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EBSCO Publishing Introduces Evidence-Based Monitoring Service—Sustainability Watch
Posted On November 16, 2009

"Evidence-based" is a descriptor that is often used for medically related reference tools. Now, EBSCO Publishing ( has leveraged the proprietary evidence-based literature surveillance methodology developed for its DynaMed service, which is targeted for physicians and other healthcare professionals for use primarily at the "point-of-care." The company has extended the monitoring methodology to cover developments in sustainability and corporate social responsibility. The newly announced Sustainability Watch provides evidence-based summaries on 220 sustainability-related topics. Monitoring thousands of leading journals and periodicals, this product is designed to present best practices in a variety of sustainability areas including environmental impacts and pollution prevention initiatives, corporate citizenship, and long-term sustainable business practices.

Sustainability Watch topics center around the concept of "People-Planet-Profits." It provides sustainability executives and their staff with condensed summaries of key developments across the sustainability spectrum. It is designed to be an executive decision support tool.

According to corporate market development director, Joe Tragert, EBSCO researchers identified more than 275 corporate job titles related to sustainability, including chief sustainability officer and vice president for sustainability. The company estimates there are more than 1,000 corporate executive in the U.S. who are now dedicated to this task. "Many are new to this role within the company," says Tragert, "with some from project management, operations, etc. These beleaguered executives have just been put into this new job, and they're looking for quality information. And there's a tremendous amount of ‘noise' and debate [on these topics]. We're really responding to demand." In promoting the new product to executives, EBSCO is also talking to corporate librarians and information professionals.

The monitoring methodology combines automated tools, proprietary algorithms, and human editors to produce the reports. The emphasis is on extracting key information from the evidence and then synthesizing and summarizing without bias based on the evidence.

Kathleen McEvoy, public relations manager, EBSCO Publishing, shared the following information about the editorial process for Sustainability Watch:

1. EBSCO identifies the evidence via systematic literature surveillance: We currently monitor more than 15,000 academic, business, and trade journals to discover evidence relating to the topics covered in Sustainability Watch.

2. EBSCO selects the best available evidence, based upon its relevance and validity: We weigh certain sources (including scholarly journals) more heavily than others when prioritizing the evidence. We also utilize EBSCOhost's proprietary relevancy ranking algorithms to determine the applicability of a specific finding to the topic.

3. EBSCO systematically evaluates the selected evidence: Based upon a predetermined set of criteria, our editors determine which recently discovered evidence should be applied to the current body of Sustainability Watch Reports.

4. EBSCO objectively reports the evidence using a standard framework: The content editors then extract the facts and findings from the articles that have been selected to be presented in the report template.

5. EBSCO synthesizes multiple evidence sources: The content editors synthesize the new evidence and then integrate it into the report structure.

6. EBSCO presents the conclusions from the experts: The content editors summarize the findings and conclusions from the experts who wrote the articles in the literature we monitor. EBSCO editors do not offer their own interpretations or opinions.

7. EBSCO updates the reports when the evidence dictates: The content editors only update the appropriate report when new evidence, discovered in the expert literature, indicates that an update is required. In this way, the updates themselves are evidence-based and evidence-driven.

If it sounds like a lot of work goes into this product, it's true. "We have a lot of investment in this," says Tragert. "EBSCO employs a lot of people as editors. They are super power users of EBSCOhost. We train them how to read a scholarly article and how to write the summaries. They are very good at it."

EBSCO Publishing introduced Sustainability Reference Center in May 2009 in the corporate and academic markets (see Tragert says EBSCO is very pleased with the response. This product is targeted at information professionals who want to search the full-text database content themselves. Sustainability Watch is targeted at corporate sustainability executives who need the latest, unbiased information in an easily consumed format.

Sustainability Watch may be integrated into corporate portals and intranets. The EBSCOhost Integration Toolkit allows EBSCO's content to be incorporated into an organization's workflow-providing seamless access.

Tragert says that EBSCO plans to offer similar executive decision support tools based on proprietary, evidence-based content in additional areas. "We want to help people who are change agents make better decisions. We want to help them make money, save money, and stay out of jail." He says the company will target areas dealing with regulatory issues, compliance, and market pressures and challenges.

One area under serious consideration is food safety. "This is a big industry," says Tragert. And EBSCO has a large community of food science users in the corporate and academic markets. Another area being considered is corporate learning. "We've seen a real shift in the new technologies and tools for elearning. The market is redefining itself."

Tragert admits that Sustainability Watch is a different kind of product for EBSCO. It's not a reference product. "The promise of the product is we're monitoring on your behalf. This is actionable information." Future plans for the product include a more-focused browsing interface and a mobile application.

The two sustainability products complement EBSCO's other environmentally focused databases-GreenFILE, Environment Complete, and others. GreenFILE covers global warming, energy conservation, natural resources, and pollution. EBSCO makes GreenFILE available free to anyone at

EBSCO has also adopted a wide range of green initiatives for the company, including high-efficiency facilities, solar energy, internal conservation and recycling of resources, and support of local causes. It looks like the company has been paying attention to the evidence.

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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