Thursday, June 18, 2009

Panel at SLA Addresses Interdisciplinarity in Science

Carol Tenopir, professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville's College of Communication and Information and director of the Center for Information and Communication Studies, drove a great panel presentation discussion at the recent annual meeting for the Special Libraries Association. Those familiar with Tenopir's work will recognize her compelling claims.

In short, she is drawing attention to the proliferation of science journals over the past few decades and the increasing interdisciplinarity of these journals. This is impacting scholarly communication in profound ways, and this paradigm positions the library as a nexus for this scholarly exchange and curation.

In the presentation, Tenopir alerted attendees to the trend of how scientists are now reading a wider swath of journals than ever before. For instance, "in 1977 scientists on average read at least one article in 13 journals per year, in 1995 scientists read 18, in 2003 they read 23, and in 2005 they read 33. An increase in the number of journals and articles read means that scientists are now reading each article much more quickly than before."

There is cross-pollination between disciplines and fields as a result too. This is particularly appealing to my interest in the cultural study of scholarly communication in technoscience.
The panel also mentioned what most librarians already know: that interdisciplinary scholars are most inclined to discover (re)sources in other disciplines based on linked citations or other networked sources. The assertion was also made that researchers in a few recent studies were described as valuing textbooks and conference proceedings less, as well as being older. This impacts the preference for new types of library service and curation across a diverse demographic (not just "younger" digitally literate researchers). And lastly, the panel suggested that libraries compose multidisciplinary library teams that may be embedded in the library or in departments across campus. This is a particularly exciting rearticulation of space and outreach to.

There's a lot of inspiration in that end you may want to check out Tenopir's recent journal publications (linked here).

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