Addressing Surging Systematic Review Demand – Louise Speakman and Lesley English. Summer Conference 2024

Louise Speakman: Head of Library Engagement, Lancaster University and Lesley English: Head of Academic Engagement and Teaching Services, Manchester Metropolitan University Library


The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a surge in demand for systematic review (SR)support at our university, particularly among PhD students and research teams. This increase came primarily from the Faculties of Health and Medicine (FHM) and Psychology in the Faculty of Science and Technology (FST). However, this heightened demand proved unsustainable for existing library staff.

Innovative solutions have been introduced to create a robust support model:

  1. SR Teams Channel: A dedicated channel has been established to facilitate real-time communication and collaboration among SR practitioners.
  2. Drop-in Sessions: Both online and in-person drop-in sessions were introduced at the Health Innovation campus, providing personalized assistance to researchers.
  3. SR Conversations Series: A knowledge-sharing initiative, the SR Conversations Series, has been launched to disseminate best practices and foster a community of SR enthusiasts.

Funding avenues were explored, including charging for library support in research bids (though ultimately declined).

The impact:

The evidence supporting the need for SR assistance is compelling, with documented requests from researchers seeking SR support.  Furthermore, the success of the SR Conversations initiative, which received recognition through LILAC Information Literacy Award, underscores the importance.


As a result, the Library Director successfully secured approval for a permanent post during the 2023/4 planning round. This post plays a pivotal role in developing a comprehensive SR Framework for our institution, ensuring continued support for evidence synthesis and knowledge dissemination.


As a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Louise has spent the last 3 years at Lancaster University drawing from 15 years of experience in various roles within the education sector, including a liaison librarian, teaching and learning fellow, and an Information Specialist. Louise has a particular interest in accessible information literacy teaching and is committed to continuous improvement and empowerment. Outside of work Louise is knee deep in a campervan conversion project!

Lesley has recently moved to Manchester Metropolitan University after leaving Lancaster University, where she was Head of Library Engagement. In both roles Lesley led the library’s teaching and academic engagement teams, which included evidencing the need for an Information Specialist (Systematic Review) role at Lancaster. 

Lesley previously worked as a Library & Academic Adviser at the University of Cumbria supporting Nursing and Allied health subjects. Outside of work Lesley enjoys walks with her chocolate Labrador, Mabel, singing & food.
X: @Library_Lesley

Summer Conference 2024: Learn Long and Prosper

UHMLG’s 2024 Summer Conference brings together a range of fantastic speakers to look at the future of health librarianship. The conference is taking place in person at the University of Lancaster and spans two half days (4-5 July, 2024). Our core audience is UK / Republic of Ireland health and medical librarians from the Higher Education and NHS / health sectors, but we welcome delegates from any area of librarianship, and from anywhere in the world.

More information / Book your place

For full information about the conference, and to book your place, please visit our Summer Conference 2024 page.