Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Information-seeking behaviour of the virtual scholar: from use to users - David Nicholas, UCL

David began by addressing the issue of disconnection from the user. We monitor activity rather than actual users. The virtual audience differs in composition from previous audience - we also can't even see it and we find they move elsewhere (accessing material from publisher sites for instance). Content was kind. Now the consumer is king.

We need to identify best practice, find scholarly outcomes and achieve satisfaction.

David has a slide up to illustrate the Virtual Scholar: a portfolio of services used by these users. This information is evidence based including:

  • UK National e-Books Observatory, JISC, 2008-9
  • Impact of Open Access Journal Publising, OUP, 2006-
  • RIN study on use and impact of journals, RIN, 2008
  • Behavious of the Researcher of the Future (Google Generation), 2008
Digital information footprints allow a complex view of information seeking behaviour which is rich in detail.

Profiling Information Seeking Behaviour
  • There are huge numbers of scholars and high demand for scholarly product driven by ubiquitous access (on buses, trains, hotels etc, existing users can search more freely and flexibly); huge usage numbers; spiralling growth; usage is not the outcome.
  • Some issue in the fact that many users are overseas - UK government funded scholarly websites have less than a third of their users in the UK; Asia loves OA; what issues does this raise?
  • Many users are young - information seeking behaviour is very different; spend lots of time online and some still see them as "noise" in the stats
  • Robots are always an issue - around half of all scholarly site visits are by robots (in some cases 90% of users are robots); now mimic human behaviour (Google's are particularly shrewd)

Human/Human-like behaviour
  • Shop around (40% of visitors never visit again)
  • Bounce (1-3 pages only of the many available - overseas visitors bounce less, young people more)
  • Flicking (a kind of channel hopping behaviour)
  • View (humans conditioned by emailing, text etc.
  • Don't view articles for more than 2 minutes
  • Spend more time reading short articles than long articles online; if it is long either read the abstract or squirrel away for later)
  • Power browse (you can hoover through titles, contents, abstracts etc at huge rate);
  • Books now opened-up great view
  • Horizontal rather than vertical
  • Navigate (we spend half our time navigating to content)
  • We are not all the same (national differences, e.g. Germans most successful searchers and most active information seekers; age differences; gender differences (women are less permiscuous!))
  • Brands very complex but imporant (difficult to identify where authority lies (especially with authorised resources - hard to tell how your access is occuring)
  • What you think is the brand is not what other people will see as the brand, and some are cool, some are not)
  • Do not behave like a librarian!
  • Behave like an e-shopper (use a common platform, multitask, information pedigree of some of key e-commerce giants: Amazon and Google)

Impacts, outcomes etc. best summed up by Guardian (quoting Marshall McLuhan's "Gutenberg galaxy").

David Nicholas compared power browsing and information seeking etc. to alcoholics anonomous: people don't want to admit they do these things. We are all behaving like this though - not just the young! Although older users have different conceptual framework for this behaviour.

Access is no longer the outcome - need to go beyond having that access be easy and quick, now we need to profile behaviours in order to find best practice and see what works and what does not. Establishing the good and the bad needed to establish development of information literacy. We also need to know how we justify our spend on information resources by proving value.

"We are not fighting Google, the battle is with ourselves"

Unless we connect with our users we will dissipate.

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