Information behavior of interdisciplinary scholars

This morning I read a very interesting article on inside highered (open access competitor of Chronicle), which provides some very interesting information about interdisciplinary studies, mainly based on a conference presentation of Carol Tenopir at the U. of Tennessee. It is more about science, but I guess it may be pertinent to interdisciplinary studies in general.

Here are some of the interesting points:

  • The number of peer-reviewed science journals doubledbetween 1960s and 1990s;
  • Scientists are now reading a much wider range of journals than before (in 2005 on average they read at least 1 article from 33 journals in contrast to 13 journals in 1977);
  • Based on a Finnish study in 2007, library was the primary source of information for the interdisciplinary scholars who were more likely to read journal articles on
    the computer screen or print them out from the Internet; they were
    also least likely to use a personal source to find their readings,
    which means the scholarly information they relied on was more openly available;
  • Furthermore, interdisciplinary scholars depended on linked citations or other networked sources to find sources in other disciplines;
  • “These scholars were described as valuing textbooks and
    conference proceedings less, as well as being older”-whatever that means!
  • Good news for the libraries: they are interdisciplinary scholars’ largest source of information and libraries may play a leading role in facilitating interdisciplinary research.

I think I probably should read some scholarly publications on this topic, but at first look, it all makes sense. Because interdisciplinary scholars are venturing into other disciplines in which they may lack personal (and informal) social network, they have to rely on the formal and yet non-personal, information network, which is provided by the libraries. This also reminds me of the directory project at Cornell which aims at fostering interdisciplinary collaborations. 


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