Beyond Reference Management: How Literature Management is a Win for the Life Science Organization

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Scientific literature is a critical component to virtually all aspects of a life science enterprise, including Medical Affairs, Pharmacovigilance and R&D. However, the process of curating and sharing literature can lead to significant challenges in organizing content, facilitating collaboration and enforcing copyright compliance.

In many cases, reference management tools (e.g. EndNote, Zotero) are used to manage the large amounts of literature that accumulate over time. While these tools are helpful for developing bibliographies, a more robust approach to managing literature should be considered in order to effectively collaborate and centralize information.

Especially in the remote-working era, a proper method of
literature management can benefit your entire organization, streamlining access
to literature while keeping the company compliant.

Literature management tools have evolved in the last few
years.  They are no longer used just for document delivery services, but as
collaborative tools to enable discussions.  With so many employees working
from home these days, the right information management tool can help improve
collaboration, simplify workflows and save users time.

ACCESS

Within Life Science companies, there are many consumers of literature across the organization.  How they’re accessing it, however, may be problematic. There are typically several ways that people access literature without a literature management system: ordering articles directly from the publisher, using personal subscriptions, or using academic or professional affiliations.

When ordering directly from a publisher using a personal
credit card, there’s no way to track that expense in a meaningful way. We’re
missing out on important data to gain insight into what journals people are reading.
We can’t use these transactions to make informed decisions on
subscriptions. 

The same applies with personal subscriptions. If someone
subscribes to a publication on their own, we gain no insight into the usage
because it’s limited to the individual. And, incidentally, articles downloaded
from personal subscriptions are not meant for sharing within an organization,
they are for personal use only.

Those that come from academia sometimes have difficulty
transitioning to the business setting in regards to their literature
consumption. They tend to be reluctant to spend money on articles that they
were accustomed to getting for free from their academic institution. Accessing
articles through academic affiliations, however, is a violation of copyright
when it’s for business purposes. 

STORAGE

Once PDFs are obtained, storage tends to be another pain
point. Companies have various methods of storing, from saving PDFs on shared
drives or SharePoint, to tracking them in Excel files or posting and discussing
articles on Yammer. All of these approaches have their issues. 

First off, there is probably no standard naming convention,
which makes it difficult to know what to look for. Secondly, access to documents
may be limited to a specific group. For example, someone may save a PDF to a
Medical Affairs shared folder. Pharmacovigilance may not have access to that
folder so they order the same article, needlessly doubling the cost. The
content is siloed, so sharing can’t take place.

Also, it’s inefficient for a user to have to check multiple
locations for articles. Without a central repository, some things may be stored
one place, while others are stored in another—or maybe the PDF was emailed, so
they have to check their inbox.

And once something is stored in a location, is it findable? How
can you search for it? Can you search within a document, or are you just able
to search the metadata?

COMPLIANCE

Saving to a shared location may not even be allowed due to
copyright restrictions. Not being clear on the ins and outs of copyright can
put your organization at risk for compliance issues. Navigating re-use without
some sort of automated assistance to ensure compliance can be difficult and can
increase the risk of copyright infringement, trigger costly lawsuits or
settlements, and result in damage to brand reputation. Copyright law provides a
range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed. And while you may not
hear of it all that often, it does happen. With a literature management system,
copyright is automated, so it takes the guesswork out of compliance.

BENEFITS OF LITERATURE MANAGEMENT

Streamlining access to information and resources enhances
productivity. Research shows that most knowledge workers turn to Google as
their primary source, often completely unaware of company resources and
subscribed content available to them. A literature management tool can be
a big help in getting your organization at least part way there by serving as
THE point of access for literature within the organization.

A literature management tool can make access to literature
easier for researchers, and faster research makes for faster discoveries
and decision making. In the end, that’s what it comes down to. Users want easy
access to the information that they need to do their job so that they can be
successful at moving the business forward. This is where proper literature
management can help your organization. 

Literature management is the concept of centralizing
literature into a system/location accessible to entire organization to share,
store, collaborate, access/order, reference and review.

A literature management system can integrate all the pieces of the puzzle.

With a
literature management system, copyright is automated, so it takes the guesswork
out of being compliant.

Journal subscriptions can be integrated into a literature
management system so that there is no need for users to check to see if they
have a subscription to an article prior to ordering. The system checks the
repository of previously obtained articles and the organization’s subscriptions,
as well as open access content. 

If an article is not available through the repository,
subscriptions or open access, they can obtain it by ordering through Document
Delivery. The user doesn’t then need to upload it so that others can access it.
The system automatically adds it to the repository, copyright permitting. The
system is checking copyright at various steps in the process, taking away that
responsibility. PDFs are then stored in one central repository, eliminating
duplication of orders.

VALUE FROM CONTENT

With a literature management tool, your organization will be
getting the most value from the content they’ve purchased.  Multiple groups can share access to PDFs, so
rather than each group purchasing a copy and storing it in their own silo, it’s
available to everyone without any effort.

STREAMLINED PROCESS

Users across the organization can access literature through
the system and can share, collaborate, comment and tag, working as a group and
communicating within the tool, rather than emailing PDFs around.

Workflows can be set up to capture a review process like the
weekly literature review that the Pharmacovigilance group does. It’s an
auditable process and can capture everything needed for their specific
workflow.

References can easily be exported in various formats whether
it’s for a simple bibliography or to a citation tool so that references can be
integrated into a document. Some literature management tools even have a built
in cite and write capability.

A literature management system also allows for full text
search. Users can type in a key word to search the content, whether it’s in a
shared library or a personal library. The system searches the entire document,
rather than just the metadata – title, author, abstract, etc. – making
information easier to find.

COLLABORATION

Groups can collaborate using shared libraries or folders.
They can create workflows, set up alerts for specific searches or get
notifications when a colleague has contributed to the library. This is all
contained in one location. A running dialog can be captured within a record and
tags can be added for easy filtering. 

INSIGHT

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
– Peter Drucker

An added benefit of a literature management system is the
insight you can gain into what users are ordering, reading and accessing. Reports
available through these tools will enable better decision making in regard to journal
subscriptions or pre-paid tokens, based on usage data. Companies often think
that they need subscriptions to specific journals. Collecting usage data for a
few months through a literature management system can provide insight into what
is being used within the organization. With this information, better decisions
can be made regarding subscriptions, saving the organization money.

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT

Another great feature of a literature management system is
that it can help with retaining institutional knowledge. How often do people
leave an organization and take all of their knowledge with them? When users can
add comments, annotations and tags to PDFs, they’re documenting their thoughts
and that knowledge is retained within the organization when they leave. So,
while a literature management tool doesn’t serve as a full knowledge management
solution, it’s another piece of the puzzle that can help with harnessing
knowledge within your organization.

Users across the organization benefit from a literature
management system, making it a win for everyone!

Editor’s Note: Learn more about how Elsevier can help you manage scientific literature with QUOSA.