on.

Examples:

  • If you have season tickets that haven’t been distributed yet, be creative an make dummy versions that indicate the event, location, seats, and date/time with a note that the official tickets will be shipped to the winner.
  • If you have a time share, include pictures of the time share and information including it location, dates, time and any other important information.

For more information read the FAQ from the NPC about donating items to Party with a Purpose.