Christina's LIS Rant
Sunday, March 22, 2009
  Comps readings this week
(no readings last week due to family emergency, readings will probably be light again this week)

Leckie, G. J., Pettigrew, K. E., & Sylvain, C. (1996). Modeling the Information Seeking of Professionals: A General Model Derived from Research on Engineers, Health Care Professionals, and Lawyers. Library Quarterly, 66(2), 161-193.
Well-written, concise reviews of studies of professionals' (engineers, health care providers, and lawyers) information behaviors. Professionals are defined as those providing a service, with a heavy-duty theoretical knowledge base, extensive post-secondary education, etc. Does not include scholars or scientists (produce knowledge vs. provide services). Not sure how frequently people use their model, but it looks good.

Constant, D., Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1996). The Kindness of Strangers: The Usefulness of Electronic Weak Ties for Technical Advice. Organization Science, 7(2), 119-135.
Compare to Wasko & Faraj (2005) and Hew & Hara (2007) read in a previous week. I need to go through these more carefully and pick out the similarities and differences. (btw, this article doesn't seem dated - sure e-mail is used differently - but still very useful). This research was done in a large multinational computer company. The company had 3 priority settings for e-mail, and one of these was frequently used to ask for help. Responses to requests were often compiled and posted publicly as sort of a knowledge base. The authors wanted to know why responders took the time when they don't know the person asking the question and there can't be any direct reciprocity. Other questions were about the usefulness of the responses, the diversity of the responders, and the motivation of the responders. They sent surveys to question askers and to responders and had the askers rate the responses on usefulness. Weak ties with greater resources (more senior, etc) gave more useful responses. Number of replies didn't help. This way of asking and answering questions had been in this company for a long time and there was a culture of sharing information this way. Personal motivation was more like good of the whole organization.

Ellis, D. (1993). Modeling the information-seeking patterns of academic researchers: A grounded theory approach. Library Quarterly, 63, 469-486.
This is the Ellis on my list, but I'm thinking I probably actually wanted another one (maybe his JoIS from the same time?). He gives an overview of how grounded theory works and why that was important for looking at information seeking - something that had previously been studied using structured questionnaires and quantitative methods. He then compares his findings from his dissertation (massive effort with interviews with 48 social scientists) with similar studies of physicists (18), chemists (18), and English lit researchers (10). All of these used grounded theory so somewhat different terms, but all basically found these characteristics:
Ellis, D., & Haugan, M. (1997). Modeling the information seeking patterns of engineers and research scientists in an industrial environment. Journal of Documentation, 53., 384-403
This is pretty cool - I'd forgotten some of the details of it. They did a ton of interviews with scientists and engineers at a large (14k employees) oil company in Norway. They broke out the results by type of project: incremental, radical, fundamental as well as by project stage (pulled from some project managment handbook or other). These are fairly similar to the above but with a category of surveying instead of starting, distinguishing instead of differentiating, added filtering, and added ending. For incremental projects, they talked to people first, then used their own files, then the library. For radical projects, they used their own files first, then other people, then the library. For fundamental projects, they used the libray resources first (like lit searching in online database), then their own experience/files - didn't really know who to talk to.
When I ever finish (sigh) the literature review for the massive JHU libraries project we did, I'm definitely including both of these pieces by Ellis (I call my piece of the world industrial for the most part, incidentally)

Kling, R., & McKim, G. (2000). Not just a matter of time: Field differences and the shaping of electronic media in supporting scientific communication. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 51, 1306-1320
This quote is classic:
However, in the absence of a valid theory of how scholarly fields adopt and shape technology, scientists and policy makers are left only with context-free models, and hence, resources may be committed to projects that are not self sustainable, that wither, and that do not effectively improve the scientific communications system of the field. The consequences may not only be suboptimal use of financial resources, but also wasted effort on the part of individual researchers, and even data that languishes in marginal,decaying, and dead systems and formats. (p.1307)
The more things change, the more they stay the same. I don't remember any discussion of Electronic Transactions on Artificial Intelligence (ETAI)'s experimentation with open peer review in the more recent discussions of the Nature and Atmospheric Physics discussions.

Anyway, their point is that a lot of the discussions of how scientists use electronic media go with the assumption that they'll converge on the using the same tools in the same way, that it's an "inescapable imperative." The authors argue that differences in how different fields communicate shape how and what they will use - social shaping of technology views are needed instead of relying only on information processing views. Examples at the time of writing include things like arxiv which physicists use, pdb for molecular biology, etc. There's a big difference in on line representations of print processes and products vs. creating a new thing that takes advantage of unique features of the online environment. (librarians have shied away from using the "electronic journals" without modifiers because there has been a misunderstanding in some areas of research that online means maybe less thorough peer review instead of just a copy in another place).

The authors propose bases for field differences: trust and allocation of credit, research project costs, mutual visibility of on-going work, industrial integration, concentration of communication channels... In this part of the discussion, I think some other authors stated these things more clearly, but still a useful article.

Fidel, R., & Green, M. (2004). The many faces of accessibility: Engineers' perception of information sources. Information Processing & Management, 40, 563-581.
It's good I'm re-reading these things. I read and cited this article in my study of the personal information management of engineers... but re-reading makes salient points that weren't important to me at the time. At work right now we're really trying to make some headway in knowledge sharing and one of our efforts is to improve finding experts. This study was originally about sources engineers use to find information, but what came out of it was how complicated the notion of "accessibility" is. Lots of studies of engineers have found that they'll choose accessible over quality, but then the studies don't really talk about what accessible means. In library terms we talk about physical access vs. intellectual access. The authors here look at a sort-of psychological version - ease of use - along with availability, physical proximity, familiarity, right format, gathers a lot of info in one place (or is efficient, or saves time)... The authors compare what the engineers said about documentary sources with what they said about people as sources.... Anyway this is pretty interesting. There's a call at the end for more research on finding people and supporting engineers finding people, but the 29 citations (28 + my citation) in scopus don't seem to address that much.


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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

Laurel , Maryland , 20707 USA
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