The Information Specialist

A PSP needs to be able to manage data.  This includes reviewing and sorting survey responses, reviewing existing research evidence, and formulating and presenting indicative (or ‘summary’) research questions.  In some cases, one person has the skills to perform all the tasks; in other cases, more than one person is needed to share the task or to take on different aspects of it.   

The importance of establishing how this will be managed cannot be over-emphasised.  It is key to the success of the process and is one of the most time-consuming and technical roles in the PSP.  This is the work that will turn the raw survey submissions into researchable questions and then verify that those questions are true uncertainties, thus ensuring that the work of the PSP is credible and up to date.  A large amount of qualitative data needs to be managed and presented.  Content knowledge in the subject area of the PSP is helpful.  However, with good support from the Steering Group this may not be essential.  Often, the leader of the PSP or other Steering Group members can identify the right person or people to do this work from within their existing networks.  It is important that PSPs discuss the role requirements with their JLA Adviser when considering who this might be.  Some PSPs have openly advertised for an Information Specialist.  If a PSP has difficulty in identifying a suitable person for this role, the JLA team may be able to advise on finding people who have experience of this activity. 

The tasks will involve:

  • Cleaning the dataset of survey responses generated from the initial PSP survey to gather uncertainties
  • Categorising the survey responses, then creating clear, formatted indicative (or summary) questions - or uncertainties which capture the meaning of the original submissions - and presenting these to the Steering Group for review and agreement
  • Checking existing systematic reviews and guidelines or other evidence, to an agreed search strategy, to identify which questions have already been answered and to find any other research recommendations
  • Checking for relevant ongoing studies
  • Preparing a long list of indicative questions or uncertainties for interim prioritisation, ensuring that they are understandable for the patients, carers and clinicians who will be involved in this step and in the priority setting workshop
  • Managing a record of all PSP survey data, traceable back to the original survey submissions
  • Supplying the PSP’s working spreadsheet of indicative questions or uncertainties and the prioritised list of indicative questions or uncertainties from the priority setting workshop to the JLA, for publication on the JLA website
  • Providing regular updates of progress to the Steering Group, including enabling members to critique and have input to the analysis and development of the indicative questions
  • working within overall timescales agreed.

 The activity will require the following:

  • Database management experience
  • Critical appraisal skills: comfortable with managing and categorising large amounts of qualitative data, for example responses to open-ended survey questions
  • Experience of medical terminology
  • Attention to detail - methodical and organised
  • Ability to work to deadlines
  • Ability to communicate complex information to patients, carers and clinicians, when working with the Steering Group and when formulating and agreeing indicative questions
  • Familiarity with the JLA process would be helpful, but not essential
  • Awareness of the PSP health area would be useful, but not essential.

The estimated number of days work for the Information Specialist for the life of the PSP is approximately 20-30 days.  However the precise amount of analysis (and therefore cost to the PSP) will depend on the scope of the PSP, the number of survey responses, and the number of indicative questions to check against the evidence.  This can be a complex piece of work and will need to be thoroughly supported by the Steering Group, which will have overall responsibility for the delivery and quality of this work.