Researchers of Tomorrow

A new report from JISC details a three-year study done on the information-seeking behaviour of doctoral students born between 1982 and 1994 (i.e. Gen Y). This is a pretty hearty set of data for anyone in user services, and well worth a full read here. This deserves a few posts (not that “deserving” has seemed to get me back to blogging lately), but for now I just want to look at the Executive Summary’s conclusions:

“Doctoral students are increasingly reliant on secondary research resources (eg journal articles, books), moving away from primary materials (eg primary archival material and large datasets).”

You know what would be cool? A course, or maybe just a research session, on using primary sources in the humanities and social sciences. Consider the autobiography! Think of all the data that’s out there telling stories! Let us discuss the terrors of requesting material from archives!

“Access to relevant resources is a major constraint for doctoral students’ progress. Authentication access and licence limitations to subscription-based resources, such as e-journals, are particularly problematic.”

This is very unfortunate, and strikes me as having a fairly obvious response, except that the next point is:

“Open access and copyright appear to be a source of confusion for Generation Y doctoral students, rather than encouraging innovation and collaborative research.”

!!! This is a big problem! When even newly minted scholars are distrustful of open access, there is work to be done people, and it’s work that the library is going to have to be heavily involved with. Of course there are scholars heavily invested in open access developments, but for anyone who’s not it probably feels like a bit of a drag to keep up with. It seems like a lot of places are expanding their Scholarly Communications efforts and offices – maybe it will simply be the pervasiveness of assistance in future that changes this attitude?

“This generation of doctoral students operate in an environment where their research behaviour does not use the full potential of innovative technology.”

This is a problem of exactly the same sort mentioned above, only more concrete, (as, I think, it’s much easier to measure potential in physical systems than it is in publishing  movements).

“Doctoral students are insufficiently trained or informed to be able to fully embrace the latest opportunities in the digital information environment.”

Ouch. Looking at the respondents’ demographics, I wonder how much these conclusions hold across disciplines. The biological and physical sciences, which have heavy representation here, are leaders in open access publishing.

This report is a goldmine. What do researchers feel is the biggest constraint on their process? Where are they searching for articles? What research technologies are most used and valued?

When it’s less uncomfortable out (or when we break down and buy A/C) I’d like to parse this further (perhaps on my personal blog!?).

Missed u, blog.

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One thought on “Researchers of Tomorrow

  1. Very interesting (and disturbing) report – thanks for sharing!

    PhD students often think they know a lot about research because they’ve been doing it for so long. But the fact is, research (especially when it comes to open access) has changed significantly since these people started their post-secondary education, and many doctoral students have not kept up with these changes. It would be great if we could count on faculty to train their students on the latest techniques, but unfortunately many professors are in the same boat as the PhD students. I think libraries need to develop strategies for informing people who believe they’re already informed.

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