A public health video journal article is organized by the same section as a text-only article Background, Methods, Results, Discussion, References, and Supplements), however, the Methods and Results (and sometimes the Discussion) sections are presented in video format with only essential points summarized in text bullet points. The video provides detailed descriptions and demonstrations of the methods, as well as visuals (preferably animated) of the results. Key experts and policy makers might be interviewed about the implication of the results for policy and programming. The video is 8 to 15 minutes in length, and might include film of the researchers, actors, study participants, or animated characters. Graphs and figures are animated, especially for time-variant and exposure-variant results. Dramatizations are accurate and objective, and help to provide context for the data, bring the results to life, and/or explore the programmatic and policy implications of results.

The audience includes public health experts, often from different sub-disciplines; program and policy experts who look to the scientific literature for evidence of expected outcomes and cost effectiveness; and science journalists whose job it is to communicate key health findings with the public and policy makers.


A gap in public health exists between tutorials (of varying production and instructional quality scattered about youtube and departmental websites) and lengthy classroom-based public health courses.

Over the remaining weeks of Library Test Kitchen, I will be developing a solution: figuring out how to produce engaging, short, technical videos, and how to distribute them.

I’m still hammering out the details and next steps which include:

  • Production of at least one full video in the style of Alton Brown
  • Presentation/pitch/conversation with the Harvard Medical School Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, and colleagues
  • Conversations with librarians on Harvard’s campus. I am particularly interested in the role that librarians see libraries playing. I imagine that libraries would want to subscribe to such a service. But I also wonder if libraries are interested in becoming publishers as well. Early conversations have suggested, yes.
  • Further investigation of financial models. So far, I think JOVE’s approach makes most sense. Folks submit an outline of a video which is reviewed by peer experts for accuracy. If accepted, the publishing group helps to record and edit the video. A publishing fee to the author includes the cost of production.

… in all senses: importance; as substance; as a collection of issues.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the origin of the word “library” is:

library (n.)
place for books, late 14c., from Anglo-Fr. librarie, O.Fr. librairie “collection of books” (14c.), noun use of adj. librarius “concerning books,” from L. librarium “chest for books,” from liber (gen. libri) “book, paper, parchment,” originally “the inner bark of trees,” probably a derivative of PIE root *leub(h)- “to strip, to peel” (see leaf). The equivalent word in most Romance languages now means “bookseller’s shop.” Old English had bochord, lit. “book hord.”
The paper book is the source of our definition of a library. Paper books still largely set the parameters of what is considered a library today. To be able to fully realize the full potential of alternatives to storing and conveying ideas, however, maybe we need some new words.
Webrary is a term being used out there. Folks seem to use it to describe a webpage with a list of links. This terms has much unrealized potential. The embedded word “web” makes (I’m assuming) most people think of the internet foremost, and the ending “brary” implies an institution for storing and retrieving information. “Web” is also a tool for passively collecting things – in the spider sense. Or perhaps a tool for actively snatching things – in the spiderman sense. Web also makes me think of a network, which is the basic structure of my work, learning, transportation, and social environments.
Webrary is a good start. However, this thing – a library – that we have been talking about for four weeks now, we have described and understood in broader terms than simply a place to store and retrieve information. Libraries, in our discussions, have been canvases for creativity and freedom. Places to cultivate and maintain our social networks. Vessels in which we, as patrons, deposit or display new information in new mediums – not simply retrieve information.
So how can we be more articulate in our language? Stuff to ponder.

                                                                                                                 1. Interactive videos

          2. Real data; real examples

                                   3. Navigable interface

In the spirit of linking global health practice and evidence, I suggest a new structure for public health journal libraries, namely an alternative to PubMed. By organizing journal articles differently, users will more easily find the links between specific interventions and policies, their health impacts, and methods available to measure and evaluate these relationships.


Virtually all major governmental and private funders require recipients to monitor and evaluate funded activities to justify and maximize donor investments. Periodic “little i” evaluations help implementers keep a pulse on program performance and report about their progress. Little i evaluations also provide critical information needed to improve or development new programs in (almost) real time. “Big I” impact evaluations are formal studies conducted over longer periods of time to gauge if and how programs or policies impact health outcomes. We tend to think of little i impact evaluation as less methodologically rigorous and destine for the “gray” matter of NGO annual reports and working papers. Big I impact evaluations, on the other hand, are more rigorous, but occur less frequently, and are described in short peer reviewed journal articles. In the real world, the distinction between little i and BIG I impact evaluation is not so clear cut.

The Google Scholar Effect

Since Google Scholar came online, I rarely do my initial literature searches in PubMed because the results I find in Google Scholar are more relevant to my search, more likely to reach across the many disciplines that comprise public health (environment, economics, sociology, medicine, etc), and importantly, helps me to identify important grey literature. Your best bet for searching in PubMed is to use MeSH terms – Medical Subject Headings. When a new article in published, someone official indexes it with several terms and subterms from a hierarchical tree of predefined terms. This is a great example of how the limits of the paper world have been applied to the digital world, and create arbitrary limits.

Search as Geography

There are a couple of fantastic ways to think of geography as a discipline. For example, geography is the study of everything at a particular time and place. Another favorite that applies here, geograpy is the study of interrelationships. Biology tells us about plants. Sociology tells us about people. But geography tells us about the interaction of people and their environments.

PubMed’s terminology hierarchy dissects and disconnects elements of public health. Public health practitioners are not only interested in policies, or average levels of health in a population, or statistics, or interviewing. They are interested in how policies and social structures act to impact health in populations, and how qualitative and quantitative techniques can be leveraged in non-lab environments (like how to design an ethical study that doesn’t withholding potentially life-saving services and treatment to a group of people in order to measure the impact of a new program). Public health is a discipline concerned with interrelationships, so why can’t our journal libraries facilitate this way of understanding?

little i, BIG I: a public health journal library with a new search flow

little i, BIG I contains all of the same journal articles as PubMed, but the users interactions are transformed. No longer to you browse MeSH terms looking for a sufficiently close fit words (community health worker) to the term you are actually looking for (accompagnateur). You also immediately get a sense of how the 3466 search results for “community health worker program” are related.

OLD search and results

NEW search and results