Keeping Up To Date: Adding Value to Professional Development Within an Information Services Team

David Nicholls, Information Specialist
Ceri Williams, Assistant Information Specialist
Jenny Craven, Information Specialist
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

Information Services (IS) at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is a large, cross site team of Information Specialists. Keeping up to date with new methods and developments in the information field is a vital part of their work.  In 2018 a team planning day was held to consider how to achieve this. As a result, a project was set up to plan how the team keep up to date with developments such as search methods, better ways of working, and to add value to their professional development.

The objectives of the project included the following:

  • Identify current sources and methods for keeping up to date
  • Develop mechanisms for efficient recording/storing/dissemination of information
  • Explore how this can be achieved in a pragmatic way, maximising efficiency
  • Have an implementable process that involves everyone in the IS team

There is evidence of how other groups and organisations keep up to date with information related developments. For example, different resources that ‘push’ information, such as web and citation alerts, and resources that rely on information seeking, such as video abstracts and medical podcasts, as well as web conferences and online journal clubs (Konstantinos, 2020; Maggio, 2018).  Journal clubs are also mentioned by Bolderston et al. (2018), and  Topf and Hiremath (2015), in the form of “online Twitter journal clubs” where the participants can examine the most interesting studies, editorials, reviews and guidelines driving clinical practice and share tweets. Konstantinos (2020) describes two innovative resources:  ‘Tweet Shots’,  which are highlighted text of discussed articles, along with comments and a link back to the original article by using specialised mobile apps; and the ‘Open Knowledge Maps’ platform that provides an instant overview of a topic and includes both closed and open access papers related to each area, which “makes it possible to easily identify useful, pertinent information” (Konstantinos, 2020).

The examples above show that an abundance of current awareness services and activities are available and can be utilised to keep up to date with the latest information. The Keeping Up to Date (KUTD) project wanted to build on this and find a tool that offered an easily accessible, searchable, archive of information, which alerted people to new content, and to which value could be added by including discussion and responses to posts.

The project team identified several internal and external processes and sources for keeping up to date, including training courses, conferences, tables of contents, email lists, community of practice meetings, blogs and tweets. During the testing period, members of the team were assigned to sources to collate material for evaluating potential tools.

Five tools for capturing results were identified Microsoft Access, EPPI Reviewer 5 (internal reference management software), Zotero, Microsoft Yammer and Microsoft Teams. Each was assessed in relation to its functionality, ease of adding content and access permissions. The two that performed best against our criteria were Yammer and Teams and these were taken forward into an initial pilot.

While these tools had similar functionality, posts could be easily tagged with thesaurus terms in Yammer but not in MS Teams, so for the purposes of indexing and searching, it was recommended that Yammer be used beyond the pilot stages.

In addition, to bring consistency to the tagging of posts, a small set of key terms was developed to cover not only topics (e.g. Digital Technologies; Supplementary Searching) but also source types (e.g. Social Media; Journal Articles). Further piloting to test the alerting and tagging functionality took place within the project group to iron out any problems. For example, adjustments were made to the alerting function to ensure it worked efficiently, and some extra key terms were added. KUTD was then rolled out to the wider IS team.

As the KUTD process became more established, support materials were created to guide individuals in signing-up to Yammer, formatting posts and choosing topic tags. The KUTD team includes core team members who regularly monitor information sources and post content to Yammer. As well as this, all IS staff were encouraged to sign up, view and respond to posts, and add relevant content. Feedback was collected on their experiences of using Yammer, its functionality and useability, as well as its value as a tool for keeping up to date. Overall, the team felt it was useful way of collating information and saw its potential to implement new ways of working into team practices.

A steering group was set up to provide ongoing support and promote the use of Yammer within IS to ensure it became a trusted and valued resource. The role of the steering group is to oversee the content posted and promote discussion and ensure actions taken in response through other routes, such as team meetings. The group also helps to resolve technical issues when accessing or posting to Yammer, selecting appropriate content, and providing inductions to new staff. The steering group will continue to monitor usage and respond to ongoing feedback and developments.

The KUTD resource has been running for nearly 12 months and will be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure it continues to provide an effective method of keeping up to date, involves everyone in the IS team, and that it facilitates appropriate consideration of new content.

HLG Newsletter
Winter 2020

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