Why Do You Need a Systematic Review Protocol?

Systematic Review word cloudThe rigor and trustworthiness of a systematic review is based on the prior planning and documentation of the methodology employed in your review. The protocol lays out these details, provides a clear understanding of your research question(s), and ensures transparency and reproducibility.

A protocol:

  1. allows systematic reviewers to plan carefully and thereby anticipate potential problems;
  2. allows reviewers to explicitly document what is planned before they start their review, enabling others to compare the protocol and the completed review (that is, to identify selective reporting), to replicate review methods if desired, and to judge the validity of planned methods;
  3. prevents arbitrary decision making about study selection and extraction of data; and
  4. may reduce duplication of efforts and enhance collaboration.

Include an HSLS librarian as you establish your team, plan the details of your review, and prepare the protocol. The librarian can help define your search concepts, what databases and information sources to include and describe the initial search strategy.

As explained in HSLS’s Working with the HSLS Systematic Review Program, comprehensive literature searches require many hours of a librarian’s time. A written protocol with a well-defined research question will now be required before HSLS librarians begin to work on any review. Our experience at HSLS suggests that a well-written protocol can reduce the time required to complete literature searches and increase the likelihood that a review will be successfully completed. Once we receive a protocol, it may be reviewed internally to ensure completeness and clarity of search concepts.

For assistance writing your protocol, please see:

  • PRISMA-P (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Protocols)
  • “Recommended Standards for Initiating a Systematic Review,” Sections 2.1 – 2.8, Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews, Institute of Medicine
  • Writing a Protocol [slidecast] Cochrane Training, The Cochrane Collaboration
  • “Rationale for Protocols,” Chapter 2.1, The Cochrane Handbook, Version 5.1
  • “Guide to the Contents of a Cochrane Protocol and Review,” Chapter 4, The Cochrane Handbook, Version 5.1
  • Guidelines for Preparation of Review Protocols,” The Campbell Collaboration

Examples of written protocols:

Places to register your protocol:

For more information, contact the HSLS Main Desk at 412-648-8866 or send an e-mail to Ask a Librarian.

~Charlie Wessel

Out with the Old, in with the New

Visitors to hsls.pitt.edu in the new year will notice a new look. If you miss the familiarity of the old website, you’ll find that the information you are looking for is still convenient, but now in a sleeker design that is adaptable on mobile devices.

Here are 7 key areas of the new hsls.pitt.edu home page:

  1. Ask a Librarian—contact us with your question, request, or concern

Ask a Librarian screen shot

  1. Remote Access—connect to library resources while outside of Pitt’s network

Remote Access screenshot

  1. Search—toggle between Pitt resource search, E-book full text search, and bioPreprint search

  1. News & Announcements—now with a quick list of upcoming classes and events

  1. Services—new expanded list on the front page

Services menu screenshot

  1. Resources—PubMed, UpToDate, and more easy-to-access resources

Resources menu screenshot

  1. Featured—link to the HSLS Update, special collections, NNLM MAR, and more

Featured links screenshot

Love the new look? See something that doesn’t look right? We are taking your feedback to ensure that hsls.pitt.edu is responsive to your information needs.

~Julia Dahm

10 Facts about 10 Simple Rules

You are already intrigued, thinking “rules…for what???” There are MANY lists of 10 rules, thanks to a long-running series of articles from PLOS Computational Biology entitled,“10 Simple Rules.” Here are ten reasons to check it out.

  1. To date, there are eighty-four “Ten Simple Rules” articles by multiple authors. According to the editors, the series “provide a quick, concentrated guide for mastering some of the professional challenges research scientists face in their careers.”
  2. The first article in this series was published on October 28, 2005: “Ten Simple Rules for Getting Published.” The most recent article was published on December 7, 2017: “Ten Simple Rules for International Short-Term Research Stays.” That’s twelve years of articles!
  3. Topics in the series cover “everything you always wanted to know about science (but perhaps were afraid to ask),” including “Ten Simple Rules for…”: “Getting Grants,” “a Good Poster Presentation,” “Choosing between Industry and Academia,” “Building and Maintaining a Scientific Reputation,” and “Starting a Company.”
  4. Each article compiles the ten rules in an easy-to-read list next to the main text, allows for comments, and provides related content.
  5. All of the articles include metrics. For example, “Ten Simple Rules for Taking Advantage of Git and GitHub,” has 22,166 Views, 7 Citations, 249 Saves, and 219 Shares.
  6. The most viewed article, “Ten Simple Rules for Writing a Literature Review,” has 972,853 views. Even the least viewed article, “Ten Simple Rules for Successfully Completing a Graduate Degree in Latin America,” has 2,883 views, and it was just published September 2017.
  7. “Ten Simple Rules” articles are freely accessible in PubMed Central.
  8. The series is one of many collections curated by PLOS—the Public Library of Science. The PLOS Collections are broadly categorized into six topics: Biology & Life Sciences, Medicine & Health Sciences, Research Analysis & Science Policy, Computer & Information Sciences, Earth & Environmental Sciences, and Physics, Chemistry, & Materials Science.
  9. “Ten Simple Rules” is part of the Research Analysis & Science Policy Collection, which includes topics such as “Open Data” and “The Missing Pieces: A Collection of Negative, Null, and Inconclusive Results.”
  10. Interested in writing your own “Ten Simple Rules” article? Be sure to read “Ten Simple Rules for Writing a PLOS Ten Simple Rules Article” (which helped with facts three and six), including information for potential authors.

~Carrie Iwema

Updated PubMed Central Policy Statement on Supplementary Data

PubMed Central logoPubMed Central (PMC) was established in 2000 as the National Library of Medicine’s full-text, journal article repository. Since 2005, PMC has also been the designated repository for papers submitted in accordance with the NIH Public Access Policy. Today, PMC serves as the full-text repository for papers across a variety of scientific disciplines that fall under a number of funding agencies’ public access policies.

These public access policies seek to make the published full-text papers, resulting from publicly- and privately-funded research, available for the public to find and read. As a repository, PMC ensures the permanent preservation of these research findings and makes the results of this research more readily accessible to the public, healthcare providers, educators, and the scientific community.

Recently PMC updated its policy statement on supplementary data to more clearly articulate the requirement that any supplementary data (images, tables, video, or other documents/files) that are associated with an article must be deposited in PMC with an article.

This applies to all files made available in the article record, even if the files are also available in a public repository. An exception may be made for data files that require custom software to read and use, or are very large (over 2 GB).

In cases where data cannot be reasonably included with an article, either in a figure, table, or supplementary file, NLM encourages journals and authors to make the data available in a public repository and include the relevant data citation(s) in the paper.

The NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) system, developed to facilitate the submission of peer-reviewed manuscripts for inclusion in PMC, can accept submissions of datasets (2 GB or smaller) in support of any manuscript files deposited in compliance with a participating funder’s public access policy. Because these datasets will be publicly accessible, those related to human subjects research should not include any personally identifiable information and deposit should be consistent with informed consent. For more information on depositing supplementary data and dataset files via NIHMS, see the related NIHMS FAQ.

For questions regarding this revised policy or for guidance with depositing supplementary data, please refer to the HSLS Scholarly Communication: Public Access Policies page or contact HSLS Data Services.

*Parts of this article were derived from PMC documentation: Funders and PMC and PMC Policies

~Melissa Ratajeski

HSLS Receives Funding under NNLM Partnership with the NIH All of Us Research Program

All of Us group photoHSLS is one of eight health sciences libraries across the country coordinating regional and national activities to serve the health information needs of health professionals and the public. With funding from the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), HSLS serves as a Regional Medical Library and leads the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Middle Atlantic Region (NNLM MAR), covering Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The goal of the NNLM is to advance the progress of medicine and improve public health by providing U.S. health professionals with equal access to biomedical information and improving individuals access to information to enable them to make informed decisions about their health.

NLM recently announced a partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) All of Us Research Program (All of Us), part of the Precision Medicine Initiative. The mission of the All of Us Research Program is to accelerate health research and medical breakthroughs, enabling individualized prevention, treatment, and care for all of us. The program aims to build one of the largest, most diverse datasets of its kind for health research, with one million or more volunteers nationwide who will sign up to share their information over time.

Through the NLM and All of Us partnership, NNLM’s Regional Medical Libraries and National Offices will focus on improving consumer access to high quality health information in communities throughout the U.S., specifically, by working with public libraries.

This partnership is a three-year pilot program to support All of Us. Activities in the pilot are designed to:

  • help public libraries in supporting the health information needs of their users;
  • equip public libraries with information about the All of Us Research Program to share with their local communities;
  • assess the potential impact of libraries on participant enrollment and retention;
  • highlight public libraries as a technology resource that participants can use to engage with the program, particularly those in underserved communities affected by the digital divide;
  • establish an online platform for education and training about All of Us and precision medicine, with resources for members of the public, health professionals, librarians and researchers; and
  • help identify best practices in messaging and outreach that lead to increased public interest and engagement in the program.

HSLS is also home to the NNLM Web Services Office which develops and maintains web services and infrastructures for NNLM public and internal needs. Under the NNLM partnership with the NIH All of Us Research Program, the Web Services Office will develop and support the learning management platform which will house All of Us courses and training materials.

HSLS received just over $2 million in supplemental funding to participate in this pilot and cooperatively design, implement, and evaluate innovative approaches to meet its objectives. Nearly $900,000 will be awarded to public libraries in our region to develop effective and innovative, replicable approaches to meet the health information needs of their communities, including raising awareness of the All of Us Program.

Veronica Milliner headshot
Veronica Leigh Milliner

On January 2, Veronica Leigh Milliner, MLIS, joined HSLS as the NNLM MAR All of Us Community Engagement Coordinator. Veronica will work within our region and in collaboration with other regional and national All of Us Program partners and the National Network of Libraries of Medicine to develop, pilot, model, and evaluate All of Us community engagement activities with public libraries. Veronica previously worked as an Outreach Librarian at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where she extended library services into community-based settings, such as senior centers, the free clinic, and low-income housing. Prior to her work with the Carnegie Library, she worked as an Information Services Trainer at a public library system in Saint Lucia, as a shipboard librarian on a cruise line and as a Peace Corps Community HIV/AIDS Outreach Worker in South Africa. Additionally, Veronica is the Radical Libraries, Archives, and Museums Track Coordinator for the Allied Media Project/Allied Media Conference, which aims to explore various ways that libraries and information institutions can be social justice leaders and spaces for critical engagement.

~Renae Barger

Treasures from the Rare Book Room: Apostle of the Lepers

Saint Damien of Moloka’i, born Jozef De Veuster in Belgium in 1840, was a Roman Catholic priest who devoted his life to missionary work among the lepers in Hawaii. Jozef chose a religious life over the family farm. As soon as he was old enough, he joined the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and took the name Damien. In 1864, he traveled to Hawaii where he was ordained a priest and worked there for nine years. Moved by the fate of lepers deported by the government to Moloka’i Island, he volunteered to take charge of the settlement in Kalaupapa in 1873. The colony had no medical care or medicines. The lack of provisions, supplies, fresh water, and hygiene made living conditions harsh, but Father Damien stayed with his flock for 16 years, until his death in 1889. He was a voice to the authorities in Honolulu, organizing, building housing, helping, and caring for the sick. He was their spiritual leader, friend, and physician. According to his wishes, he was buried in Hawaii, but in 1936 his body was moved to his home country.

Two sides of Damien medalA commemorative medal—shown here—was struck on this occasion the same year. It is part of the HSLS Medical and Scientific Medals Collection. It was designed by Belgian medalist and sculptor, Alfonse Mauquoy. The medal shows Father Damien, “Apostle of the Lepers,” on one side and the Hawaiian landscape of Kaluapapa Peninsula on the other. The Biblical quote, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends,” chosen as part of the design is quite appropriate since Father Damien contracted the disease while caring for the lepers. Because of this, he was accused of immorality which inspired Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson to visit the colony and write his passionate defense of the priest. Damien was exonerated and his lifetime of service to the sick was rewarded when he was canonized in 2009.

Both the medal and the reprint of Stevenson’s letter are currently on display in the Falk Library lobby. For more information, contact HSLS Collections & Digital Library Services.

~Gosia Fort

HSLS Staff News

The HSLS Staff News section includes recent HSLS presentations, publications, staff changes, staff promotions, degrees earned, etc.


Brian Krummel has been promoted to NWSO Web Services Manager. He has been with the library since 2016. Brian will oversee NNLM’s website and blogs, including developing style guides for the systems and ensuring compliance with federal standards. Additionally, Brian will lead the NNLM Web Working Group.

Ann Passmore has joined HSLS as a Metadata Specialist on the Metadata Team in Digital Library Services. She previously worked at Penn State University as a Digitization Technician.


Author names in bold are HSLS-affiliated

J. Bandari, O.M. Ayyash, S.L. Emery, C.B. Wessel, Head of Research Initiatives, et al., published “Marketing and Testosterone Treatment in the USA: A Systematic Review” in European Urology Focus, November 22, 2017.

N. Ernecoff, L. Hanson, D. Check, M. Bannon, D. Kavalieratos, Michele Klein-Fedyshin, Research & Clinical Instruction Librarian, et al., published “Specialty and Non-Specialty Palliative Care Delivery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis” in PROSPERO International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews, 2017: CRD42017075128.

T. Newman, A. San-Juan-Rodriguez, N. Parekh, I. Hernandez, E. Swart, and Michele Klein-Fedyshin, Research & Clinical Instruction Librarian, published “Impact of Community Pharmacist-led Interventions in Chronic Disease Management and Preventive Care on Clinical, Utilization, and Economic Outcomes: Protocol for an Evidence-based Rapid Review” in PROSPERO International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews, 2017: CRD42017079061.

J. Pruskowski, S. Springer, C. Thorpe, Michele Klein-Fedyshin, Research & Clinical Instruction Librarian, et al., published “The Impact of Deprescribing on Quality of Life: A Systematic Review” in PROSPERO International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews, 2017: CRD42017078534.


Author names in bold are HSLS-affiliated

Julia Dahm, Technology Services Librarian, presented “Designing Conference Posters in PowerPoint” as an NNLM Middle Atlantic Region TechTime webinar on November 28, 2017.

Lydia Collins, Consumer Health Coordinator, NNLM Middle Atlantic Region, presented “Organs, Genetics, Diseases, Oh My! Science and Health Resources for Middle/High School” at the Pennsylvania Science Teachers Association Conference in State College, PA, on December 1, 2017.

HSLS Classes for January

HSLS offers classes on database searching, software applications such as PowerPoint, 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.
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