K & IM Refer Winter 2017

Journal of CILIP’s Knowledge and Information Management Group 33 (3), Winter 2017

K & IM Information Resources Awards 2017

Amanda Duffy, Chair Awards Panel

Electronic Awards 2017

Amanda Duffy, Chair Awards Panel

 Walford Awards 2017

Amanda Duffy, Chair Awards Panel

 Knowledge Sharing At The Crick: Interdisciplinary Cooperation At The Crick Institute

Kate Arnold and Frank Norman, The Crick Institute

 The Evidence Based Pyramid: Laser-focused Search Technology

Abe Lederman, Deep Web Technologies and Dr. Sam Keim

 Schools In Crisis: Toward A Coherent Curriculum

Darryl Toerien, Oakham School

Answering Enquiries: An Updated Edition Of A Classic

Jonathan Cowley, Cardiff University

One Stop Shop For All Parliamentary Information

Donna Ravenhill, Public Information Online

Request For Feedback: The UK Web Archive


K & IM Refer: the journal of the Knowledge and Information Management Group of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), is published three times a year and distributed free to members of the Group.

 Editor: Helen Edwards

Editorial team: Ruth Hayes

Cover Design: Denise Carter

Contact: Helen Edwards 07989 565739; hogedwards@gmail.com

Copyright © The contributors and the K & IM SIG 2017

Online edition https://referisg.wordpress.com

 ISSN: 0144-2384


 K&IM (London & South East Branch) are seeking a new Committee member to take up the Treasurer role. We run a strong programme of workshops, one-day courses and monthly visits to libraries in and around London.

Our friendly and sociable afternoon committee meetings take place five times a year at CILIP HQ.

Please call the Chair, David Baynes, on 02392 831 461 for a chat or email baynes.david@btinternet.com to express interest in the vacancy and then perhaps coming along to our next meeting to learn more.


K & IM Information Resources Awards 2017

Amanda Duffy, Chair Awards Panel


 Over the years these awards have had number of changes of name and direction. They started in 1970 as the Reference and Information Services Besterman and McColvin Awards; by the beginning of this century they were the Information Services Group Reference Awards. From 2017 they are the Knowledge and Information Management Information Resources Awards. This last name change reflects the way we had already been going, as a few years ago we had looked at information resources for young people.

In the early days the criteria for selection were very strict, rigid and conservative. But with the changing nature of publishing, the new and varied ways of presenting information and the increased demand and pressure in all areas, the criteria gradually evolved into something more flexible and relevant to all the information profession.

Whatever the format and whatever the awards are called, the selection for the shortlist still focuses on the quality of the information, its accuracy, currency and presentation, ease of use, availability and overall relevance to the knowledge, information management, library and information profession in the UK. This year the balance of print and electronic resources nominated was even – new and exciting works are being produced in both formats.

Print Awards 2017

In A Romantics Chronology 1780-1832 events in the lives of leading figures in the romantic age are placed in their historical context. A month by month summary depicts milestones in the lives of major writers and other prominent personalities alongside significant political and cultural events. The emphasis is on major British authors such as Jane Austen, Blake, Byron, Burns, Keats and Walter Scott. However, many lesser writers are also included as well as publishers, scientists, artists, composers and politicians. The coverage also includes many references to the Napoleaonic Wars and even the arrival of Stanford Raffles in Singapore in 1820 is mentioned.

A prodigious amount of research has gone into this book. The amount of detail in the pages is impressive, yet the entries are detailed, succinct, readable and fascinating. The scope and coverage are clearly explained and the book is straightforward to use and find your way round. The ease with which information can be extracted makes this a particularly valuable reference tool (and an example to others). The three excellent indexes – author / name, title and subject – make retrieving information highly rewarding. There is a comprehensive and up-to-date set of references and details of relevant websites. This work is a tool to use, an excellent information resource.

In the preface the author states that ‘one of the main purposes of a chronology is to reveal juxtaposition, connections and possibilities’.   The end result is a panorama of one of the richest periods in British culture. The book comes in the Author Chronology Series of nearly 30 titles covering writers from Christopher Marlowe to Harold Pinter.


A Romantics Chronology, 1780-1832 by Martin Garrett, published by Palgrave Macmillan at £65 is the undisputed Winner of the 2017 Knowledge and Information Management Information Resources Awards

The Book of Pears: the definitive history and guide to over 500 varieties is a beautiful piece of modern book production, as well as being an ambitious and scholarly work. It covers the cultivation and use of the pear from ancient Assyria to the present day. There is an exhaustive and highly informative description of over 500 pear varieties with guidance on their identification and edibility. This is accompanied by a list of pear collections worldwide.

Throughout the book are over 40 detailed and very beautiful watercolours by the renowned botanical artist, Elizabeth Dowle.

The only problem we found with this work was the font size used for the index, it is far too small to be read comfortably – even by the younger members of the judging panel. It was the same with the references and bibliography, although this section was extremely comprehensive and up-to-date.

All that apart, this book shows an impressive breadth of knowledge and wide-ranging scholarship. Joan Morgan’s book on apples has become a standard work in the field of horticultural literature and this book will join it. There is an accompanying web site which contains photographs of all the 500 or so varieties.

A rich and deeply fascinating book, an indispensable work for historians, horticulturalists, gardeners and fruit lovers.   The Book of Pears: the definitive history and guide to over 500 varieties by Dr Joan Morgan, published by Ebury Press at £45, or £15 for the Kindle edition, is Highly Commended in 2017 Knowledge and Information Management Information Resources Awards

People and Places – a 21sth century atlas of the UK takes data from the 2011 census plus more recent statistical findings to identify national and local trends and show how much and how quickly the UK is changing. This is a social geography of the United Kingdom between 2001 and 2011.

There are seven broad subject chapters covering amongst other things occupation, families, religion, sex, age, marriage, homes and the community. The commentaries in each area are very insightful and readable and accompanied by helpful bar charts. The coverage is exhaustive and there is an astonishing amount of information here.

The many maps come in the format of population cartograms, i.e. the size of each administrative area is in direct proportion to its population. This is a very illuminating and informative, but the small size of the maps can make them difficult to read and where colours are used, hard to distinguish one area from another.

Perhaps our major criticism of the book was the fact that there were no indexes; you must guess in which chapter a topic may be covered and then search through the pages.

However the book is excellent value for money and its originality and the amount of information it contains makes it a title not to miss.

 People and places: a 21st century atlas of the UK by Danny Dorling and Bethan Thomas, published by Policy Press at £22.99 is Commended in the 2017 Knowledge and Information Management Information Resources Awards

K & IM Refer 33 (3), Winter 2018











K & IM Electronic Awards 2017

Amanda Duffy, Chair Awards Panel

To begin with I would like to thank all the members of the judging panel for their hard work and commitment.   Not only did they spend a full day making decisions on the print, electronic and Walford nominations, they had previously had to look at the 17 websites nominated – a no mean task! Amazingly all but one of these electronic sites were free.

The National Library of Scotland has one of the ten largest map collections in the world with over 2 million maps, atlases, gazetteers and digital map databases. To everyone’s immense benefit the library is digitising the collection; so far there are available more than 160,000 high resolution, zoomable images.

As you might expect, the coverage for Scotland is considerable. There are maps covering the whole of Scotland from 1560 to 1928, Ordnance Survey maps from 1843 to 1960 at all scales, including over 17,000 25 inches to the mile sheets up to 1945, and large-scale maps of Scottish towns 1847-1885. However, the coverage isn’t just Scotland; England and Wales have a strong showing. The collection of 25-inch Ordnance Survey maps for England and Wales from 1841 to 1952 has just been completed, the 1 inch Seventh Series (1952-6) is there and there are the 5 feet to the mile maps of London 1893-96.

Beyond the United Kingdom there are 130 Ordnance Survey trench maps from World War 1, the Times Survey Atlas of the World 1920 edition – the list could go on and on.   I haven’t mentioned coastal charts, military maps, Scottish Post Office maps and estate plans to name a few.

The whole collection can be searched by place name, as well as mapmaker. Georeferenced maps allow the original map to be overlaid on a modern map. You can zoom in on particular parts of a map and the image remains clear and precise. All of this is free and very user-friendly. Printouts, digital images and photocopies are available at very modest charges.

The collection available on the site is continually growing (as the list of recent additions illustrates), so there are more gems to come.   Without doubt a most impressive and authoritative website. The National Library of Scotland: Map Images http://maps.nls.uk/ is the Winner in the 2017 Knowledge and Information Management Information Electronic Resources Awards.

We go across the Atlantic for the next website.

The Global Terrorism Database is an open-source searchable database of information on terrorist events around the world and is maintained at the University of Maryland. The site includes systematic data on terrorist incidents that have occurred anywhere in the world from 1970 to 2016. Over 170,000 terrorist attacks are described – bombings, assassinations and kidnappings – all kinds of attacks, not necessarily those that cause loss of life. The definition for inclusion is ‘threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain political, economic, religious or social gain through fear, coercion or intimidation’.

There is a sophisticated but easily useable advanced search available which allows a search by date, city, perpetrator group, fatalities, attack type, weapons or target – in fact up to 45 variables for each event. For each incident, information is available on the date and location of the incident, the weapons used and nature of the target, the number of casualties, and when available, the group or individual responsible. Over 4 million news articles are cited. I searched on ‘Jo Cox’ by name and the entry came up quickly giving a 4-line description of what happened and then further details on what, how and who plus a list of incident sources, in this case the BBC, The Turkish Daily and Reuters.

This is a truly international database and the major publicly available dataset covering the field. It is impressive for its detail, authority, neutrality and objectivity.   The Global Terrorism Database https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/ is Highly Commended in the 2017 Knowledge and Information Management Information Electronic Resources Awards.

Looking back through the archive of nominations, for many years there was usually a ‘bird book’ sent in, and occasionally one came within the top three titles.   Recently we haven’t had any such nominations, but this year we did receive nominations for two bird websites. They show how far we have come from our older, more traditional sources and how attractive and accessible information can now be made.   We looked closely at both of them and decided to Commend both in the awards.

I never had much joy trying to identify a strange, new bird in my garden but I think with the RSPB Bird Identifier I will have better luck. This is a very search-friendly site; you indicate what you know and based on each piece of information you give, the number of results is whittled down and thumbnail illustrations appear to help you.

The search options are extremely practical.   Instead of asking if the bird is 4 inches or 8 inches long, you are given 5 choices to say whether it is, for example, smaller than a robin or between a black bird and pigeon.   After this sections cover place (5 choices), colour (11 options that can be combined), beak and behaviour.   Once you get to an individual bird there are a couple of illustrations, a description, a distribution map, audio clips and a superb video.

This is a very straightforward site that, although it has a limited interest, is so well arranged and presented that the RSPB Bird Identifier https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-identifier/ is Commended in the 2017 Knowledge and Information Management Information Electronic Resources Awards.

Back across the Pond again for our other bird site.

The Guide to American Birds is part of the National Audubon Society website, and describes over 1,000 species of birds in North America. Birds can be browsed by species or searched by name or species. Entries provide information on conservation status, scientific classification and habitat. There is an extensive photo gallery for each bird (the bald eagle has 13 different pictures). The sound collection illustrates the songs and calls; here there 10 examples alone for the American Robin.   Very detailed maps show the range of each bird for over all of North America.   There is a Bird Guide App for iPhone and Android, and information can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and email. Not a site that will very heavily used over here, but a site that shows what a website can and should offer, and once again it is free.

The Guide to American Birds www.audubon.org/bird-guide is also Commended in the 2017 Knowledge and Information Management Information Electronic Resources Awards.


K & IM Refer 33 (3,) Winter 2017

The Walford Awards 2017

Amanda Duffy, Chair Awards Panel

We received an unprecedented number of nominations for the Walford Award this year and it was difficult to reduce that list to just one name. So we decided to award two Walfords this time in celebration of the formation of K&IM Special Interest Group. Our two winners show the wide diversity of work that encompasses the information and knowledge management field.

So as not to show any bias or favouritism, they are alphabetical order.

David Gurteen

David began life as a physicist and worked for many years for British Aerospace in the IT field. His time with Lotus Development introduced him to Knowledge Management (although he didn’t know it as such). He established his own consultancy in 1993 and quickly realised that the real issues around IT were about people – their behaviour, learning and ways of working together effectively. From there, he hasn’t stopped, becoming a real champion for sharing knowledge and creating networks through the power of conversation and knowledge cafes. David is a model Knowledge Management practitioner, open minded, inclusive and willing to share learning with, as well as learn from, others. His modesty and enthusiasm for his subject are infectious.

Very few other people have made the sustained, generous, ever expanding and visible contribution to Knowledge Management globally that David has. He has been a tireless ambassador for KM, crossing professional boundaries in an understated and effective way, and winning over sceptics and critics alike.

In appreciation of his openness, enthusiasm and objectivity in this growing area of professional information work, the Walford Award is presented to David Gurteen.

Valerie Nurcombe

Valerie’s contribution to information work and resources takes two paths. Firstly, she has been the author of a number of essential works on information sources in architecture, building and above all official publications.   And it is with official publications that Valerie’s second and truly major contribution lies.

The Standing Committee on Official Publications (SCOOP), from its inception in 1970, has played an important part within the Information Services Group. SCOOP brings together users of official publications in all kinds of library, authors of official publications (mostly Parliament) and publishers of official publications. As long-term secretary of SCOOP, Valerie kept these groups talking to each other and resolving the many issues that arose (and still arise).

She also kept day-to-day practitioners in the field up-to-date and confident in the use and exploitation of official publications. Most of this was done through very successful day schools, meetings and seminars, all of which were delivered by senior people in the profession. These events were not only extremely popular (many had to be repeated again and again), they were also very important in spreading the word about the vital importance of maintaining and promoting official publications collections. On top of this, they were financially very profitable, and sales of the published proceedings spread the word even further.

Recognition of Valerie’s extensive and dedicated work is long overdue, and Knowledge and Information Management Group is pleased to acknowledge this by presenting her with the Walford Award in 2017.


K & IM Refer 33 (3), Winter 2017

Knowledge Sharing At The Crick: Interdisciplinary Cooperation At The Crick Institute

Kate Arnold and Frank Norman, The Crick Institute

The Francis Crick Institute is a research institute ‘dedicated to understanding fundamental biology underlying health and disease’. A distinctive feature of the Crick vision is the emphasis on multidisciplinary collaboration and this has engendered the drive to ‘develop ways of working that are receptive to new techniques and approaches and unconstrained by traditional disciplinary boundaries.’ 1 The Crick vision influences the internal management structure, the organisation of seminar programmes, the design of a translation programme and the design of the building created to house the Institute:

“… for Paul [Nurse], the task of getting the Crick’s scientists to connect is also a sociological one, and he’s thought about how to solve it on many levels – from how to persuade people to come out of their labs into the interaction spaces on each floor (“if you want to go and have a pee, or go to the lift, or get coffee, you have to go through them”), to the design of the furniture in the interaction spaces …, to the flat management structure of the Institute”. 2

Facts and figures on the Crick3

People & structure Income & activities
1,500 people Income: £160.6 million
94 research groups Publications: 450+ peer reviewed papers published
More than 200 PhD students Outreach: 7,830 primary school children reached with science activities
14 Science Technology Platforms (STPs) provide access to state-of-the-art equipment Two spin-out companies

Building design

The Crick believes that proximity helps multidisciplinary research4. By 2019, there will be about 120 research groups, covering a range of biomedical and other disciplines. Putting multiple disciplines into close proximity, alongside an ethos of collaboration and sharing, is expected to encourage new collaborative approaches.

The building has four quadrants, linked by two atria running the length and breadth of the building. On each of the four laboratory floors there is a central area with breakout and collaborative space, refreshment facilities, and an administrative hub. The breakout spaces are a key feature of the lab floors, providing space for small meetings and discussions and for refreshment breaks. The building structure is very open, with few solid walls and extensive use of glass for walls and doors. As a result, researchers have a visible connection with colleagues working in different parts of the building. The building is designed to encourage mixing, particularly through the collaboration spaces.

Plan of a typical laboratory floor.


View from the fifth floor looking down the atrium.

Interest groups

The Institute has a flat management structure. Research groups are not grouped into ‘Divisions’ or ‘Departments’; there are no administrative barriers between disciplines. There are nine interest groups, open to any Crick staff, and these are the basis of seminar programmes, which run on a regular basis. These include external invited speakers and internal seminars by junior researchers. Their aim is to help “Crick scientists to interact with one another and with the wider scientific community”. One of the Crick’s Assistant Research Directors is responsible for ‘scientific discourse’, including these interest groups. There are also more informal clubs that have smaller memberships.


Interest groups Clubs
Cancer Artificial Intelligence
Cell Biology and Signalling Image Analysis
Chromosome Biology Genome Editing
Computational and Physical Biology Research Buzz
Development and Stem Cells
Structural Biology


Library & Information Services (LIS)

There is no physical library space, but there is a Library & Information Service (LIS). The four-person LIS team is in the Information Technology and Services department, which in turn is part of the Institute Operations section. The collection and services they deliver are largely digital:

  • access to 3,000+ current journal titles, specialist online databases (Scopus, Europe PubMedCentral, Reaxys, SciFinder and Faculty of 1000);
  • approximately 400 document delivery requests;
  • training for staff, particularly for PhD students on searching and citation management;
  • daily curated news feed of science policy and science community stories – a popular feature of the Crick’s intranet;
  • managing Open Access compliance for the Crick; updating and maintaining the organisation’s publication lists on the external website

The collaborative nature of the Institute means that it is easy to work close to scientists in collaborative areas, so overcoming one of the challenges of not having a physical library space. Since moving into the new building in August 2016 the LIS team has worked to:

  • build brand awareness through revamping its presence on the intranet to be more user focused;
  • establish open access and preprint policies and strengthen support for OA compliance;
  • establish the Scholarly Communications Advisory Group, with a senior scientist as chair;
  • carry out user experience (UX) work to better understand user needs.

Working with other teams

As a small team, it is important for LIS to work across departmental boundaries within Institute Operations. We have linked successfully with the Learning & Development, Communications, and Engagement teams, and are beginning to work with the Scientific Computing team (on research data management) and the Translation team. Crick has a novel approach to research translation 5 and we hope to work jointly on the open science agenda.


The LIS team undertook UX training in conjunction with the Communications team on a variety of user experience techniques including graffiti wall, interviews, cognitive mapping, card sorting and usability testing. This collaboration proved to be a very positive experience. It enabled us all to learn more about one another’s skills, experience and work challenges, which in turn led to providing support. For example, the intranet developer in Comms recognised the LIS team’s skills in organising information and asked for help in devising a new taxonomy for the Crick’s intranet. LIS have also led on developing a workflow for researchers to notify LIS, Communications and the Translation team about forthcoming research papers published by the Institute.


The LIS team has worked collaboratively with the Public Engagement team in two areas. It created an activity for the first Crick Late event in May 2017, with the theme of ‘Information without Boundaries’. Themed information journeys were presented on malaria, cancer, influenza, metabolism and CRISPR, and a quiz on open access and publishing was created. The quiz proved very popular as an interactive activity and a good way to start conversations.

Working with the Education team, LIS also provided training for several Nuffield Research Placement students, in searching and referencing skills during their summer placements. Further work with the Education team is planned for next year.


It is still early days at the Crick. After just over a year in the new building, we are still evolving our working patterns, forging new relationships and understanding user needs. The Crick is aiming for steady-state operations in 2019 and we expect that the library and information services will have matured by that point.


  1. Collaborate creatively | The Francis Crick Institute. at <https://www.crick.ac.uk/strategy/collaborate-creatively/&gt;
  2. “It”s really difficult to be a polymath’ – Sir Paul Nurse on multidisciplinary research – Cancer Research UK – Science blog. at <http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/03/27/its-really-difficult-to-be-a-polymath-sir-paul-nurse-on-multidisciplinary-research/&gt;
  3. A new home for science and discovery: Annual Review 2016/17. (Francis Crick Institute, 2017). at <http://crick.ac.uk/media/381018/2016-17_francis_crick_annual_review.pdf&gt;
  4. Francis Crick Institute Named 2017 Laboratory of the Year. at <http://www.hok.com/about/news/2017/04/26/francis-crick-institute-named-2017-laboratory-of-the-year/&gt;
  5. Discussing Open Science with the Head of Translation at The Francis Crick. at <http://labiotech.eu/francis-crick-institute-veronique-birault/&gt;


K & IM Refer 33 (3), Winter 2017

The Evidence Based Pyramid: Laser-focused Search Technology

 Abe Lederman, Deep Web Technologies and Dr Sam Keim

Imagine front-line medical personnel under time pressure to diagnose and treat patients with a wide range of conditions. These brave souls have only their skills, their experience, and their resources (human, paper, and electronic) to rely on. A new breed of technology is evolving to help medical staff to quickly identify the treatments most likely to be effective.

The intersection of best medical practices and leading edge computerized clinical decision support systems (CDSS) is fluid and fast-moving. Clinicians are likely amazed by the wide array of information sources that are available. Unfortunately, most are naïve to the quality of the information source and have little time or experience to do fact-checking. Many products are also difficult to navigate without additional training. For these reasons, clinicians have been relatively poor adopters of CDSS.

Emerging computerized search technology, however, might allow more clinicians access to state of the art medical information. This technology can increase accuracy of information acquisition and reduce frustrating time delays. One such technology already helps emergency clinicians and other medical staff quickly assess medical answers and identify the best treatments faster. This technology has two foundational goals: first, to provide the clinician with information pre-graded by quality; and second, to deliver accurate information extremely fast. Quality ranking is accomplished by utilizing the scientific strength underlying each clinical publication. These concepts are central to the now widely promoted discipline of Evidence Based Medicine (EBM).

EBM is the mindful use of modern technology to bring the best relevant medical information to bedside clinical decisions. Incorporating EBM greatly benefits patients who gain access to the best and latest scientific advancements in the world. EBM simultaneously benefits the provider by facilitating powerful uptake of new knowledge. In short, EBM is the solution to the chasm that exists between proven medical discoveries and clinical practice. The alternative to practicing EBM for clinicians is to “just use your personal experience and gut-feelings.” This is increasingly recognized as irresponsible and unacceptable to patients, providers and healthcare policy makers.

Federated search, also known as distributed search, is a technology that searches huge parts of the web that Google and the other crawlers can’t get to. This “deep web” is where a large amount of the highest quality academic information, scientific reports, legal documents, and medical research and clinical study information lives. It’s the fact that much of the medical information that a clinician needs is in the deep web that makes diving beneath the surface so critical to the success of EBM in providing bedside care. Not only is Google not good enough for practising EBM, but neither are medical textbooks or individual online databases. The tools supporting the practice need to be much focused and comprehensive.

URNation provides a great introduction to EBM in the form of slides along a timeline. The presentation begins with the first clinical trial in 1747 and covers nearly twenty milestones leading up to the state of EBM today.

EBM is built on a foundation of evidence that is organized into hierarchical levels. Higher levels of the pyramid include evidence that is more scientifically rigorous and therefore higher quality. The evidence is also likely more problem specific. Evidence at the lower levels includes evidence that has resulted from less scientifically-rigorous methods and is typically more general in nature. Search technology that delivers results filtered according to the EBM pyramid allows for powerful advantages to the user in both time efficiency and quality impact.

Traditional federated search meets the needs of scientists, researchers and academics who need to find quality articles that are out of Google’s reach. Santa Fe-based Deep Web Technologies (DWT) has extended the traditional offering to add a laser focus component in developing its flagship medical product, Explorit Everywhere! EBM. DWT collaborated with Samuel Keim, MD, MSc, Professor, and Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Arizona to develop the system.

It takes three major elements to deliver a focused search tool informed by EBM best practices:

  1. Start with the information sources backed by the best evidence
  2. Provide an intuitive and extremely friendly user interface
  3. Organize results within the framework of the evidence pyramid

Below we highlight the steps a researcher or clinician takes to search with Explorit Everywhere! EBM.

Select the speciality

The user selects from one of 28 specialties.

Selecting a specialty determines which targeted (curated) resources are used for the search and narrows the focus vs. a shotgun approach of searching a large pile of medical resources. Our focus is on selecting fewer sources for each specialty, in particular the ones medical experts select that provide the strongest clinical evidence. Contrast this with the Google approach of providing a ton of results, many of questionable value. We eliminate the effort of sifting through irrelevant results and of wondering whether the sources are vetted.

We select the best sources using a combination of Doody’s review service (for textbooks) and the input of experts within the specialties. Doody’s is highly regarded in the health sciences community for its expert reviews of specialty titles.

Beyond specialty selection, we improve search efficiency in various ways:

  1. We search sources simultaneously and present result summaries in a single page. This includes sources requiring authentication. So, there’s no need to perform multiple searches and compare result screens.
  2. We can integrate a library’s subscribed content with public content into the evidence pyramid, and select sources to include by specialty. The aim is to provide users with exposure to a broad range of content. And, we balance this focus on breadth with the ability to highlight favourite sources such as DynaMed Plus and UpToDate in their own tabs in the result page.
  3. For PubMed, we limit searches to “core clinical” and specialty high impact factor journals. We further limit searches to the last ten years of human studies in English-only articles.
  4. We search only three to five of the best textbooks per specialty in the textbook tab. Customers can select online textbook sources that they have subscriptions for.
  5. Other resources include all of ClinicalKey, STAT!Ref and Psychiatry Online. Like the textbooks, customers can customize these. 

Perform quick or advanced search

The optional advanced search allows for further focusing based on full record, title, author, date, and other fields. And, in setting up the form for the advanced search, the user can target individual layers of the pyramid. For example, you can choose to search only the resources at the top layer of the pyramid — Systematic Reviews.

Regardless of whether or not the user customizes the search fields, we optimize the search results in various ways to further maintain user focus.

Review search results

  1. We organize results into sequential and colour-coded tabs, following the levels of the evidence pyramid with the Cochrane and systematic reviews (coral coloured) results on the left.

  1. We provide highlighted abstracts and snippets directly on the results page, saving the effort of clicking through to an article that’s not what the user is looking for.

  1. Similar to the point above, we provide inline author conclusions (for some sources).

  1. BrowZine integration (for some sources) allows users to browse other articles in the journal in which a particular result appears.

5. We customize ranking to favour a mix of relevant and recent articles. In particular, articles that are three years old or newer are displayed early in the search results if they are relevant to the search terms.

  1. We recommend medical terms (using the UMLS service) to replace common terms. UMLS – the Unified Medical Language System – per Wikipedia, “is a compendium of many controlled vocabularies in the biomedical sciences.” The UMLS feature suggests, for example, somnambulism, as a replacement search term for sleepwalking. Medical resources are more likely to find better matches using the medical term. We also catch typos and suggest the correct spelling.

A demo with public sources is available at http://public-demo.ebm-search.com/.

The future of EBM

EBM is a model for selecting a patient treatment that is supported with the strongest evidence. The future of EBM is to structure patient data so that it is easy to analyze with machine learning techniques to determine the best treatment given historical data for millions of patients. Such a system, of course, will learn continuously as artificial techniques evolve and as the gathered data grows larger and more comprehensive. While the technology may change, the focus won’t — we learn from what has worked before.

Biographical note

Dr. Samuel Keim has dedicated thirty years of research and teaching focused on EBM. Dr. Keim’s pioneering work with federated search and EBM is described in an article he co-authored, Evidence-based Medicine Search: a customizable federated search engine.

Abe Lederman is the founder and CEO of Deep Web Technologies


K & IM Refer 33 (3), Winter 2017

Schools In Crisis: Toward a Coherent Curriculum[1]

Darryl Toerien, Oakham School

Even the most nearly ideal curriculum can be only the beginning of the educational process, and the student’s years of formal education can accomplish little more than create an awareness of the knowledge he must master and the ways in which such mastery may be achieved over his entire professional life (Shera, 1972, p. 223).

School, it appears to me, is in crisis. Stavros Yiannouka (2017) goes to the root of this crisis by recalling David Deutsch’s seemingly “logically unassailable idea that in a world where knowledge is growing exponentially, the tools for acquiring and interpreting that knowledge are at least as important as the actual knowledge itself”.

For many of our schools, perhaps the majority, this crisis will be overwhelming for three interrelated reasons:

  1. Schools are almost exclusively and entirely geared towards teaching knowledge. When schools get to the point where they realise that it is actually no longer possible to teach students everything that they need to know, then teaching effective use of the tools for acquiring and interpreting knowledge will become unavoidable.
  2. At this point schools will no longer be able to pay lip service to independent learning, and will realise that independent learning is a complex problem that requires, amongst other things, “progressive and systematic preparation for and development of pupils in becoming independent learners within the curriculum” (Learning and Skills Network, 2008, p. 9).
  3. At this point schools will discover that the success of their “progressive and systematic preparation for and development of pupils in becoming independent learners within the curriculum” depends on the effective collaboration of all academic departments in the school, which, crucially, includes the library, and this will be especially problematic for those schools who effectively no longer have one[2].

So, how have we gone about averting this crisis, which is at root a crisis of knowledge, at Oakham School[3] – beyond continuing to invest in a world class school library, that is?

Seymour Papert is widely reported to have said that you can’t teach people everything that they need to know, and that the best that we can do is position them where they can find what they need to know when they need to know it. This is, for us, both the beginning and the end of an Oakham School education – the direction our students head off in when they arrive and where they find themselves poised when they leave. Our aim in this is to ensure that our students do not experience the transition to university as a clash of learning cultures (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Transition: Culture Clash or Opportunity? (Secker & Coonan, 2011)

In order for this to happen, we needed a model of the inquiry process, as well as an underlying framework of skills that enable the various stages in the process. For this we were sadly forced to look for best practice abroad, settling eventually on the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum, which is centred on Barbara Stripling’s cycle of inquiry[4] (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Stripling Model of Inquiry (Library of Congress, 2009)

Five years on a very steep learning curve has produced FOSIL [2.0][5] (Figure 3).

Figure 3: FOSIL [2.0]: Framework for Oakham School Inquiry Learning

This cycle of inquiry, or research in it fullest sense, rests on a systematic progression of skills stretching from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and with this iteration of FOSIL we have begun to adapt Year 6 – Year 9 to our specific needs, mainly through the Computer Science Hardware Inquiries (Figure 4).

Figure 4: FOSIL Skills (Year 6 – Year 9)

While working on FOSIL, I co-presented a seminar at the 2011 IBAEM Regional Conference titled Research as a Way of Knowing: The Extended Essay in Theory of Knowledge. This was significant for two reasons:

  1. In preparing for this seminar it first became clear to me the extent to which subjects at school, taught as they are in isolation, fragment knowledge – by which I mean the sum total of what we know, or think we know, about the world and our place in it – so far that a coherent sense of the meaning of the whole is impossible. Since then I have become increasingly convinced that this does our students a profound disservice because it means that we cannot equip them to declare, with Balzac, “The world belongs to me because I understand it” (Bellow, 1987, p. 15). This realisation also caused me to fundamentally rethink our collection in terms of the state of a coherent body knowledge, rather than merely information about subjects.
  2. I attended a seminar on dynamic curriculum mapping and had the good fortune to meet Kevin Heppell, the visionary architect of Mondrian Wall, a powerful tool for doing just this. Mondrian Wall proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle.

Mapping the taught curriculum has always been desirable, because which school librarian would not want to know when students were learning what, even if only to ensure that the collection was relevant, budget permitting (Figure 5 and Figure 6)?

Figure 5: Emerging Curriculum Map: Unit Level Detail (Year 6 – Year 9)

Figure 6: Emerging Curriculum Map: Topic Level Detail (Year 7 Computer Science Hardware Inquiry)

However, if the curriculum is viewed in terms of knowledge of the world and our place in it – knowledge without which understanding is impossible – and subjects as perspectives on this knowledge – perspectives that in isolation are necessarily incomplete – then mapping the taught curriculum also becomes an exercise in determining the coherence of the taught curriculum, both within and between subjects (Figure 7). This example reveals a potential weakness in the teaching order in current Year 9 curriculum, because it would be desirable for the skills required to use and rearrange equations to be taught in Mathematics by a subject specialist before these skills are required in the Physics unit Forces.

Figure 7: Content Link between Mathematics and Physics (Year 9)

What collaboration with Kevin on Mondrian Wall further made possible, though, was to underlay the emerging map the taught curriculum in terms of content with a map of the progression of FOSIL-based inquiry skills (Figure 7).

Figure 8: FOSIL Skills (Year 6 -Year 13)

This now allows us to map both where in the taught curriculum FOSIL-based inquiry learning is taking place, and exactly which FOSIL skills are involved.

Figure 9: A Search Revealing Where Citation is Currently Taught and/or Practised (Year 6 – Year 9)

A school curriculum is so complex, and with so many different stakeholders, that without this dynamic overview it would be impossible to design and maintain a curriculum in which students encounter academic content in a coherent way, particularly across traditional subject boundaries. Crucially, also a coherent curriculum in which they are given, in a structured and intentional way across all subjects, opportunities to master the skills they will need to negotiate our information-dense world far beyond the end of formal schooling. It is finally possible for us to begin in earnest the conversation about how we collaborate to “progressively and systematically” equip our students with “the tools for acquiring and interpreting…knowledge”, the knowledge that they will need for the world to fully open to them.


ASCD. (1995). Toward a Coherent Curriculum. Alexandria: Assocaiation for Supervision and Curriculum Development Publications.

Bellow, S. (1987). Foreword. In A. Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students (pp. 11-18). New York: Simon & Schuster.

Callison, D. (2015). The Evolution of Inquiry: Controlled, Guided, Modeled, and Free. Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

Learning and Skills Network. (2008). Independent Learning: Literature Review. Nottingham: DCSF Publications.

Library of Congress. (2009). Teaching Inquiry with Primary Sources. From Teaching with Primary Sources Quarterly: http://www.loc.gov/teachers/tps/quarterly/inquiry_learning/article.html

Margolis, B. A. (2013, January 24). Empire State Information Fluency Continuum Endorsed by New York Library Association. From New York State Library: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/slssap/letter.htm

Secker, J., & Coonan, E. (2011, November 1). Supporting undergraduates of the future: developing a new curriculum for information literacy. From NetworkEd2011 : https://www.slideshare.net/seckerj/networked2011-9978692

Shera, J. H. (1972). The foundations of education for librarianship. New York: Becker and Hayes.

Yiannouka, S. N. (2017, November 6). We have to rethink what “educated” means in a post-truth world. From Quartz: https://qz.com/1120690/we-have-to-rethink-what-educated-means-in-a-post-truth-world/

[1] Our concern with coherence of the curriculum uncovered Toward a Coherent Curriculum (ASCD, 1995). While arguably dated and American, the issues it wrestles with are both timeless and universal. A coherent curriculum is our goal.

[2] It is beyond the scope of this article to explain in any detail what I understand a library to be, but I trust that a strong sense of this will emerge from my discussion of what our library does.

[3] Oakham School is an independent boarding and day school for boys and girls aged 10 to 18 offering both A-levels and the IB Diploma Programme (IBDP). I have been Head of Library at Oakham School since 2008, and the opportunity to directly experience two very different approaches to education has been very insightful. The IBDP is the end point of a continuum of education stretching back to Kindergarten. A defining characteristic of this continuum is that it is an inquiry-based approach to education. By contrast, this not even a characteristic of an A-level education.

[4] The Continuum was developed by the New York City Department of Education School Library System while Barbara Stripling was Director of Library Services. Bernard A. Margolis (2013), State Librarian and Assistant Commissioner for New York State Libraries, in officially endorsing the framework, said that it “has already become the standard which defines information literacy and helps to define the inquiry skills essential for student success”. Daniel Callison more recently went on to say that “Stripling’s stages of inquiry apply neatly across grade levels and academic disciplines as a basis for a modern interdisciplinary, inquiry-based curriculum” (2015, p. 11). Barbara Stripling went on to be President of the American Library Association (2013-2014), and is currently Senior Associate Dean of the iSchool at Syracuse University.

[5] While FOSIL stands for Framework for Oakham School Inquiry Learning, it deliberately also evokes the discipline and process of uncovering and interpreting [archaeological] evidence as a helpful image, as well as warns against complacency, because any framework like this will need to keep evolving if it is not to become extinct. The colours of the stages in the process are not arbitrary – the colour of each stage is the colour most closely associated with the main activity in that stage (or at least as close as the author could determine).


K & IM Refer 33 (3), Winter 2017