RIN’s Use and relevance of web 2.0 for researchers

The announcement is dated January 6, 2010, but the report itself is dated July 2010. In any case it's new to me, so I thought I would run through some interesting points. Here's the citation (as much as I can tell):

Proctor,R., Williams,R. & Stewart, J. (2010). If you build it, will they come? How researchers perceive and use web 2.0. London: Research Information Network. Retrieved July 6, 2010 from http://www.rin.ac.uk/system/files/attachments/web_2.0_screen.pdf

It often seems like people are very negative about the adoption of web 2.0 stuff in science; that is, when they're not hyping it way out of proportion. This report seems carefully written and overall quite positive. They did surveys (n=1308), interviews (n=56, stratified sample), and case studies of selected web 2.0 tools (n=5) - so lots of data.

Some background definitions. They include formal and informal scholarly communication as part of scholarly communication and they also add in coordination-type communication as well as popularizations. In other words, anything a "scholar" might communicate.  They also define web 2.0 more broadly. It's not just the technologies that enable the sharing of user-generated content, but the practices surrounding the use of these technologies.

About an eighth of their sample were frequent users of at least one of the technologies (13%). Almost half were occasional users (45%). It wasn't the youngest who were most likely - probably, as many people have mentioned - because more junior researchers have to play by the rules to graduate, get a job, and then get tenure. For blogging, a combined 16% write a blog occasionally or frequently and 23% comment on blogs either occasionally or frequently. With the fact that the arts and humanities had fewer frequent users, they were more likely to maintain blogs.

The researchers asked about encouragement and of course the institutional part is high, but the impact of library & information services as well as conference organizers is notable.

One frustrating thing about this report is in the section on dissemination choices for scholarly content. Why oh why are "online subscription journals" different from "print-based subscription journals"?  What's the difference? Why are "open-access, online-only journals" listed separately? ergh.

As far as reasons why not, some were too busy, some were worried about how they would be valued.

There's a small piece on open science, but not too much.

As for information seeking - blogs really aren't the first place people go, but they're not last. That's open notebooks (to be fair, if there are so few, then they really can't answer all that many questions, even if they are wonderful).

The participants found these tools useful for filtering, meeting new people, the speed of communication.

The proliferation of resources make it difficult for newbies to get started. There needs to be more support and encouragement locally as well as technical support. Attribution and credit need to be worked out. All this without disturbing the traditional ecosystem.

All in all a useful report and worth a read.

6 responses so far

  • Ellen Collins (RIN) says:

    Hi Christina,
    Thanks for blogging about this - really glad you found the report useful. We have indeed only just published it - the announcement date is a website glitch.
    The reason that we split the dissemination choices into different kinds of journals was because we wanted to see whether researchers esteem or use them all equally. In fact, the results suggest that there is a slight gap (though we didn't test for significance) between print, online and online OA journals. This is important, as it could signify a reluctance to share work online (for whatever reason - prestige, rewards, concerns about plagiarism), which could in turn mean that academics will be slow to embrace web 2.0 tools as a way of disseminating their findings. As always, more research is needed to establish whether this actually is the case!
    Thanks again for your comments - always nice to hear a good review.

  • Christina Pikas says:

    Thanks for the quick comment! I guess I get the OA vs non-OA - that's an interesting question. In science and engineering - or at least in the areas I'm interested in - it seems like about 95% of the journals are available online and in fact, most universities only subscribe to the electronic version. The existence - at one time or still - of a print equivalent is irrelevant. Of course, as I wrote this I remembered that you were talking to social scientists and scholars in arts and humanities. In that case it's probably different.

  • Ellen Collins (RIN) says:

    Yes, there are definitely disciplinary differences: many arts and humanities researchers in particular seem much more attached to the traditional, physical library with paper books. I think what's interesting is that some researchers still retain this feeling that it's somehow slightly 'better' to be published in hard copy print. You certainly don't see the same difference when it comes to information seeking - in fact, online journals come out very slightly higher than print in this area, though online OA journals still lag a bit behind.

  • Linda says:

    Thanks for this blog, its great I like the posting very useful for librarians, gives a picture of researchers in terms of how much they view/use the network activities

  • Thanks Christina, for the link, lets go with more research.

  • saç ekimi says:

    Hi all;
    A fatal flaw was that they failed to have any representative posts ready to go up when the blog went live.
    Had they done so, and had the content been surprisingly acceptable, the reception might have been better.
    Instead we get this "Hi! Welcome to ShillBlog!" (crickets) and everyone, quite reasonably, expects the worst.