Quick notes on research and information science

Angel Rivera was kind enough, in commenting on my previous post, to say “Yes, what you do is information science.”
I wonder sometimes–both about the field called “information science” and about whether what I do fits within it.
A snarky way to put this might be:

Can you do information science if you’re not part of academia?


Can it be information science if it doesn’t appear in the form of proper scholarly articles in proper refereed journals?

Not that I haven’t had articles in refereed journals. I have–not many, but a few.
But most of what I’d call research, particularly in the past few years, hasn’t appeared there. (Actually, my major research projects in previous decades didn’t result in scholarly articles either. That’s another story.)


What I can say about the research behind the two library blog books and the liblog book:

  • I’m transparent about methodology.
  • I’m scrupulous about following the stated methodology.
  • I don’t discard “outliers” or otherwise manipulate the evidence to suit any hypotheses.
  • I use statistics conservatively and, I believe, appropriately–particularly in The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008, which includes a lot more statistical analysis than the others.
  • When I state hypotheses, I spell out the extent to which the evidence does not support the hypotheses.

OK, so some statisticians would say I barely use statistics at all in the last-mentioned book, but that’s another discussion.

Outsider research not properly reported?

On the other hand…

  • My reports on the research don’t include literature surveys, extensive notes on previous related research (such as it is), the rest of the scholarly apparatus.
  • My reports appeared as books (later articles in Cites & Insights) rather than as articles.
  • Nobody’s vetted the research or replicated the work.
  • Most importantly: The work hasn’t been cited by any information scientists, as far as I can tell.

If research falls into publication and none of the scholars in the field cite it, does it exist?
I don’t have answers. I don’t fancy myself a scholar. I do dignify the work I’ve done as research, and believe it’s a lot more carefully (or at least exhaustively) done than some of the stuff I’ve seen Properly Published. (And I know from this and other projects that I could gather “statistically reasonable” samples that would prove almost any set of hypotheses I cared to offer.)

4 Responses to “Quick notes on research and information science”

  1. kathleen says:

    You say, “Most importantly: The work hasn’t been cited by any information scientists, as far as I can tell.” You mean cited in any of the journals? That’s just one bibliometric.
    I know you are on many class reading lists.

  2. Three problems with that, nice as it is:
    1. I generally have no way of knowing about it.
    2. I’m guessing that most such citations are for Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0” (after all, 40,000+ downloads/views must mean something!) and other things that I wouldn’t consider research as such.
    3. Invisible usage of non-research materials doesn’t provide me with any impetus or grounding for doing further research.
    Not that I don’t appreciate it: I do.

  3. Leigh Anne says:

    The phrase for what you do is, I believe, “independent scholarship.” You’re just not affiliated with an institution (right?). That has pluses and minuses. Doesn’t make it NOT scholarship. JMHO.

  4. Nice read, a good topic for a more in-depth article, I think. The answers I’ve found so far are 1) If you’re in a very specific field and read a lot of papers etc anyway, knowing who’s done what before comes naturally. Cross-branch research is another story… and 2) The resulting texts is what decides if you’ve done the research scientifically. If the text/data is freely accessible, if you clearly described the problem, and if you completely describe the solution and results, it’s fine.
    Basis in statistics is dubious, basis in references slightly better. Basis in fact and providing the means to let other reproduce the results should be the only things you should worry about.