Thursday, July 28, 2022

Librarians as Evidence Intermediaries during Times of Crisis #Evidenceforall #WLIC2022

At the WLIC conference today I was in a session called Librarians as Evidence Intermediaries during Times of Crisis. I'm having to leave early to stand by my poster in the exhibition, but I will provide some notes from the introductory talks at least. The session was organised by the IFLA Evidence for Global and Disaster Health Special Interest Group. COVID had a good side in revealing the good evidence there was (ad library helped with this process), the bad were the shortcomings in research that emerged, and teh ugly was teh wave of disinformation. Two reports were identified as important: a report from the Cochrane Collaboration and one from the Evidence Commission. Both of them represented a call to action, including identifying librarians' role in providing #Evidencefor all. The SIG has 3 strands of work: advocacy, skills development and collaborative work & partnerships.  

The first speaker was Margaret Zimmerman, Florida State University, United States, who talked about Health information as a human right: developments over the past year. This is looking at issues of equality in getting health information - the right can be drawn from the Declaration of Human rights articles 19, 25 and 27. Thus it is a violation of human rights to thwart efforts to give credible information on health to all. The speaker referred to the session at lat year's IFLA session (which I blogged here and the recording is here). In the past year the Global Health Information Network has become a WHO partner, Cochrane has called on people/agencies who produce information to collaborate in a network to improve access to information globally (IFLA has joined this iniative). Zimmermann also highlighted an article that she has written on the topic of her talk which is going to appear in Library quarterly.

Secondly, Jeremy Grimshaw, co-lead Global Commission on Evidence to Support Societal Challenges, then spoke about Building Global Evidence Support systems. He noted how the pandemic had created an unprecedented interest from stakeholders - though the initial flurry included people doing incomplete, ineffective and soon out-of-date evidence reviews - but also on the other hand some innovative initiatives. COVID-END was formed as a time limited network for international evidence synthesis. There is information about COVID END here The speaker went on to talk about the Evidence Report, available in several languages - this is the English version Grimshaw highlighted that the material in the report - much of it in infographics - can be used freely by others. They made 20 recommendations for agencies and groups at various levels e.g. policy-makers, funders. The speaker saw librarians as key across all the sectors because of the power they have to push forward the agenda. 

After this there were discussion sessions in which the participants shared their experiences and initiatives, using the three themes: equity, strategies/working practices and coordination/collaboration. I think there will be a write up of key points that emerge, so I will look out for that. Before leaving for my poster I eavesdropped on the group discussing "equity", and points being discussed included: how both in Africa and in North America there were parts of the population that had no internet access, and in some cases there is scarcely use of any media (TV, radio etc.) at all; that there was a problem of what represented "authority" for information guidance; that reliable information and messages about avoiding misinformation could be very dry and unengaging (whereas misinformation may be presented in very engaging ways).

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