Search Research Note SR1 – spreading an awareness of academic research

by | Mar 18, 2020 | Collaboration, Digital workplace, Information Management, Intranets, Search

I decided I need to start something new to provide an additional focus to my working day when the outcomes of Covid 19 are dominating the present and the future. The result is that I’m going to be publishing posts on what I regard as important research that has implications for practitioners.

The research literature has been part of my life since my time at the University of Southampton. As a chemist research papers are very important and at the time I was at university you had to pass an examination in German as part of your degree as important research in chemistry was published in this language. Major reference works like Gmelin and Beilstein were also in German. The first seven years of my career were spent writing abstracts of journal articles, mainly in metallurgy. Then in the 1990s I found myself heavily involved in the development and site licensing of e-journals. This experience led me to being invited to join the Publications Committee of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 2006 and serving until 2015.

I started lecturing at City University in the mid-1970s and in 2002 was elected a Visiting Professor at what was then the Department of Information Studies  at the University of Sheffield, now the Information School and one of the most highly rated departments of its type in the world. Since that time I have made an effort to keep track of the research literature in a broad spectrum of topics that has included information management, collaborative working and virtual teams and of course information retrieval and search. I now have a collection of around 4000 research papers, over a 1000 of which are related to various aspects of search.

The problem has been finding the time to read through them in detail as I collect probably 30 new papers a month and they are not easy to read and work out what the practical implications might be in a typical enterprise. Now with more time on my hands I am going to work through them and read them with care. Although they are often written from a somewhat abstract perspective (i.e. not enterprise case studies) there are invariably important insights for practitioners.

This is the first of a continuing series of Search Research Notes in which I will highlight and summarise some of the research papers in my collection, with occasional forays into related areas. Until fairly recently most of this research appeared in journals that only subscribers had access to. This is now changing quite rapidly. An increasing number of journals are now open access, there are some very good pre-print servers (notably https://arxiv.org/) and in many cases universities publish a version of papers on open access servers. 

In this series I will do my best to comment only on open access research but from time to time the value of the research might be so high that I will just provide a link to the journal and recommend that you purchase a copy of the paper.

This will be an occasional series, published as and when I have the time to delve into my archive or come cross a very important new piece of research. The titles of the posts will be the same as this one, though of course with a change of number. Often, I will be commenting on more than one paper and that will make it difficult to come up with a sensible title for the post. I hope you find them interesting and hopefully useful.  

Martin White