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    Professional Development

    Systematic Review Services Specialization

    SRSS Badge

    Earning your Level I and Level II SRSS certificates enable you to contribute to the creation of high quality, reproducible scientific and biomedical research. Learning and developing SRSS skills can build your confidence and ability to participate in evidence synthesis projects as a respected member of a research team and can increase your value to the groups you serve, your library, and your institution and expand your career possibilities! 


    Free Webinar! October 18

    Piecing Together the Steps of a Systematic Review to the MLA Systematic Review Services Specialization

    We are excited to offer a free webinar by Margaret Foster and Sarah Jewell, leading experts on systematic reviews and the editors of Piecing Together Systematic Reviews and Other Evidence Syntheses. Their webinar celebrates the launch of the Level II Systematic Review Services Specialization (SRSS), the SRSS Level II Pathways, and the second offering of the Level I Pathways. The Pathways offer a discount on all the courses and more that you need to earn a Level I or II certificate. The Pathways will be available for purchase on the day of the webinar. Look for more information on them in the coming weeks. Learn more and register.


    Why Get Your SRSS?

    Acquiring Level I SRSS skills will enable you to play a central role in systematic review projects as a co-investigator with advanced literature searching skills and knowledge of the systematic review process.

    Many of the skills that health sciences librarians have traditionally applied to the scholarly literature are relevant to systematic reviews, such as process management, searching, and information management.

    Here is a selection of articles on the indispensable role of librarians in conducting systematic reviews:

    Foster MJ. Overview of the role of librarians in systematic reviews: From expert search to project manager Journal of European Association of Health Information Librarians (JEAHIL), 2015.

    Koffel JB. Use of recommended search strategies in systematic reviews and the impact of librarian involvement: a cross-sectional survey of recent authors. PLoS One, 2015

    Meert D, Torabi N, Costella J. Impact of librarians on reporting of the literature searching component of pediatric systematic reviews. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 2016. 

    Metzendorf,M. Why medical information specialists should routinely form part of teams producing high quality systematic reviews – a Cochrane perspective. Journal of EAHIL, 2016.

    Rethlefsen ML, Farrell AM, Osterhaus Trzasko LC, Brigham TJ. Librarian co-authors correlated with higher quality reported search strategies in general internal medicine systematic reviews.  J Clin Epidemiol. 2015.

    Schellinger J, Sewell K, Bloss JE, Ebron T, Forbes C. The effect of librarian involvement on the quality of systematic reviews in dental medicine. PLOS ONE, 2021.

    Spencer, Angela J, and Jonathan D Eldredge. Roles for librarians in systematic reviews: a scoping review. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 2018.

    Who Is the MLA Systematic Review Services Specialization Designed For?

    • Medical librarians and Health Information professionals who wish to acquire and expand skills in providing systematic review services.
    • Health sciences librarians who hold or are seeking positions as an informationist, education and research librarian, systematic review services librarian, systematic review service coordinator, or a related position.

    New! See a list of current SRSS recipients

     Who Created the MLA Systematic Review Services Specialization?

    A team of experts on systematic reviews and review services created the Systematic Review Services Specialization competency and identified the courses that serve the Level I certificate.

    • Terry Jankowski, AHIP, FMLA (Chair), Librarian Emeritus
    • Emily Ginier, Informationist, University of Michigan, Taubman Health Sciences Library
    • Margaret Foster, AHIP, Director, Center for Systematic Reviews and Research Syntheses, Texas A&M University, Medical Sciences Library
    • Mary Lou Klem, Assistant Director of Advanced Information Support, University of Pittsburgh, Health Sciences Library System
    • Mellanye Lackey, AHIP, Director (retired), University of Nevada Las Vegas Health Sciences Library
    • Whitney Townsend, Informationist, Taubman Health Sciences Library, University of Michigan

    The SRSS was inspired by the article, A competency framework for librarians involved in systematic reviews. Two of the co-authors are on the team that created the SRSS.

    In 2022, we added members of the Systematic Reviews caucus to the team to ensure that the Specialization remains strong and current. The team supporting the Specialization is:

    • Emily Brennan, Research and Education Informationist, Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)
    • Emily Capellari (Ginier), Informationist, University of Michigan, Taubman Health Sciences Library, University of Michigan
    • Margaret Foster, AHIP, Director, Center for Systematic Reviews and Research Syntheses, School of Medicine, Texas A&M University
    • Heather Healy, Clinical Education Librarian, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, University of Iowa
    • Leila Ledbetter, AHIP, Research and Education Librarian, Medical Center Library & Archives, Duke University
    • Traci Mays, Health & Human Services Librarian, Wilson G. Bradshaw University Library, Florida Gulf Coast University
    • Stephanie Roth, Medical Librarian, ChristianaCare

    What Skills Does the SRSS Address?

    The SRSS is built upon the Systematic Review Services Competency:

    Health and biomedical information professionals with competency in Systematic Reviews use a range of information retrieval and management knowledge and skills to support users and researchers. They promote the use of established guidelines, best practices, ethical synthesis practices, and transparent reporting in the service of high quality, reproducible scientific and biomedical research.

    The Systematic Review Competency has two levels, Level I and Level II. Each level has skill indicators organized by topic.                                                    

    Level I                  

    See the Systematic Review Services Level I Course List for the core and elective courses.

    Fundamentals of systematic reviews

    1. Explain the major steps in the design and conduct of a systematic review
    2. Explain how systematic reviews differ from narrative reviews
    3. Explain how systematic reviews inform practice, policy, and research
    4. Explain the value of established systematic review guidelines and standards


    5. Negotiate involvement in systematic review projects 
    6. Negotiate recognition of librarian's intellectual contribution to a systematic review
    7. Collaborate with researchers to implement  effective search strategies


    8. Conduct searches to confirm the need for a systematic review
    9. Select databases and other resources appropriate to a research question
    10.  Develop an extensive, effective, systematic, and replicable search strategy for each resource appropriate to a research question
    11. Review search strategies under development using the PRESS (Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies) rubric

    Documentation & Reporting

    12. Describe planned search methods
    13. Document search processes, including search iterations and decision-making
    14. Report search methods for publication in conformance with established reporting standards

    Data Management I        

    15. Utilize citation management software
    16. Inform researchers about available systematic review software

    Level II    

    See the Systematic Review Services Level II Course List for the core and elective courses. (Under Construction.)

    Project Planning

    17. Match a research question to an appropriate evidence synthesis type
    18. Advise systematic review teams on timelines, team composition, and productivity tools
    19. Collaborate with systematic review teams on developing systematic review protocols

    Quality & Reproducibility

    20. Advise teams on selection and use of data extraction tools
    21. Advise teams on selection and use of risk of bias tools
    22. Prepare search-related data for deposit or archiving


    23. Identify and use search filters

    Peer Review & Appraisal

    24. Peer review manuscripts for publication
    25. Appraise the quality of published systematic reviews

    Service Management

    26. Implement best practices for establishing, managing, and evaluating systematic review services

    What is the Cost of the SRSS?

    MLA charges a modest fee (members: $99; nonmembers: $129) for reviewing applications and granting certificates. The cost of courses that satisfy the requirements for the certificates is determined by course owners.

    Courses offered by the Network of the National Library of Medicine are free. 

    What Are the Requirements for Earning an SRSS?

    SRSS Level I

    • Complete 8 required core courses
    • Complete 6 credits of elective courses in any areas you choose

    You can earn your Level I SRSS with on-demand offerings, with one exception: Essential Searching Skills for Librarians on Systematic Review Teams is only offered face-to-face or as an instructor-led virtual course because of the need for instructor feedback on search strategies.

    We recommend taking required core courses in three phases that move from basic to more sophisticated skills and then taking electives of interest.

    Phase 1
    • Planning for Systematic Review Success: Reference Interview & Protocol Development
    • Systematic Reviews for Beginners: How Librarian Participation Creates Better Evidence
    • What's Needed to Make a Literature Search Reproducible? An Introduction to PRISMA-S
    Phase 2
    • Librarians and Systematic Review Teams: Negotiating Roles and Recognition
    • Essential Searching Skills for Librarians on Systematic Review Teams
    • Systematic Searching: Improving Effectiveness and Efficiency
    Phase 3
    • Citation Management for Systematic Reviews
    • Talking Tools: An Introduction to Systematic Review Tools

    See the Systematic Review Services Level I Course List for the core and elective courses.


    SRSS Level II

    • Complete 11 required core courses
    • Complete 6 credits of elective courses in any areas you choose

    See the Systematic Review Services Level II Course List for the core and elective courses. Under Construction.

    Time to completion requirements

    • You must earn a Level I certificate before you can earn your Level II certificate.
    • You have three years to meet the requirements for a Level I certificate, i.e., courses submitted for the specialization must have been taken no more than three years prior to your date of application.
    • Your SRSS is valid for three years.
    • To keep your SRSS valid, you must take six credits of electives during the three years your SRSS is valid in order to renew your certificate.

    Credit for Activities Not Approved for SRSS

    If you have taken a course, a Discussion Group activity, or an Independent Reading Program activity that is not approved for SRSS and would like to have it considered for meeting a SRSS requirement, please fill out an Individual Participant Request (IPR) form and submit it with your application. You may request credit for offerings that do not issue certificates of completion.

    Applying for Your SRSS

    Before submitting your application

    • Take the required credit amount and number of approved courses for the SRSS level I.
    • Gather evidence that you have completed the required courses.
    • If you received a CE certificate for an SRSS course through MEDLIB-ED, you need only list the SRSS course(s) in your application. We will access your transcript to see the SRSS courses you have taken. You can earn your Level I SRSS entirely with offerings in MEDLIB-ED.
    • If you have received a certification of completion or other evidence of course completion from an approved SRSS course that is not listed in MEDLIB-ED, submit a certificate of course completion with your application.
    If you have questions: Please contact MLA's Professional Development Department before completing your SRSS application or taking a course.

    Requesting an application form

    • To receive an application, pay the application fee by visiting the MLA Store. The application fee is $99 for MLA members and $129 for non-members.

    Completing your application

    • After your payment is processed, we will email you a link to the online application.
    • Complete the online application and indicate if you would like a letter celebrating your accomplishment sent to your supervisor.
    • Upload your certificate(s) and IPR form(s) for each course or activity not on your MEDLIB-ED transcript. To make your application easier, we will access your transcript and check it against the requirements for your level.

    MLA will process the application and, on approval, send you a notification letter and certificate recognizing your level of achievement.

    We encourage you to Promote Your Accomplishment with a press release your public relations office can publish in your organization’s newsletter and local papers, print and digital. Customize the release to highlight your unique SRSS-related achievements. Post about your accomplishment on social media and use the #medlibSRSS to announce your achievement.

    Instructors: Get Your Course Approved for SRSS

    Only courses that serve the Systematic Review Services competency can be approved for SRSS. To have your course considered for SRSS, select "Systematic Review Services Specialization" in the Specialization Consideration part of the Submit a Course for MLA CE Approval application form.  Contact the MLA's Professional Development Department for more information.