Revamped Information for Practice Receives Several Honors

Last year, Information for Practice (IP) -- the online resource for social workers -- underwent a makeover and moved to a new web address: In the process, the site has been recognized with several honors.

IP serves as a tool for social workers around the world, a place where students and professionals can get up-to-date information on social work practice. IP is sponsored by the NYU Silver School of Social Work, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's Division of Social Work and Behavioral Science, and the Cordelia Foundation.

"The site was initially envisioned as a virtual library on the practitioner's desktop," said Professor Gary Holden, who developed IP and edits the site. "While maintaining elements of that idea the site has recently begun to focus more on news and new scholarship."

This new version of IP covers more and higher quality content in a more timely fashion. All content categories have been updated and the following categories have been added:

Journal Article Abstracts: a stream of relevant article abstracts from social work and allied fields;
Clinical Trials: studies that are planned or currently recruiting patients;
Infographics: graphical displays of professionally relevant research; and
History: a variety of content relevant to the development of social work

Browse Key Journals feature has been added as well as social media sharing functions. All categories are intended to prompt readers' thinking about practice. For example, Clinical Trials allows practitioners to read about the latest projects by researchers. Other areas -- like Funding and Calls -- emerged to assist social workers in both obtaining resources and finding venues to disseminate their work. Readers can also use the site in other ways: subscribing to one or more of IP's RSS feeds, following IP on Twitter, or subscribing to the IP monthly alerting service.

"Much of the content is complete full text documents that are freely available," explained Holden. "Although anyone could find these on their own, IP helps practitioners by collecting the information and providing it in a single place where they can browse or search to find the specific documents they need."

The first version of what is now IP was created in 1993. It was a list of resources on a disk handed out to colleagues at conferences. The next version went online in 1996 as a collection of searchable links. This version of the site expanded until it evolved into its current form in 2005.

Is the site useful? Over the first five months of the 2011, IP had 41,635 visits from 19,076 visitors from 129 countries and territories. While 45 percent of those individuals had only visited once during the period, 55 percent of the visits were return visits. Holden occasionally hears from IP users. For instance one commented, "I must admit I look at this website almost every day. . . . it stimulates me to get out of my local context."

Over the last year, IP has garnered several accolades. This year, it was recommended by the Association of Librarians and Information Professionals in the Social Sciences as a social science site of the week on SAGE's socialsciencespace. Among its honors in 2010, IP was selected for the Scottish Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services' Evidence-Informed Practice portal, and chosen as one of the top four non-Canadian sources for connected social policy wonks by the Social Policy Cafe.

As far as the future of IP, Holden says that the members of the IP team will continue to search for better sources of information and more effective methods of delivering that information to practitioners. For instance, as NYU becomes a global network university, IP is experimenting with content tailored to NYU locations throughout the world. "While IP has a clear, ongoing mission, the web is changing constantly. Our task is to keep achieving that mission -- to be a high quality resource for practitioners -- in the context of constant change."