More and more, systematic reviews are a popular scholarly activity for students and faculty alike. A properly done systematic review surveys all relevant published and unpublished data in order to answer a specific research question (or questions). Because the intent of a systematic review is to be an exhaustive synthesis of all pertinent information, it requires that a very thorough search be performed. Because of this, librarians are often recruited to assist with these projects as they have the skills and experience needed to thoroughly mine a wide range of information sources. The Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions even indicates the necessity of including a librarian or information specialist from the very beginning of a systematic review project.
At the Himmelfarb Library, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of systematic review support requests in recent years. The projects we assist with range from stripped down versions of systematic reviews performed by a single student as part of a class project all the way up to full-blown multiyear projects involving a team of researchers, often collaborations between GW researchers and their counterparts around the world.
In addition to assisting with projects of varying scope and scale, we also offer different levels of assistance, depending on the needs of the researchers. Himmelfarb’s contribution may just involve an initial consultation to help researchers understand the standard systematic review process. Most often we will also help to craft an initial search strategy which researchers can further develop, later offering feedback on search syntax as needed. Beyond acting as consultants, librarians can sometimes be full-fledged team members: involved throughout the process; crafting and executing full search strategies; and responsible for processing the search results. For these projects, the contributions of the librarian will sometimes even rise to the level of co-authorship.
As our level of involvement increases, so too does our investment of time. Given the increasing number of such requests, and in light of competing instructional, reference assistance, and other demands, the Himmelfarb Library will soon be instituting a cost-recovery policy for those systematic review projects which are the most time-intensive for librarians. For projects which require significant and regular librarian involvement, we will develop a cost estimate based on the number of hours we believe it will take to complete the project. These charges can be paid through grant or departmental funding available to the research team.
For systematic reviews which don’t require a full-service level of support, which account for the majority of the requests that the library receives, we will continue to provide consultation services free of charge. The determination of whether a particular project will require cost recovery charges will be made during an initial free consultation with a librarian. This policy is set to go into effect in January 2024, if you have any questions or comments, please email Himmelfarb’s Associate Director of Reference, Instruction, Access - Tom Harrod (email@example.com).