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Enhancing Information Support: Health and Biomedical Researchers


In response to the increasingly complex information needs of healthcare researchers, a rich and diverse spectrum of services are being offered by libraries in biomedical and translational research institutions across the world.

We are keen to explore further how our library services can be more embedded within, and better support the workflows of, Oxford’s biomedical/translational research community and the central services of the BRC. The study focuses on Biomedical Research Centre funded scientists but, as well as being applicable to other biomedical researchers in Oxford, the outputs will also be of interest to the wider UK library community supporting BRCs and other centres of biomedical/translational research.

In the USA, the NIH and various other institutes have long established “informationist” (or Information Specialist in Context) programmes and posts providing research and knowledge management services in the context of biomedical research.

For example, informationists and other library professionals support researchers at CTSA-funded and other translational science institutes at each step of the research process, from grant seeking to final publication, supporting data management and preservation, providing bibliometric analysis, undertaking expert searching, and helping to ensure compliance with funder policies regarding data management and open access, as well as more bespoke services. However, the development of this kind of informationist role has been more limited to date in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Oxford is a world leading centre for healthcare and biomedical research in all its forms, from bench to bedside. Our library services work in support of NHS and MSD researchers at all levels, including the provision of many of the services outlined above and access to the largest collection of online journals and databases in UK HE.

Aims of the Project

Funded by the Oxford BRC and with support from external experts in information studies research, we are undertaking a range of activities between and January and July 2017 to help us identity:

  • The core services that should be part of our “standard” offering to BRC funded and other researchers.
  • How we can better present, and make the Oxford biomedical/healthcare research community more aware of, the services available.
  • Gaps in current library service provision and key areas of knowledge management/information support where a more embedded information specialist could provide support to biomedical researchers and the BRC.
  • The specific applicability of the “Research Informationist” role to the Oxford context and the BRC.
  • The core additional skills and knowledge required of library staff to provide more embedded support to the BRC and within the wider Oxford/UK biomedical research context.

The above will be identified via a range of activities including: desk research (such as searches and analysis of the relevant literature), visits to the library services of other leading UK biomedical research centres, interviews (most likely online) with informationists and others in similar roles in the USA, and interviews and focus groups with a wide range of Oxford biomedical researchers, research nurses, and administrators.

For more information about the work of the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, please see their website.


Our project lead is Eli Harriss, a highly experienced information specialist based in the Old Road Campus Research Building.

If you would like to learn more about the project, or would like contribute your experience or views on how we can provide services in new ways to you and your colleagues, then we would be very pleased to hear from you.

Please email

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