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RIN Report: Information Use and Exchange

Williams, R   Pryor, G   Bruce, A   Macdonald, S   Marsden, W

November 2009

Research Information Network (RIN) and The British Library

Scientific advances, the availability of powerful new information and communications technologies, and new policies governing research funding have brought major changes for life science researchers. Together these developments have significantly altered both their needs and their practices in acquiring, generating and using information resources.

Patterns of information use and exchange uses a series of case studies to examine how researchers in the life sciences find, create and use information resources, and how their practices relate to the policies being promoted by funders, libraries and information services.

New analytical techniques and increasingly powerful tools and services are bringing changes to the information needs and practices of life science researchers. At the same time, the success of large-scale projects in fields such as genomics and proteomics has raised awareness of the possibilities offered by data sharing, and research funders are showing an increasing interest in this approach.

Through a series of innovative case studies, our report captures the day-to-day patterns of information use in seven research teams in a wide range of disciplines, from botany to clinical neuroscience. It shows how researchers are grappling in different ways with the functionalities and possibilities offered by new developments in information policies, tools and services. It demonstrates how the views and practices of life science researchers differ sharply from the strategies being promoted by policymakers and funders, libraries and other information service providers – showing that the attempts to implement such strategies have had only limited impact.

If we are to achieve effective, scientifically productive and cost-efficient information use and exchange in the life sciences, policies and support systems for researchers must be built around the wide range of successful tools and practices emerging within life science research communities themselves.

Additional information about the RIN Information Use and Exchange can be found on the Research Information Network Case website