BREAKING NEWS: NEW January 18 NLM Office Hours Special Listening Session: MeSH
Following our first NLM Office Hours Special Listening Session in June 2022, this event will continue the conversation on how NLM and our users can work together to update the MeSH vocabulary.
Dianne Babski, NLM Associate Director for Library Operations and Dan Cho, Technical Information Specialist, NLM MeSH Team, will briefly discuss how NLM determines which new and updated terms are added to MeSH and share factors that impact the updates to MeSH.
The remainder of the session will be reserved for attendees to share their feedback and ideas on future MeSH development. Statements can be focused on these general categories:
What other feedback do you have about MeSH?
What should we consider reviewing? Why?
We invite you to share feedback in advance by emailing NLMTrainers@nih.gov with the subject line "MeSH Listening Session." Please include in the message your name and which pronouns we should use to refer to you when sharing your feedback during the session.
A recording of the Listening Session will be made available following the event, along with a document summarizing feedback received before, during, and after the Listening Session.
Date and time: Wednesday, January 18, 2023, 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. central
The blog post below was coauthored by Aidy Weeks and Jamia Williams.
This blog post is a continuation of the MLA Connect posts from this past summer. Letter authors would like to share the most recent correspondence from the National Library of Medicine prior to the debut of the new 2023 MeSH terms.
By the time of this writing the 2023 MeSH terms may have already been released. If not, readers can preview them here: https://meshb-prev.nlm.nih.gov/
In September, one of the Letter authors, Tracy Shields, noted several upcoming changes to 2023 MeSH, including changes requested in the original Letter to NLM about MeSH.
Readers can review those changes in this Twitter thread (September 28, 2022): https://twitter.com/tcshields/status/1575209936102883328
In response to those changes, I wrote the following correspondence to the National Library of Medicine regarding discriminatory MeSH terms in PubMed on September 29, 2022.
Download the PDF of the full correspondence or read it below:
Subject: Follow-Up to Letter regarding discriminatory MeSH terms in PubMed
Sep 29, 2022, 10:39 AM
We recently learned of upcoming changes set to take place for MeSH 2023. The initial findings positively reflect some of the concerns we've shared in the Letter to NLM addressing problematic subject headings, recommended changes to terminology, warning of harmful language in controlled vocabularies and scope note information on the social constructs related to race/ethnicity. We also noted that some of these changes reflect MeSH recommendation submissions related to the Hispanic/Latinx Inclusive Terminologies Project. All of these updates are a promising and welcome change in improving racial/ethnic identities in MeSH. As we've not heard back about our efforts, we'd like to follow-up with you and inquire if our contributions directly influenced these changes? If so, we would like to share this positive development with those who contributed to these efforts and signed the letter.
Below are some of the findings that were noted:
Concerns raised for Blacks[mh]:
- Black or African American (revised 2022/08/03)
- "Scope Note: A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/1997/10/30/97-28653/revisions-to-the-standards-for-the-classification-of-federal-data-on-race-and-ethnicity). In the United States it is used for classification of federal government data on race and ethnicity. Race and ethnicity terms are self-identified social construct and may include terms outdated and offensive in MeSH to assist users who are interested in retrieving comprehensive search results for studies such as in longitudinal studies."
- Black People (revised 2022/07/14)
- "Scope Note: Persons having origins in any of the black racial groups of AFRICA. Note that OMB category BLACK OR AFRICAN AMERICAN is available for the United States population groups. Race and ethnicity terms, as used in the federal government, are self-identified social construct and may include terms outdated and offensive in MeSH to assist users who are interested in retrieving comprehensive search results for studies such as in longitudinal studies."
Expanding Hispanic/Latinx Representation:
- Caribbean People (revised 2022/07/14)
- "Scope Note: People native to or inhabitants of islands in the Caribbean Sea or CARIBBEAN including ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA; ARUBA; BAHAMAS; BARBADOS; BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS; CARIBBEAN NETHERLANDS; CUBA; CURACAO; DOMINICA; DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; GRENADA; GUADELOUPE; HAITI; JAMAICA; MARTINIQUE; PUERTO RICO; SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS; SAINT LUCIA; SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES; SINT MAARTEN; TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO; and UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS."
- Central American People (revised 2022/07/12)
- Scope Note: People native to or inhabitants of CENTRAL AMERICA including BELIZE; COSTA RICA; EL SALVADOR; GUATEMALA; HONDURAS; NICARAGUA; and PANAMA.
- South American People (revised 2022/07/14)
- Scope Note: People native to or inhabitants of SOUTH AMERICA including ARGENTINA; BOLIVIA; BRAZIL; CHILE; COLOMBIA; ECUADOR; FRENCH GUIANA; GUYANA; PARAGUAY; PERU; SURINAME; URUGUAY; and VENEZUELA.
- Hispanic or Latino (revised 2022/07/14)
- Entry term added for "Latinx"
Aidy W. (she/hers/ella)
School of Medicine Library
UNLV Libraries, University of Nevada Las Vegas
In response, Diane Babski, National Library of Medicine wrote (October 3, 2022):
Re: Follow-Up to Letter regarding discriminatory MeSH terms in PubMed
Oct 3, 2022, 3:55 PM
Dear Ms. Weeks,
Thank you for your follow-up note. It is reassuring to hear that you are encouraged by the overall direction of our continuously evolving MeSH terminology.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) considers inputs from our broad spectrum of stakeholders received throughout our MeSH review cycles. This feedback comes through several different channels, including the online NLM helpdesk, our partners across NIH, inquiries, and other feedback. The content of your letter was indeed taken into consideration, as the 2022 review cycle was coming to a close. The inputs from the Hispanic/Latinx Inclusive Terminologies Project directly influenced some of the new terminology in the upcoming MeSH 2023.
A new outlet for feedback informed by your letter were listening sessions as part of the MeSH review cycle. The first was held this past summer with the medical library, in which we appreciated your participation. We intend to hold our next MeSH listening session in January 2023. More information will be shared via the NLM Technical Bulletin.
Additionally, as you may recall from other correspondence and the June listening session, NLM is aligning MeSH race and ethnicity terminology with the statistical standards set by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). OMB is taking action to update its race and ethnicity terminology standards. I shared that information with the Medical Library Association (MLA) and other NLM partners. I am happy to note that MLA will be sharing input with OMB at an October 15 listening session.
You can also provide feedback to OMB, directly, to share your perspectives and input on statistical standards for race and ethnicity. They are offering the following opportunities for input:
- Soliciting public input on OMB’s recommended proposal for revisions to Directive No. 15 through a Federal Register Notice. To receive a notification for when the solicitation is issued, please email Statistical_Directives@omb.eop.gov and request to join the mailing list.
- Holding virtual, bi-monthly listening sessions to hear directly from members of the public. To schedule a listening session, please send a brief email expressing interest to Statistical_Directives@omb.eop.gov.
We appreciate your attention to this work and ask that you continue to engage with us directly through NLM customer service, MeSH suggestions, and our listening sessions. We review recommendations as we receive them and incorporate them in our processes, as appropriate.
Associate Director for Library Operations
National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health
This response is the first documented confirmation from the National Library of Medicine of our efforts directly impacting changes to racial/ethnic medical subject headings. We wanted to share this update with those who have been interested in our advocacy work in these last few years. These changes could not be possible without the overwhelming support from you and the global medical librarian community. As part of our continued efforts, the Medical Library Association members Jamia Williams and Aidy Weeks will be presenting before the Office of Management and Budget Interagency Working Group to advocate for changes at the federal level in December 2022. Thank you to everyone for continuing to highlight the need to expand and change racial/ethnic terms in order to improve representation, reduce problematic terminologies, and foster improved findability on health-related research impacting communities of color.
For more information, please send an email to Aidy Weeks.