Studying scholars and superbooks
30 June 2006
A one-year investigation into how the academic community uses the wealth of digital resources now available will be launched this autumn.
From 1 October, CIBER (the Centre for Information Behaviour & the Evaluation of Research) at the UCL Centre for Publishing, along with UCL Library Services, will examine how academic staff, students, publishers and librarians draw on superbooks - the plethora of electronic resources at their disposal including e-books, e-journals and websites - to enhance teaching and learning.
A live research laboratory will be set up to assess how people interact with a total of over 3,000 e-books published by Oxford Scholarship Online, Wiley Interscience and Taylor & Francis. Librarians will be encouraged to catalogue e-books and course leaders will be asked to provide reading lists of digital materials to students, while the researchers observe the effects on usage and satisfaction levels.
To date, studies into the impact of digital materials in education has focused on electronic journals - CIBER has previously analysed how a number of publishers' e-journals are used, including those from ScienceDirect, the electronic limb of market-leading publisher Elsevier. UCL is now taking its world-leading technology of deep log analysis to trace the 'digital fingerprints' that users of electronic resources leave in their wake.
"There has been much talk about the potential of e-books, especially in a higher education context, and the need for studies has been articulated strongly in a number of reports funded by JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee, a body financed by the UK further and higher education funding councils that provides guidance on the use of information and communications technology). But a lot of the information available is based on studies of insufficient depth," explained Professor David Nicholas, Director of UCL Centre for Publishing and the UCL School of Library, Archive and Information Studies. "Having spent the last five years robustly mapping and evaluating the roll-out of e-journals, CIBER is in an ideal position to examine the area holistically."
The study is being funded by Wiley, EmeraldInsight and Microsoft, and also involves the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and the Centre for Mass Communications Research at the University of Leicester.