Trends We’re Watching for 2018

Happy New Year! As we settle into 2018 we’ve been reflecting on the big picture – the current landscape and the trends that affect our services and our patrons at Washington University Medical Center. Below are a few of the biggest issues we'll be following over the coming year (and years).

Look for more on the library’s outlook and plans for the future in our soon-to-be-released strategic plan!

1. “Predatory” Journals

The world of scholarly publishing has recently been focused on documenting and raising awareness of warning signs around so-called “predatory” journals (publishers that charge and exploit authors without providing academically legitimate publishing services). NIH is now encouraging increased author scrutiny, but the difficult part is that it’s left to the author to do the work of evaluating. Helping authors navigate this tricky terrain has become a key service area for Becker librarians in recent years.

No one knows what’s next in terms of regulations or what questionable tactics we’ll see from publishers, but it’s one of the biggest stories we have our eye on for 2018 and beyond. Keep updated on the topic with our Guide to Selecting a Journal for Publication, which is regularly updated to reflect the most current information and best practices.

2. The Role of Technology in Evidence-Based Medicine

EBM isn’t new, but its practice continues to evolve with technology. Look in the app stores and you’ll find tons of mobile medical apps on the market. But like anything else, not all are created equal and users must exercise caution when evaluating which are biased or fail to provide the most up-to-date and useable information. Becker Library has mobile app experts to help cut through clutter and evaluate apps. Many apps are selected for licensing through Becker Library and/or the hospitals and are made available to the medical center community free of charge. We’re planning to expand training opportunities for effectively using apps in clinical practice as we watch this trend continue to grow.

Mobile medical apps also dovetail into the library’s Clinical Rounding Service, where librarians round with hospital teams helping to locate information at the point-of-care and provide guidance on effective and efficient information retrieval. Rounding librarians are also key to teaching evidence-based medicine, and rounding with hospital teams is targeted for expansion as we seek to increase our support for on-the-go evidence-based medicine.

Becker librarians are also national leaders in supporting another important aspect of EBM – systematic reviews – and take pride in keeping on the cutting edge of systematic review practices. That cutting edge currently includes programs designed to organize and manage the process of article screening and selection for systematic reviews. We plan to pick two such programs to pilot for comparison in the near future. There are also programs emerging that use machine learning for computer-aided systematic review screening and we’re very interested in seeing how those mature in the year and years ahead. One program that deals with visualization of article relationships within a database search is being developed at WashU’s Institute for Informatics, and we’re excited to have two Becker librarians named as part of the development team in the funding proposal.

3. Altmetrics for Researchers

Altmetrics are becoming increasingly robust and may be useful for documenting the reach and impact of research. Traditional measures of impact rely heavily on citations to the published literature. However, scientific research can have a significant influence above and beyond citations and altmetrics provide early indicators of broader health and social impact as they represent community engagement by scholarly and non-scholarly audiences. 

Learning how to track community engagement and other “social buzz” altmetrics can be confusing given the array of altmetric tools. In 2018 and beyond we’re interested to learn more about tracking altmetrics and how researchers can utilize altmetrics to supplement traditional measures for reporting on impact of research.

5. Health Literacy and Communication 

With the future of the ACA still uncertain, ever-rising health care premiums, and poor access to health care in disadvantaged communities, it’s increasingly important for providers to deliver information to patients with an awareness of using clear and accessible language. Becker Library offers services to help improve patient materials and research consent forms with this in mind. Reaching more patrons with these services is a key goal in the coming year, especially as the health care landscape is sure to only become more complex.

6. Institutional Archives in the Born-Digital Age

Browse our archival collections and you’ll find rich histories of 100-year-old institutions like Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and Central Institute for the Deaf brought to life through letters, photographs, financial ledgers, and other forms of paper documentation.

Today, these records are generated almost entirely in the form of emails, Word and Excel documents, PDFs, web pages, etc. How can these digital files be preserved to continue the historical narratives of these important institutions? How can we overcome the challenges presented by quickly outdated file formats and hardware requirements? Curating born-digital records is one of the most-discussed issues among archivists today, and we are especially interested in watching this topic unfold as it is of great importance to our institutional records here.