22 July 2010

Openness: Just What the Doctoral Student Ordered

In 2007 the British Library (BL) and the JISC funded The Google Generation Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future research (CIBER, 2008), which focused on how researchers of the future, ‘digital natives’ born after 1993, are likely to access and interact with digital resources in five to ten years’ time. The research reported overall that the information literacy of young people has not improved with wider access to technology.

To complement the findings of the Google Generation research, the BL and the JISC commissioned this three‐year research study Researchers of Tomorrow focusing on the information‐seeking and research behaviour of doctoral students born between 1982 – 1994, dubbed ‘Generation Y’.

There's lots of interesting stuff in the first report, but what really caught my attention was the following:

The principles behind open access publishing and self‐archiving speak to the students’ desire for an all‐embracing, seamlessly accessible research information network in which restrictions on access do not constrain them. Similarly, many of the students favour open source technology applications (e.g. Linux, Mozilla) to support the way they want to work and organise their research, and are critical of the lack of technical support to open source applications in their own institutions.

However, as the report emphasises, students remain somewhat confused about what open access really is. This suggests fertile ground for a little more explanation by open access practitioners - the benefits of doing so could be considerable.

It's also rather ironic that one of those behind the report should be the British Library: as I've noted with sadness before, the BL is one of the leading opponents of openness in the academic world, choosing instead to push DRM and patented-encumbered Microsoft technologies for its holdings. It's probably too much to expect it to read the above sections and to understand that it is going in exactly the wrong direction as far as future researchers - its customers - are concerned...

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