Insights into open and closed access intelligence

Andrew Lambe, Knowledge and Intelligence Manager, Sustainable Improvement Team, NHS England

Andrew Lambe, Knowledge and Intelligence Manager, Sustainable Improvement Team, NHS England

A couple of weeks ago, my team – the Knowledge and Intelligence team at NHS IQ – published anniversary editions of the Improvement Science Alert (ISA).  In a bibliographical format and drawing from over 250 sources, each month the ISA pulls together the recently published research, reports and opinion pieces around the themes of leadership, large scale transformational change and improvement science.  Its intent is to curate the relevant intelligence so busy improvement or change management colleagues don’t have to (but if you’d like to improve your curation skills so you receive intelligence tailored to your needs, access our Intelligence Handbook for support).  So the ISA ‘bridges’ to the evidence that addresses, for example:

  • How do you effectively implement a sustainable change initiative?
  • What’s the emerging evidence on implementing an effective learning culture?
  • What is good practice in measurement for improvement?
  • What does good system leadership look like?

ISA subscribers are increasing – colleagues in health and care engaged in improvement or change can mean just about everyone!  Interestingly, 10% of subscribers are from overseas.

Producing the anniversary editions threw up two interesting features, both stemming from the high volume of evidence that is ‘out there.’  (And there is a lot out there – the anniversary editions contain approximately 2,000 items!).

Firstly, sifting and assessing content to pick out the relevant ‘stuff’ – curating – is both a skill and an art.  In the last year, we’ve improved our ability to efficiently assess content, evidenced by more compact and focused ISAs.  We take account of an item’s source, author and keywords, to determine its relative merit.  And like any skill, the more you do it purposefully, the better you get.  And maybe we are a bit geeky too – we enjoy the ‘art’ of it!

Secondly, and more significantly, looking over the anniversary editions it’s quite striking the balance between ‘open’ and ‘closed’ content (you can see these stats in more detail by checking out our infographic here).

Generalising, open access content is typically articles, opinion or thought pieces, or research that can be re-produced without restriction.  Closed content is typically research that cannot be reproduced without permission and is behind a paywall.  It is peer-reviewed, takes longer to publish and is generally felt to be of higher ‘academic’ quality.  Both can be valuable, it depends on your needs.  In recognition of this, the ISA curates both, identifying a sub-type of closed content accessible via Open Athens – that is, content purchased nationally and accessible to NHS staff via the OpenAthens portal.

What’s striking is not the high volume of open and closed content, but the low volume of OpenAthens content.  Which means for the most part, to access the detailed research on improvement, leadership and change, you need to pay.

We feel In the face of the system’s unprecedented challenges of financial constraint, wide service variation and increasing demand, it’s more important than ever that change initiatives are informed by the available intelligence.  If colleagues are able to access the relevant knowledge in the system, not only will they make more informed decisions and deliver better change, but innovations will be more successfully implemented and productivity will rise.

For our part, we will continue improving our curation skills to deliver an impactful ISA. Equally, the research, information and library community must engage with the change community to consider how it can increase access to the intelligence.  That could mean how can we better curate relevant content?  How can we improve colleagues skills to access what is readily available?  And how can we get more closed content into the hands of busy health and care professionals?  It’s vital that we do.


One thought on “Insights into open and closed access intelligence

  1. Pingback: Latest news – November 2015 | Knowledge Hub

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