Not All Reviews Are Systematic Reviews

Systematic review word cloudSystematic reviews use rigorous and transparent methods to synthesize the findings of research studies and are an increasingly popular study methodology. But is a systematic review always the best way to summarize literature? The answer to that question is “it depends.” Specifically, it depends upon the purpose of your review.

Do you want to answer a specific (clinical or non-clinical) question, using explicit and reproducible methods to search for, select, critically appraise, and synthesize research literature? Then a systematic review (with or without use of meta-analysis) fits the bill.

Are you interested in reviewing a topic on which there are already numerous systematic reviews? An umbrella review (or overview of reviews) compares and contrasts the findings of existing systematic reviews. Like a systematic review of primary literature, an umbrella review uses transparent and pre-specified methods to locate literature and to assess the quality and strength of included reviews.

Would you like to provide an overview of key concepts within a research area, or describe the range of evidence that is available about a topic? Then a scoping review may be a good option. Scoping reviews “map” existing evidence and can be used to identify gaps in the literature. Like systematic reviews and umbrella reviews, scoping reviews require use of rigorous methods, including comprehensive literature searches.

If you want to provide a scholarly overview of a broad area of research, a traditional narrative review may be the best approach. Narrative reviews are typically less structured and methodical than other review types, but are still useful for exploring issues within a body of evidence, or for demonstrating your grasp of key concepts, theories, and problems within a field of study (a common requirement for the background section of a thesis or dissertation).

Still not sure which review type may be best for you? For more information, consult the HSLS Systematic Review Program guide, or send an e-mail to Ask a Librarian.

~Mary Lou Klem

PalPITTations Concert in Falk Library on December 14

Get into the spirit of the season by joining us for a holiday concert performed by the PalPITTations on Thursday, December 14, at 12:30 p.m., on the upper floor of Falk Library. The PalPITTations are the a capella vocal group of health sciences students from the University of Pittsburgh. Light refreshments will be served. All are welcome for this free concert.


Open Data in Research Trending Up

“Open Data” is defined by SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) as “research data that

  1. is freely available on the Internet;
  2. permits any user to download, copy, analyze, re-process, pass to software, or use for any other purpose; and
  3. is without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself.”

The phrase “open data” first appeared in a PubMed article title in 2000, but it took another 13 years for an increase in publications. As we approach 2018, how do researchers now view open data? And most importantly, how does HSLS support health sciences researchers at Pitt? Continue reading

Technology Services End-of-Semester Survival Guide

When the end of semester approaches, Falk Library becomes a hub for finalizing projects and exam preparation. Follow these technology usage tips to help ease your end-of-semester activities.

Book your Group Study Room in advance

Two students in group study roomGroup Study Rooms are a popular study space during finals. You can guarantee a spot for your group by booking up to five days in advance online. If you are not with a group, Room D or E can be booked for a single user. All room users must be health sciences affiliated with a valid Pitt ID. Continue reading


ORCID ID logoWhat is ORCID?

ORCID is the acronym for Open Researcher and Contributor ID. is a non-profit global organization that developed and supports the ORCID iD, a unique and persistent author identifier that recognizes an author’s name and all variants throughout his or her career. An ORCID account is completely controlled by the author.

What is the value of an ORCID iD to researchers?

An ORCID iD reliably links authors to their scholarly works, improving discoverability in databases and repositories. Automated submissions to publishers and funding agencies can save time and eliminate duplication.

 Are ORCID iDs required by publishers and funding agencies?

ORCID iDs are required by major science publishers, such as Springer Nature, Science, PLoS, eLife and BioMed Central, while mega-publishers Elsevier, Wiley, and Wolters Kluwer have also integrated ORCID into their submission systems. ProQuest (Pivot) sees ORCID as supporting “linkages between researchers and their professional activities ensuring that their work is recognized and meaningful.” The list continues to grow.

 What is the ORCID iD initiative at the University of Pittsburgh?

HSLS has partnered with ULS to bring the ORCID iD to Pitt authors to enable reliable name disambiguation, and enhance discoverability and accurate attribution. The ORCID iD can be added to Pitt’s Faculty Information System (FIS) to make it easier to accurately import all types of scholarly works into FIS profiles to automate annual faculty reports and CVs.

How can I sign up for an ORCID iD?

Register for a free ORCID iD at, and remember to grant trusted status to Pitt. For more information, see the HSLS Guide to ORCID@Pitt.

What can I do with my ORCID account after registration?

First, add your affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh so viewers recognize that you are the “J. Smith” at Pitt rather than at Duquesne, for example. Next, link Scopus to your ORCID iD to populate your ORCID record. For instructions, see the HSLS ORCID Guide 1: Link Scopus to ORCID to automatically download your publications.

For more information, see the HSLS guides: Scholarly Communication and Research Impact-Enhance Your Impact. You can also contact Andrea Ketchum at or call 412-648-9757.

~Andrea Ketchum

Relax Over the Holidays—Read a Book!

Over winter break, pour yourself a cup of tea and curl up with a good book from the HSLS Leisure Reading Collection of newly-published fiction and nonfiction. The Leisure Reading Collection is located on the left as you enter the main floor of Falk Library next to the comfortable seating area.

Recent bestsellers in the collection include:

  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • The Cuban Affair: A Novel by Nelson DeMille
  • Little Fires Everywhere: A Novel by Celeste Ng

You can easily browse the collection or use PITTCat or the Pitt Resources Quick Search box to locate specific titles. Multiple books may be borrowed for a three-week period. If a book you want to read is checked out to another person, place a hold on the book and you’ll be notified when it is returned. We welcome recommendations, send your suggestions to Ask a Librarian.

~Jill Foust

Falk Library Holiday and Winter Recess Hours

Over Pitt’s winter break, Falk Library will have modified hours:

  • Saturday, December 16: 9:30 a.m.–10 p.m.
  • Sunday, December 17: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
  • Monday, December 18: 7 a.m.–10 p.m.
  • Tuesday, December 19: 7 a.m.–10 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 20: 7 a.m.–10 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 21: 7 a.m.–4 p.m.
  • Friday, December 22, through Monday, January 1: CLOSED
  • Tuesday, January 2: 7 a.m.–6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, January 3: Resume regular hours

The Ask a Librarian e-mail service will be monitored over winter recess (December 22–January 1). Continue reading

Classes for December 2017

HSLS offers classes on database searching, software applications such as Prezi, bibliographic management, and molecular biology and genetics. For more information, visit the online class calendar.

Classes are held on the first floor of Falk Library (200 Scaife Hall) in Classroom 1 and on the upper floor of the library in Classroom 2. All classes are open to faculty, staff, and students of the University of Pittsburgh. They are also open to UPMC residents and fellows, who will need to show their UPMC IDs.
Continue reading

NCBI Hackathon @ Pitt

As previously reported, HSLS hosted a National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Hackathon from September 25-27, 2017, in collaboration with numerous campus partners. The event took place in the Digital Scholarship Commons of the University Library System (ULS). HSLS, the Center for Research Computing (CRC), and the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) generously provided support for breakfasts. Computing Services and Systems Development (CSSD), the School of Computing and Information (SCI), and the CRC provided expert technical support.

An NCBI-style Hackathon is a social event in which highly motivated individuals with expertise in scientific disciplines, computer programming, software development, etc., meet for an intense few days to formulate useful, efficient pipelines supporting biomedical research. All code generated by NCBI-Hackathons is made freely available on GitHub, and manuscripts describing the design/usage of software tools are posted on the F1000Research Hackathons channel.

The Pitt/NCBI-Hackathon was led by Ben Busby, the NCBI Genomics Outreach Coordinator. Participants were primarily from Pittsburgh, but they also traveled from Columbus, Oh.; Baltimore, Md.; Charlottesville, Va.; New York, N.Y.; Denver, Colo.; and San Diego, Calif. Initially, the 24 hackers were divided into five teams, but two of the groups working on virus discovery and identification of past viral exposure merged to form a super-group—an NCBI-Hackathon first!

The groups worked for three long, collaborative, and productive days, capped with irreverent awards such as “best hair” and “how I learned to relax and love the hackathon” (see picture). Final projects included:

  • HAQmap—a guide containing information and tools to help organizers create their own NCBI-style hackathon (5 member team).
  • (SC)3 Super Concise Single Cell SNP Caller—this project enables finding expressed SNPs in SRA data associated with a Bioproject record (3 member team).
  • SPeW: SeqPipeWrap—a framework for taking a NextGen Seq pipeline (such as RNA-seq, ChIP-seq or ATAC-seq) in any language, and using NextFlow as a pipeline management system to create a flexible, user-friendly pipeline that can be shared in a container platform (6 member team).
  • ViruSpy—a pipeline designed for virus discovery from metagenomics sequencing data available in NCBI’s SRA database (10 member team).

The success of the Pitt/NCBI-Hackathon bodes well for the possibility of future hackathons. If you are interested in learning more, please contact the HSLS Molecular Biology Information Service.

~ Carrie Iwema

Which is the Best MyNCBI Login?

NCBI logoUsers of PubMed and other databases provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) can save searches, citations, interface preferences, and other information in a MyNCBI account. When MyNCBI debuted there was only one option, to create a new username and password from scratch. NCBI calls this a “native account.” Now MyNCBI is connected to other NIH systems such as the eRA Commons and the SciENcv research biosketch service, and the options for logging into MyNCBI have expanded to include 3rd party logins tied to the user’s Google, eRA Commons, ORCID, University of Pittsburgh, or other accounts. Is there an advantage to creating a new account in MyNCBI? Why not use the University of Pittsburgh 3rd party login and eliminate one more password you must remember?

To ensure access to your MyNCBI account you should not rely solely on a 3rd party login option. Instead, register for a MyNCBI account, and then link it to any 3rd party login options that you want to use. That way, if you lose access to the 3rd party organization, you still have access to all the saved work in your MyNCBI account.

To register for a new native MyNCBI account, go to the NCBI login page and fill out the registration form. Once the account is created, link it to your 3rd party accounts. To do this, log in to your account and click on your username at the top right of the page. Here you can add linked accounts, and make other modifications such as changing the e-mail associated with your account.

If you have relied on a 3rd party login and lost access to it, e-mail the NCBI help desk. Include the account name and the e-mail address associated with the account in your message. For more information on using MyNCBI, see the NCBI Help Manual.

~ Barbara Folb

NNLM Services to Health Professionals

Kate Flewelling
Executive Director

When students graduate or when employees leave the university, they lose access to the valuable electronic resources available through HSLS subscriptions. That’s where the National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) can help. Although we cannot provide access to subscription-based information resources, we provide training on numerous other resources from the National Library of Medicine and other trusted sources.

For example, Clinical eCompanion was created by librarians at HSLS and is now maintained by the NNLM Middle Atlantic Region (MAR). Designed especially for primary care clinicians, Clinical eCompanion searches the following evidence-based information resources, all of which are freely available: Continue reading

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: “Mean Genius” Antonio Scarpa

Antonio Scarpa (1752-1832) was an Italian anatomist, excellent surgeon, polished writer, and medical illustrator. During his tenure at the University of Pavia, it became the leading educational institution in Europe for the study of anatomy. Scarpa pioneered a program of anatomical demonstrations and required students to learn by practicing dissections on their own. As Rector, he was more the dictator of the University than its leader. His ruthless demeanor earned him no friends. He was feared by students and colleagues alike. There are many stories illustrating this behavior: for example, when he was working on illustrations for his Tabulae Neurologicae, he locked his engraver in the room until the work was finished. When he died, nasty verse defaced his statue in Pavia:

Scarpa is dead;

And I should care.

He lived like a hog.

And died like a dog.

Since he did not leave a family, his assistant performed his dissection and preserved the professor’s head as a specimen for the University. It is still on display today at the Museo per la Storia dell’Università di Pavia.

Scarpa's illustration of facial nerves, 1806Although he was not a loveable person, his innovative teaching methods, and the excellent books he authored, earned him the respect of the medical profession. He is remembered as a great surgeon, anatomist, and discoverer of the naso-palatine nerve. His study of the hearing and olfactory organs is considered classic. He was the first to correctly delineate the nerves of the heart. In his authoritative works on hernia, he described perineal hernia from direct observations, thus settling any earlier controversy of its existence. His work, Saggio di osservazioni e d’esperienze sulle principali malattie degli occhi (Practical observations on the principal diseases of the eyes, 1806), raised ophthalmology to the level of an autonomous science. Plate I from this work is one of the most famous illustrations in medicine, in which science and art become one.

Falk Library has a facsimile of the ophthalmology book and all Scarpa’s original works on hernias including the English, French, and German translations. These materials can be viewed in the Rare Book Room by appointment.

~ Gosia Fort

New Toolkit Helps Nurses Integrate Genomics into Patient Care

Logo for A Method for Introducing a New Competency GenomicsA new website called, A Method for Introducing Competency Genomics (MINC), from the National Human Genome Research Institute, provides an excellent starting point for nurses who want to integrate genomics into their practice. MINC offers resources for providers with varying levels of experience.

From the MINC home page, there are three convenient ways to get started:

  1. Click on For Administrators or For Educators to learn how to use the toolkit to meet needs specific to your area.
  2. Find the answers to basic questions on how to integrate genomics into practice.
  3. Go straight to the resources and browse interventions offered by other nurses tailored to their specific setting.

Also included are video testimonials from health administrators and educators describing how they overcame barriers as they developed the necessary genomics knowledge to offer personalized care to their patients.

~Jill Foust