Virtual Learning Resources for Scientists at All Career Stages and of All Ages

Guest post by Jon R. Lorsch, PhD, director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences

During this unprecedented time in our lives, we know that many of you are trying to teach or learn from home. To help meet your biomedical research training and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education needs, I invite you to explore some of the virtual education and training resources supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the National Institutes of Health.

For undergraduate and graduate students and faculty, we support several free, online teaching and learning resources: 

  • iBiology houses a collection of high-quality video lectures by scientists explaining cutting-edge research, the history of great discoveries, scientific career paths, and related topics. Complete courses are also available on subjects such as experimental design, microscopy, and image analysis, as are a number of whiteboard animations explaining specific scientific topics. iBiology also has resources for flipped courses and tips for moving courses online.
  • The National Research Mentoring Network is a platform designed to help undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and junior faculty advance their careers through online mentoring and networking activities.

For pre-K–12 students and teachers, we support a range of free and engaging virtual science offerings that align with the national STEM and/or English language arts (ELA) education standards: 

  • Pathways, a collaboration between NIGMS and Scholastic, includes student magazines with corresponding teaching guides, related lessons with interactive games, videos, and vocabulary lists. Current lessons cover basic science, regeneration, and circadian rhythms.
  • The Science Education Partnership Award(SEPA) teaching resources feature easy-to-access STEM and informal science education projects for pre-K through grade 12. The program provides tools such as apps, interactives, online books, curricula, lesson plans, and short movies. Students can learn about sleep, cells, growth, microbes, infectious diseases, healthy lifestyles, genetics, and many other subjects.
  • The Science Education page on the NIGMS website hosts a variety of articles, fact sheets, images, videos, and blog posts on basic science topics and science careers. 

NIGMS is committed to supporting and inspiring current and future scientists. Tell us how you’re using our virtual learning resources with the hashtag #NIGMSVirtualLearning! And email us at info@nigms.nih.gov to ask questions or share suggestions.

Dr. Lorsch oversees the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ $2.9 billion budget, which supports basic research that increases understanding of biological processes and lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Profiles in Science: Exploring Stories of Scientific Discovery

Guest post by NLM’s Jennifer Gilbert, Technical Services Division, Christie Moffatt, History of Medicine Division, and Doron Shalvi, Office of Computer and Communication Systems.

NLM’s widely appreciated online historical resource, Profiles in Science, makes available to researchers, educators, and members of the public the archival collections of prominent scientists, physicians, and other individuals who have advanced the scientific enterprise.

Profiles in Science presents the lives and work of these innovators in science, medicine, and public health through in-depth research, curation, and digitization of archival collection materials. NLM historians and archivists review and select documents from NLM’s world-renowned archives and modern manuscripts collection and the collections of collaborating institutions to make available the histories of biomedical innovation and provide direct access to supporting primary sources.

Through Profiles in Science, everyone can learn about stories such as the race to decipher the genetic code, the development of the APGAR score to assess the health of newborns, and the discovery of vitamin C.

To create more opportunities for innovative uses, this online archive of more than 30,000 digitized letters, draft manuscripts, photographs, diaries, and more migrated to a new platform recently.

The new platform for Profiles in Science, integrated with NLM Digital Collections, supports increased functionality for worldwide public access to, engagement with, and sharing of these data-rich archival collections.

Screen shot of NLM Profiles in Science website
Profiles in Science homepage, providing access to unique primary source materials and accompanying biographical narrative texts from over 40 manuscript collections on topics in the history of science, medicine, and public health.

This relaunch of the Profiles in Science platform is the culmination of more than two years of highly collaborative work, the initial phase of which was supported in part by the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Foundation. A multidisciplinary team of archivists, computer scientists, developers, historians, and librarians from across NLM worked together to migrate metadata and digitize items from a homegrown custom system developed and maintained since the 1990s to open-source, community-designed and supported software for long-term management as part of NLM’s digital repository infrastructure. 

Profiles in Science items are now described in ArchivesSpace, stored in NLM’s Digital Repository, and accessible to the public in a brand-new interface using Spotlight, an open-source software solution developed by Stanford University. Profiles content is also available now in NLM’s Digital Collections, where it can be explored alongside other publicly available digital content, including books, films, prints, photographs, and manuscripts.

Migration of the Profiles in Science system to an open-source stack integrated with NLM’s Digital Collections.

Migrating Profiles in Science supports NLM’s strategic goals of reaching more people in more ways, accelerating discovery, modernizing the Library’s collections and services, and enhancing the integration and interoperability of existing collections.

With new tools to manage its collections, Profiles in Science will continue to be a platform for innovation. NLM staff will continue their productive collaborations as they develop and test new workflows for making content available and build connections with other resources within and outside of NLM. We are also excited to add newly digitized content to highlight the diversity of individuals and roles in the history of science and medicine (learn more about our development policy). 

We look forward to reaching more audiences, exploring tools that facilitate computational research, crowdsourcing annotation and transcription, and more — all to better serve NLM audiences in their use of these materials in innovative ways. If you haven’t already explored Profiles in Science, we welcome you to visit the site and share your feedback.

Left to right: Jennifer Gilbert works in NLM’s Technical Services Division. She is a Senior Technical Information Specialist and Chair of the Digital Repository Working Group. Christie Moffatt works in NLM’s History of Medicine Division. She is an archivist and manager of the NLM Digital Manuscripts Program. Doron Shalvi, works for GDIT in NLM’s Office of Computer and Communication Systems. He is a systems architect of NLM’s Digital Collections.
Left to right: Jennifer Gilbert works in NLM’s Technical Services Division. She is a Senior Technical Information Specialist and Chair of the Digital Repository Working Group. Christie Moffatt works in NLM’s History of Medicine Division. She is an archivist and manager of the NLM Digital Manuscripts Program. Doron Shalvi, works for GDIT in NLM’s Office of Computer and Communication Systems. He is a systems architect of NLM’s Digital Collections.

Answering the Call: Academic Health Sciences Libraries and COVID-19

Guest post by members of a large collaborative network of academic health sciences libraries

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting public health crisis have had a profound impact, reshaping patient care, training, research, learning, and community engagement across academic medicine. Academic health sciences libraries are answering an urgent call to implement the virtual library as an extension of our embedded and integrated roles on campus. The closure of physical spaces during this time highlights the critical role of the virtual services, resources, and training provided by libraries and has accelerated the maturation of many remote resources and services to support and advance institutional missions of research, patient care, education, innovation, and public health.

Academic health sciences libraries are leveraging electronic collections and services and quickly pivoting to meet users’ needs in a variety of ways. Here are some of the actions libraries are taking in the areas of clinical care, education, research, resources, and outreach:

Clinical Care

  • Curating information resources to support health care providers who are transitioning to the front line in preparation for a surge in hospitalizations, including retirees reentering the workforce to care for patients
  • Providing comprehensive searching for evidence-based information on topics such as personal protective equipment, commonly referred to as “PPE,” sanitization and reuse to help safeguard frontline health care providers
  • Providing rapid evidence searching and synthesis services to support the treatment of high-risk patients and specialty care areas, in addition to informing clinical management decisions and public safety
  • Developing guidelines and providing government information on recommendations for the production of PPE face masks using 3-D printing capacity in library-based collaborative “maker-spaces” to align closely with institutional efforts to supply equipment for health care workers 

Education

  • Designing COVID-19 instruction modules and elective courses in partnership with medical education faculty
  • Integrating digital content, including alternatives to print materials, into the evolving online learning environment
  • Facilitating access to online medical education resources to support students preparing for board exams or engaged in clerkships
  • Advancing health literacy by teaching students to communicate effectively with patients and caregivers

Research

  • Creating online learning opportunities in data analysis, visualization, programming, research impact, and more to support and enhance research activities
  • Collaborating with researchers on conducting data analysis, writing for publication, and preparing grant applications during the hiatus of nonessential laboratory work
  • Providing training and consultation services to users on data collection and collaboration via electronic lab notebooks, data collection tools, institutional repositories, and other digital platforms

Resources

  • Maintaining electronic interlibrary loan services through a robust digital network
  • Managing access to peer-reviewed literature to support patient care and emerging research
  • Aggregating and curating COVID-19 resources to help people stay current with the latest articles, rapid reviews, and guidelines and to orient users to critical datasets and analytical tools
  • Negotiating with publishers for temporary expanded access to online content

Outreach

  • Reaching out to populations outside our own institutions to address global health issues
  • Identifying and promoting open-access resources to help providers and community groups
  • Curating consumer health web resources to point the public to authoritative sources of information
  • Providing online wellness activities for our communities

While physically separated, we are working to create stronger bonds among ourselves, connecting with colleagues across the nation and around the world to support one another. The interconnected and collegial nature of our profession is well established, with libraries and librarians enjoying a long history of strong professional networks and collaboration. Our professional associations, including the Regional Medical Libraries of the NLM-supported National Network of Libraries of Medicine, the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries, and the Medical Library Association and its regional Chapters, have been instrumental in cultivating and fostering these networks through regular communications, member support tools, and professional development opportunities. Our networks continue to be a vital foundation for our work and serve to connect us as we share, support, and address urgent information needs.

We acknowledge the toll this crisis is taking. We value the significant and substantial efforts we are engaged in to support and care for ourselves, our families, and our communities during this difficult time. As we continue forward, we offer these thoughts:

To researchers, students, and administrators: Connect with your librarians to establish new partnerships in the creation, collection, and sharing of knowledge. Look to the library for new strategies to advance learning, teaching, and research. Whether on our campuses or virtually, academic health sciences libraries foster health literacy, evidence-based practice, public access, and the creation and sharing of knowledge, while supporting the advancement of state-of-the-art patient care, research, education, and public health — far beyond what you may perceive as traditional library services.

To our colleagues: The current crisis, with its constant demands and urgent requirements, underscores the unquestionable value of librarians in the discovery, creation, and management of knowledge. Your professionalism and proactive innovation are both inspiring and impactful as we work together to address rapidly evolving information needs while developing and maturing critical services, resources, and training.

We celebrate the tremendous achievement by health sciences libraries to pivot to a fully online environment while providing largely uninterrupted access to resources and to valuable services and support during the COVID-19 pandemic. The examples above, and many more not included here, demonstrate the diverse ways that health sciences libraries are stepping up in the face of the current situation, and how libraries will continue to evolve and develop new solutions to meet information challenges.

Row 1 (left to right):
Marisa Conte, MLIS, Associate Director, Research and Informatics, Taubman Health Sciences Library, University of Michigan
John Gallagher, MLS, Director, Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, Yale University
Kristi L. Holmes, PhD, Director, Galter Health Sciences Library and Learning Center and Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine-Health and Biomedical Informatics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Janice M. Jaguszewski, MSLIS, Associate University Librarian and Director, Health Sciences Libraries, University of Minnesota 

Row 2 (left to right):
Barbara Kern, MLIS, Director, Sciences and Social Sciences and Director, John Crerar Library, The University of Chicago
Melissa L. Rethlefsen, MSLS, AHIP, Associate Dean, George A. Smathers Libraries and Fackler Director, Health Science Center Libraries, University of Florida
Anne K. Seymour, MS, Director, Welch Medical Library and Assistant Professor of Health Sciences Informatics, Johns Hopkins University

Share Your Thoughts on NIH’s Research Priorities

Guest post by Leigh Samsel, MS, NLM Planning and Evaluation Officer and NLM representative to the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan Working Group.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is developing its next NIH-Wide Strategic Plan, and we’re asking for your input. This plan will help NIH capitalize on new opportunities for scientific exploration.

Building on the previous NIH-Wide Strategic Plan, the new plan will guide NIH’s research efforts for Fiscal Years 2021–2025. The framework articulates NIH’s priorities in the following key areas:

  • Biomedical and behavioral science research
  • Scientific research capacity
  • Scientific integrity, public accountability, and social responsibility in the conduct of science

In addition, the framework identifies several cross-cutting themes that span the scope of these priorities.

The goal of this NIH-Wide Strategic Plan is to highlight major themes that encompass all of NIH. It is not intended to outline the numerous important research opportunities for specific disease applications, which are covered in the existing strategic plans developed by the 27 Institutes, Centers, and Offices that make up NIH.

I hope you’ll review the strategic plan framework described in the Request for Information (RFI) and provide feedback using the RFI submission site.

Responses to the RFI will be accepted through March 25**.  NIH is encouraging stakeholder organizations (e.g., patient advocacy groups, professional societies, etc.) to submit a single response reflective of the views of the organization/membership as a whole.

** Update: The deadline has been extended until 11:59 pm, April 1, 2020.

Want to Learn More?

NIH is hosting two webinars in March to describe the planning process and answer questions. Those dates are:

  • Monday, March 9 – 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm EST
  • Monday, March 16 – 10:00 am – 11:00 am EST

Additional details about the webinars can be found on the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan webpage.

Your input is vital to ensuring that the NIH-Wide Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2021–2025 puts biomedical research on a promising and visionary path. I appreciate your time and consideration in assisting NIH with this effort.  

Leigh Samsel, MS, is responsible for formal reporting of NLM activities and for providing staff leadership to strategic planning activities.

A New and Improved PubMed®

Guest post by Bart Trawick, PhD, director of the Customer Services Division at the National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institutes of Health.

NLM’s PubMed has long been recognized as a critical resource for helping researchers, health care professionals, students, and the general public keep current with rapid advances in the life sciences. We are excited to introduce an updated version of PubMed that features an updated design and technology to improve the user experience.

Launched in 1996 as an experimental website, PubMed has provided an easy, effective way to search a large portion of the published biomedical literature free of charge. The importance of PubMed is evidenced by its heavy use. Each day, more than 2 million people use PubMed to search a corpus of more than 30 million abstracts and citations, making it one of the most frequently used U.S. government websites.

While PubMed has always been viewed as a valuable and effective resource, we regularly ask ourselves, “How can we improve it?”

A History of Listening

Over the past 24 years, we have continuously updated and refined PubMed to keep pace with ever-changing information technologies and added features and enhancements to make it easier for users to find relevant information quickly. Along the way, we made two major updates to the web interface (one in 2000 and another in 2010) and introduced a separate mobile version of PubMed, in 2011.

Several important factors make these advances possible: strong leadership at NLM, talented development teams, and publisher partners who provide not only content but also feedback on how to improve the intake and presentation of the content. However, the most important factor is the many users who access PubMed and then take the time to tell us how we can improve it.

Kicking It up a Notch

In early 2017, we launched a comprehensive effort to take PubMed to the next level. Our goal was to transform PubMed into a modern hub with a fast, reliable, intuitive search that connects people to the world’s leading sources of biomedical information.

In order to connect people to the information they seek, you need to have a great retrieval engine. Under the leadership of NLM’s Zhiyong Lu, PhD, and his team, we enhanced the retrieval engine, using advanced machine-learning technology to develop a new relevance search algorithm. This algorithm optimizes the quality of top-ranked results and is used by PubMed’s new Best Match feature for sorting search results.

On the technology side, we have a completely new chassis. We’ve moved to an open-source search platform which our Operations and DevOps teams were critical in moving to the cloud, providing greater scalability and reliability. And to deliver the best possible experience, our front-end developers produced a modern, responsive website that is optimized for the needs of today’s information seeker.

To truly understand the needs of PubMed users — and how best to deliver solutions that meet those needs — we needed you. Together with our friends from 18F, we engaged with a broad array of users; analyzed customer service data; reviewed survey responses; and tested dozens of design solutions and enhancements with expert PubMed users, novices, and everyone in between.

If there was one thing we learned during this effort, it was that our initial assumptions and ideas weren’t always right — reinforcing that we must continue to listen to our users and make iterative improvements.

Trying Out the New PubMed

We invite you to experience the latest version of PubMed for yourself!

  • Are you looking for the most relevant papers in a given area? Try the Best Match sort option.
  • Are you writing a grant proposal or peer-reviewed manuscript? We expect that the Cite button will come in quite handy.
  • Are you a power user constructing a systematic review? The Advanced Search workflow has been updated to be more intuitive and flexible.
  • Do you need to access PubMed while away from your desktop? Your mobile device now provides the same full-featured experience via PubMed’s modern, responsive design.

At the bottom of each page of the new site you will find a green Feedback button. Whether you think the new version of PubMed is the bee’s knees just the way it is, or you have a great insight on how to make it better — we will be waiting to hear from you.

Headshot image of Bart Trawick, PhD

As director of the Customer Services Division, Dr. Trawick works to connect customers with the vast information resources available from NLM’s National Center for Biotechnology Information. He has also worked to support the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy since its establishment in 2005. Dr. Trawick is a graduate of Texas A&M University and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.