information behavior

Topics: Astronomy, Research, Physics Pages: 25 (5716 words) Published: September 23, 2013
How to cite this article: Jamali, H. R. and Nicholas, D. (2008), "Information-seeking behaviour of physicists and astronomers", Aslib Proceedings, 60, (5), 444-462. Article DOI: 10.1108/00012530810908184

Information-seeking behaviour of physicists and astronomers
Hamid R. Jamali
CIBER, Department of Educational Technology, Faculty of Psychology and Education, Tarbiat Moallem University, No 49, Mofateh Ave, P.O.Box: 15614, Tehran, Iran
h.jamali at

David Nicholas
CIBER, School of Library, Archive and Information Studies, University College London, Henry Morley Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT

Purpose – The study examines two aspects of information seeking behaviour of physicists and astronomers including methods applied for keeping up-to-date and methods used for finding articles. The relationship between academic status and research field of users with their information seeking behaviour was investigated. Methodology/approach – Data were gathered using a questionnaire survey of PhD students and staff of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at University College London; 114 people (47.1 per cent response rate) participated in the survey. Findings – The study reveals differences among subfields of physics and astronomy in terms of information-seeking behaviour, highlights the need for and the value of looking at narrower subject communities within disciplines for a deeper understanding of the information behaviour of scientists.

Originality/value – The study is the first study to deeply investigate intradisciplinary dissimilarities of information-seeking behaviour of scientists in a discipline. It is also an up-to-date account of information seeking behaviour of physicists and astronomers. Keywords – Physics, Astronomy, Information-seeking behaviour, User studies, Information behaviour

Paper Type – Research paper

How do scientists really discover, select and use the countless information and communications resources available to them? Studying the information behaviour of scientists has been one of the main concerns of librarians and information scientists at least since The Royal Society Scientific Information Conference of 1948 (Royal Society, 1948). As information technologies, which nowadays are major means of information service provision, develop, information services are improved and as a result information seeking activities of scientists go though changes and adjustments. This is a cycle where research on information behaviour of scholars leads to better information services and improved information services might make the scholars alter


their information seeking activities and behaviour, hence the need for continuous study of the information-seeking behaviour of scholars.
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Physicists are renowned for their information prowess. They have played a significant role in scholarly communication and publishing, especially in areas such as e-print culture and electronic publishing. They are renowned for having one of the, apparently, most efficient information systems (Nicholas et al., 2005a) and the best organised literature in sciences (Gould and Pearce, 1991, cited in Lawal, 2002). They are known as innovators in methods of scholarly communication (Wertman, 1999). Physics and astronomy are expensive sciences. Nowadays, conducting research in certain areas of physics and astronomy is not feasible for countries unless they are done as multinational collaborative projects. The financial factors and the collaborative nature of the research in many areas of physics and astronomy necessitate the importance of an efficient information system. The supply and the maintenance of such a system require up-todate knowledge of scholars’ information-seeking behaviour which is only achievable by researching this area. Therefore, not surprisingly physicists and astronomers have been the subject of much information science interest. This paper...
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