The Responsible Use of Research Metrics

Research metrics can often be helpful when evaluating the impact of scholarly output, whether analyzing the influence of an individual article or the collected work of a group of researchers. Metrics have been used to support tenure and promotion, add value for grant applications, as well as to find collaborators in a particular field. Keep in mind, however, that research metrics do have some limitations. To ensure that metrics are being used responsibly, consider the following best practices.

It’s important to use more than one research metric to tell the whole story, and a good example of this is the article citation count. At first glance, if an article has been cited more frequently than others, it might be assumed that it’s a highly influential work. However, a citation is still a citation, even if a paper is cited in a negative light. This is why it’s important to use several different metrics to provide as much context as possible. Since most citation-based metrics are solely quantitative, using Altmetrics can be a helpful way to see how people are engaging with a work on social media platforms, news outlets, and citation management programs such as Mendeley. Continue reading

Health Sciences Libraries Advocate for Transparency in the Dissemination of Health Information

HSLS is an institutional member of both the Medical Library Association (MLA) and the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL) and fully supports their statement on health information dissemination, reprinted in full:

MLA/AAHSL Call for Transparency and Impartiality in the Dissemination of Health Information

The Medical Library Association (MLA) and Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL) believe that access to information is critical to advancing science and promoting healthy people, and that knowledge is indispensable in making informed decisions in health care, education, and research.

As health sciences librarians who are MLA and AAHSL members, we recognize the crucial role played by the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) and other sources of public health information. These publications provide high-quality, free-to-read information needed by clinicians, the public health workforce, and policymakers. This was true before the COVID-19 Pandemic when sources like MMWR published important research on topics such as tobacco use, immunizations, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, substance use, and maternal mortality. More than ever, it remains true in our current health environment. Continue reading

NCBI Datasets: Making Genomic Data Download Easy

Organisms with datasets: homo sapiens (human), mus musculus (house mouse), Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress), and Rattus norvegicus (Norway rat)There are challenges with downloading genomic data. File sizes are large, and it can be time consuming to retrieve multiple files. Sometimes downloads fail. A custom script may be required. Fortunately, a solution to all of these frustrations is now available—NCBI Datasets.

This experimental resource allows users to easily download eukaryotic genome sequence and annotation data by assembly accession, taxonomic name (scientific and common), or taxonomy ID. The web interface allows for browsing by organism, with the most common experimental species conveniently available from the main page. For example, try selecting the house mouse (mus musculus), then select all 22 associated assemblies. Options for the type of data for the download include genomic, transcript, and protein sequences as well as annotation features. Continue reading

COVID Research: Implications for the Future of Access and Publishing

The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of research being made available in a timely manner and without barriers to access. Many high-impact medical journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet, have made their COVID-19 content freely available. Additionally, many journals expedited their review process to quickly move submitted research from the manuscript stage to acceptance. An article published in Nature determined that the median length of time for this process was six days, which is much faster than it typically takes.

Although the review process for many scholarly journals is being expedited for COVID-19 content, they cannot always keep up with the volume being submitted. Additionally, despite the review process, articles may be accepted and then ultimately retracted. This occurred in June with two papers related to COVID-19 treatment, which were retracted due to data sourcing inconsistencies. It is important to note that retractions have already been rising over the last 20 years, and it is uncertain yet if COVID-19 materials are being retracted more than other content. To look for retracted scientific content, one can search the Retraction Database, produced by Retraction Watch. Continue reading

Expressing Yourself: Opportunities for Creative Outlets

Paint, sculpting tools, and canvases for creative art projectsWhether it be writing, knitting, painting, sculpting, acting, or singing, expressing yourself through the arts can be a therapeutic way to cope with these difficult times. Below are a few opportunities on campus and nationally to share your works—allowing others to be inspired, to learn from different narrations and experiences, and to even to heal.

Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)

The AAMC, in partnership with StoryCorps and the National Endowment for the Arts, is collecting oral and written narratives, including stories, poems, and visual images, documenting any health care professionals’ lived experiences during this time of uncertainty.

There are two opportunities to share:

  • Participate in a StoryCorps Guided Interview: The goal is to: “help chronicle and make meaning from the diverse range of experiences from your community.” You will become a part of American history, as the audio and a still photo from each interview will be preserved at the Library of Congress for future generations.
  • Create 55-Word Stories and Poems (with or without images): Submit your original work via the AAMC Submission Form. A diverse team will review all submissions to curate collections of pieces. The AAMC will notify authors if their 55-word story or poem will be shared.

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Michelle Burda, NNLM Middle Atlantic Region Librarian, Has Retired

Michelle Burda retires from HSLSMichelle Burda, MLS, retired from HSLS in August. Michelle has served as Education and Health Literacy Coordinator for the Network of the National Library of Medicine, Middle Atlantic Region (NNLM MAR), since 2012. In 2000, she joined the HSLS faculty as Consumer Health Librarian at UPMC Shadyside. Prior to coming to Pitt, Michelle was Medical Library Director at UPMC St. Margaret and a Medical Librarian at UPMC Passavant. Before becoming a librarian, Michelle was a Clinical Microbiologist/Medical Technologist at Passavant Hospital for more than fifteen years.
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HSLS Staff News

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

Names in bold are HSLS-affiliated


Julia Dahm, Coordinator for Technology Integration Services, has been appointed as a faculty representative to the Institutional Advancement Committee of the Pitt Board of Trustees.


M.S. Buckley, P.L. Smithburger, A. Wong, G.L. Fraser, M.C. Reade, M. Klein-Fedyshin, Research and Clinical Instruction Librarian, et al., published “Dexmedetomidine for Facilitating Mechanical Ventilation Extubation in Difficult-to-Wean ICU Patients: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials” in the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine, July 6, 2020. Continue reading

Classes for October 2020

All HSLS classes are now offered online through Zoom. Information on how to connect will be sent to registrants.

Introduction to Adobe Photoshop, Thursday, October 1, 2:30–4 p.m.

Basic Python through Jupyter, Friday, October 2, 1–4 p.m.

Introduction to Research Data Management, Monday, October 5, 2–3 p.m.

Painless PubMed, Tuesday, October 6, 10–11 a.m.

Bulk RNA-Seq Analysis with CLC Genomics Workbench, Wednesday, October 7, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Free Images (and More) on the Web and How to Cite Them, Wednesday, October 7, 10:30–11:30 a.m.

Basic EndNote for Macs, Thursday, October 8, 9–10 a.m.

Introduction to Deep Learning with PyTorch, Friday, October 9, 1–4 p.m. Continue reading