Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Research Evaluation Support Services in Biomedical Libraries

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Research Evaluation Support Services in Biomedical Libraries

Article excerpt


Over the past few decades, libraries supporting research-intensive universities, major health institutes, and medical schools have found themselves entering a new, dynamic environment. Specific developments in information access, organization, and services have made libraries key players in tracking the dissemination and impact of research, clinical care, and teaching in the biomedical domain.

The implementation and use of increasingly sophisticated literature databases, repositories, content management systems, and research networking platforms afford libraries access to a vast array of digital data. These data are both qualitative and quantitative and include bibliographic data, survey data, gray literature, altmetrics and social media data, and grant funding data. Given their expertise in discovering, capturing, describing, analyzing, curating, and visualizing data, librarians are well qualified to develop and promote innovative approaches to biomedical data management, analysis, and visualization.

The rise in evidence-based decision making and the increased demand for evaluation of research [1] has led many libraries to develop research evaluation support services. Libraries can serve as neutral but active participants in an evaluation setting by proposing reliable measures, providing appropriate data, and reinforcing responsible use of metrics [2]. In the broad evaluation landscape, libraries are involved in many types of projects, and generally, these projects focus on research output or impact evaluation. They assist universities in assessing the dissemination of their research and evaluating success in meeting the university's core goals. Libraries help departments track their output or fairly evaluate their faculty in promotion and tenure decisions [3]. Libraries also provide guidance for researchers on better communicating the impact of their work in grant applications or creating successful dissemination plans for their research.

There have been significant advances in research assessment over the past two decades, beginning with the development of the "Payback Framework" [4], which examined the impact of health services research in the United Kingdom. Since then, funding bodies, universities, and even libraries have piloted and developed research assessment frameworks, such as the Becker Medical Library Model for Assessment of Research Impact [5] and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences framework [6]. These frameworks are often applied to assess how research has benefited key groups, to steer research toward desired outcomes, to show effectiveness or ability to conduct research, to reward innovative research, and to increase accountability of researchers, funding bodies, and policy makers by being transparent about the research process [1].

Library-led research evaluation support services are increasingly common in European and Australian contexts where large-scale research evaluation exercises have necessitated a response. A recent study of 140 libraries in Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom showed that the majority offer bibliometric training or literacy as well as citation reports [7]. Many US and Canadian libraries have also implemented diverse models to support evaluation-based activities. A recent study of Association of Research Libraries member libraries found that seventy-six of the seventy-nine responding libraries reported that they provided services related to evaluation of research impact and that these services represented a growth area for their libraries [8]. Additionally, a review of the library websites of the sixty-two prestigious Association of American Universities members found that only one library did not provide users with information about research metrics and impact [9].

In this paper, the authors discuss the experiences of seven US and Canadian libraries in providing research evaluation support services to their customer groups. …

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