Journal Club: Research Support in Health Sciences Libraries: A scoping review

Meeting date: Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Presenter: Erin Langman

Citation: Visintini, S., Boutet, M., Manley, A., & Helwig, M. (2018). Research support in health sciences libraries: a scoping review. Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association, 39(2), 56-78. doi:

Article abstract:


As part of a health sciences library’s internal assessment of its research support services, an environmental scan and literature review were conducted to identify research services offered elsewhere in Canada. Through this process, it became clear that a more formal review of the academic literature would help libraries make informed decisions about their services. To address this gap, we conducted a scoping review of research services provided in health sciences libraries contexts.Methods:

Searches were conducted in Medline, Embase, ERIC, CINAHL, LISTA, LISS, Scopus, Web of Science, Google Scholar and Google for articles which described the development, implementation, or evaluation of one or more research support initiatives in a health sciences library context. We identified additional articles by searching reference lists of included studies and soliciting medical library listservs.Results:

Our database searches retrieved 7134 records, 4026 after duplicates were removed. Title/abstract screening excluded 3751, with 333 records retained for full-text screening. Seventy-five records were included, reporting on 74 different initiatives. Included studies were published between 1990 and 2017, the majority from North American and academic library contexts. Major service areas reported were the creation of new research support positions, and support services for systematic review support, grants, data management, open access and repositories.Conclusion:

This scoping review is the first review to our knowledge to map research support services in the health sciences library context. It identified main areas of research service support provided by health sciences libraries that can be used for benchmarking or information gathering purposes.

Critical Appraisal: 


  1. What research services does your library currently offer? Did the article provide any ideas or models for future service provision? A “spectrum of services” figure is provided by the authors on page 66; are there any services your library currently provides on the left-end of the spectrum that could be expanded upon?
  2. What are some potential barriers for service expansion at your institution? The creation of new positions was central to 27 of the studies, and fee-based services were mentioned by three of the studies; would this potentially remove some barriers? Are either option feasible?
  3. Only three of the identified studies reported conducting a needs assessment prior to implementing a new service, and less than half included some form of evaluation. The authors argue that future studies must focus more on evaluation. How does your institution currently evaluate services or decide to offer a new service? How can this be improved upon?
  4. Open discussion