Episode 2: Celebrating 10 Years and 500 Issues of News and Notes from the NIDILRR Community and Beyond

Welcome to NARIC’S Spotlight Podcast. Today we celebrate 10 years and 500 issues of our newsletter, News and Notes from the NIDILRR Community and Beyond. In today’s episode, Mark Odum, NARIC’s Director, and Jessica Chaiken, NARIC’s Media and Information Services Manager, discuss the path to what News and News is today. Enjoy!

Interviewer: So, I guess, Mark, we'll start with you. Tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, what you do, etc. 

Mark: I am Mark Odum and I present as male. I’ve been the project director with NARIC since 1988. Actually, I’ve been with the project since January of ’78. But generally, I manage a team of eight professionals and the oversight for the day-to-day operations. It’s a wide range of Library and Information Center Services, strong emphasis on social and media dissemination, including news and notes. That is kind of quick what I do, I also guess a strong working relationship with the NIDILRR staff, other NIDILRR projects and a host of disability and rehabilitation organizations.

Jessica: I’m Jess Chaiken. I’m the media and information services manager of NARIC. My pronouns are she, her, and hers. I am the lead editor for NARIC. I manage the News and Notes newsletter, its production and release. I also manage the Research In Focus series of plain language summaries of NIDILRR-funded research and the production of the NIDILRR program database. I work directly with staff from NIDILRR to assess their information needs, pull data and information from our databases. And I work with the grantee community to promote their work through our social media, through News and Notes, our newsletter, and presenting it in various venues like conferences, conference expos. Yeah. And I've been with the project since 1996. February. Oh, yeah. I think I just passed my anniversary. February of ‘96. So, this would be my 26th anniversary.

Interviewer: Congratulations. Alright, so Mark, why did NARIC begin an electronic newsletter?

Mark: Well, actually, it's kind of the next step in a long line of cascading electronic resources. Way back, we started out as an online, online only card catalog and moved towards one of the early bulletin boards, and disseminating pieces which grew into a website. And we had an online literature alert service. So, all this time, we're collecting this information and disseminating it, trying to build trust with the disability world. And kind of knowing that audience and knowing that they're on the cutting edge of the electronic world, we're looking at, how can we reach them? And I think naturally, the next step was a News and Notes type service.

Interviewer: Thank you. Jess, I know, Mark just covered a little bit of it. But how did News and Notes start? You know, as far as how did you choose the name, the types of items to be included?

Jess: That's the thing, as Mark said, we had this literature awareness service. So, we had a way to share with the disability and rehabilitation community, some of the literature that we were adding to our collection, some of the peer reviewed material. But in the meantime, we had all of this wonderful material coming out of the grantee community, events they were holding, their mentions in the media, interviews on TV or on radio. And also, all of these kinds of ready to use resources that were available, either online or downloadable or print or apps, tools, things like that. We didn't have a way to kind of package all of that up into a nice little one pager and get it out to the community. So, we looked back to that literature service and said, well, email is working great for this. It's a way to send a whole lot of things in one blast. What if we did that with all those other things, not just the abstracts and the peer reviewed literature that we're putting in our collection? What if we do that with all the other things?

The name for News and Notes that came with some back and forth with our project officer at NIDILRR, Pimjai Sudsawad, who was certainly excited at the prospect of putting together something like this and getting it out to the community. You know, what was the name? What will we call it? What is it? Well, it does it all - features, news items. Everything was really short; we're going to write these small blurbs of maybe three sentences. So, we kind of threw a whole lot of things up on a on the board and said, well, news. Yes. And we have notes of things. So, there's News and Notes from the NIDILRR community. And we didn't just want to have a focus on the NIDILRR community, there's all of this other material that's being created by the Disability and Rehabilitation community in general, especially within the federal government. So, let's save a space for what's of value from the rest of the community, but not necessarily from NIDILRR. And so, we have a little section for elsewhere.

Interviewer: All right, Mark, who is the audience of News and Notes?

Mark: Actually, the short answer to that is anyone who knows what N-I-D-I-L-R-R stands for. That's the audience.

Interviewer: And what does it stand for?

Mark: The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research, and all its predecessors, it's a funding agency. So, the program staff there as a number one or primary audience member, but also federal and state rehabilitation research agencies, their researchers, community-based organizations. Quite honestly, it's diverse enough that if you're in disability or rehabilitation, easily once a week, something's in there that will pique your interest.

Interviewer: Thank you. Jess, how has News and Notes grown in the last 10 years?

Jess: That’s a great question. Our focus hasn't changed, we're still the majority of it is focused on the work of the NIDILRR community and we still have that one section for elsewhere items. We've added a few things over the years. We started with a resource highlight, events, and opportunities to participate in NIDILRR development projects and research projects. In the last four years, we added two features, we added Research In Focus, which is our regular series where we highlight new and interesting findings from the grantee community presented in reader friendly summaries. So, we include a blurb about that when we publish it in News and Notes.

And then last year, we added This Just In…, which kind of ties us back to that first eblast thing, REHABDATA Connection: We spotlight a new peer reviewed literature acquisition that we’ve added to NARIC’s REHABDATA collection. And we put in a brief summary. REHABDATA includes abstracts, and this is like an abstract of the abstract. But it's a way to shine a spotlight on the great peer reviewed literature that we're adding to the collection. And to remind our readers that we have data there for them to use for their own research, whether they are professionals looking for a way to keep in touch with what's happening in their industry, or fellow researchers looking at what's happening in their field.

News and Notes has also grown in its readership. We started out with a with about 2000 subscribers when we first launched, and we are up close to 5000 subscribers now.

Interviewer: Wow. Awesome! And along that theme, Mark, do you think News and Notes is an important resource for our audience and why?

Mark: Well, it's unique. And it's not so much the individual elements but getting all this information in one place in a timely manner. I mean, it usually you'll see things that are talked about and it's going to happen in the next day or two so that people can get a good idea of that. We publish updates on research, resources, and events from NIDILRR grantees, as well as the other areas of disability community and it's just the one place you'll find all of that.

Interviewer: Jess, can readers and listeners suggest items and where do they send them? And how do people sign up to receive News and Notes?

Jess: Sure, signing up is really, really easy. You just go to naric.com, there's a big box right in the middle of the page, put in your email address, and hit Enter, and wait a few minutes and you get a confirmation to your inbox. It's very important that you look for that, and that you follow through and acknowledge that you are signed up for it otherwise, because we don't want to spam anybody. we want to make sure that you signed up for yourself.

And anybody can sign up for it, it's totally free, comes out every Wednesday at 11 o'clock. For grantees or representatives of federal agencies or government agencies that produce resources, it's very easy to submit material, you can send it to our attention, naricinfo@heitechservices.com. That's h-e-itech-services.com.

In the subject line, just put in an item for news and notes. And give us a brief description. There is a section on our website that tells you when you go to find out about news and notes. It tells you what types of material we look for what information we need about it. Again, when you look for the subscription box, you should see a link there to find out what we accept and what format we need.

Interviewer: Thank you. Now this next question goes out to both of you. Where do you see new as the notes go in the next 10 years?

Mark: Ten years is a long way off, you know, I can dream perhaps of having all this information on the screen or out there and just putting your finger on a pad and it's downloaded right into your brain. You know, what happens in 10 years is amazing. Maybe an eye gaze system where you're just looking at something and blinking and it's in your brain, you got it but coming closer. And something a little simpler like collecting - how we go about collecting information, getting things from the grantees, I think we can always do better with that. And obviously time proves that because everything's growing, cataloguing the data, making sure it's tagged well, so it's easily accessed. And, you know, making it more usable. I just know through, you know, our experiences, we know the NIDILRR universe, we can continue to tell its story through News and Notes.

Interviewer: Thank you. Jess?

Jess: I had a vision for it when we started and that was to package up all of this wonderful material into easily consumable bites. And I think we've succeeded in that so far. I want to continue. I would like to see our readership grow. Certainly, we can get past that 5000 mark, that'd be awesome. And to see the grantees engage with it, share it, republish it, we see some of that, which I love. It tells me that we are highlighting material and resources that the community is really looking for and in need of and sees value in passing it along. That's really what I want to see. I'd like to see ripples. I like to see the ripples. And I'd like to see those ripples get bigger over the next 10 years.

Interviewer: Awesome. Well, thank you very much for your time and have a great day.

This podcast is a production of the National Rehabilitation Information Center, or NARIC. NARIC is operated by Blackfish Federal LLC and HeiTech Services, Inc., under a contract from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR), Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, contract #140D0421C0021.