17 December 2008

New Issue of Information Research

As my last entry noted - I've been too busy with the new issue of the journal to do much else. However, most of it is now available - and that means all but one of the papers for the ISIC conference, thirteen Doctoral Workshop summaries and, I think, six regular papers, plus the editorial. All now reachable through the top page.

And here's the Editorial:

Instead of concluding with my thanks to others, I shall begin with them. This, as readers will see, is an enormous issue, with the papers from the ISIC conference and summaries of Doctoral Workshop presentations, in addition to the usual clutch of papers. Once upon a time, I could say that the journal was the effort of a single individual: that is no longer the case, and this issue would not have hit cyberspace without the considerable efforts of copy-editors (Amanda Cossham, Peta Wellstead and Lauren Goodchild) and in particular (since she bore the brunt of dealing with the ISIC papers), Associate Editor Elena Macevičiūtė — my thanks to them all. In addition, of course, I have to thank my other Associate Editors for their work in seeing the regular papers through the review process.

In fact, this is probably a good time to say that if there is anyone out there who would like to join the copy-editors, I'd be interested to hear from them. You need to be something of a pedant, with an interest in good writing (able to cut through the jargon and explain to authors that an intelligible paper is best), a sound knowledge of English grammar and spelling (rather than of American English), and a willingness to get to grips with our interpretation of the APA 5th ed. rules for citations and references.

That invitation probably tells you how much care is taken with the papers we publish. The refereeing process is thorough and some submission do not pass that stage, in fact there are also some that never get as far as the Associate Editors, since I reject them on the grounds that they fall outside the scope of the journal (you'd be surprised at the things that are presented - e.g., technical papers on telecommunications!). Following revision by the author, which happens in almost 100% of the cases—sometimes involving another round of refereeing—the papers go to a copy-editor, who reviews the paper in terms of the journal style, intelligibility, readability, etc. and, then, when the xhtml version is delivered by the author, I copy-edit it again, sometimes communicating with the author about sentences that seem ill-worded or that I simply don't understand. Even at this stage, I may make suggestions for minor restructuring. Quite often, in the final preparation, tables need to be tidied up and figures may need reducing in size or otherwise editing. By the time a paper gets into the journal it has had a great deal of attention from more than one person!

In this issue
This issue is in three sections, with three separate contents pages: the regular quarterly issue; the proceedings of the ISIC Conference and the summaries of Doctoral Workshop presentations at that conference. This has created such a volume of work that not all is ready yet, but, as it is publication date, we are opening up the issue to readers. If you note that there are papers missing, don't worry, they'll be there is due course and there will be more book reviews going up, also. The author and subject indexes have not yet been updated but that, too, will happen in due course.

There are rather too many papers in the Proceedings to comment on them all, but there are a number that catch my interest and I'm sure that readers will make their own choices. The keynote paper from Bonnie Nardi is of special interest, since it is a transcription of what she said at the conference, with very little editing, and includes the pictures from her Powerpoint presentation. This makes it something closer to a conference presentation than one normally gets in a proceedings and I think the informality of it comes across.

There are also three papers that deal with the ISIC conferences (a little incestuous, pehaps?): Pertti Vakkari's keynote addresses the changes that have taken place in the nature of the papers between the first conference in 1996 and this year's. Not everyone will agree with Pertti's analysis, I'm sure, but I think it sends a 'wake-up' call to researchers: I, too, sense a kind of torpor in the field, which needs to be addressed. It seems that PhD students are too often advised to deal with the captive audiences in schools and universities to the point at which, as used to be said of psychological research, information behaviour research is becoming research into the behaviour of university students. There's a big world out there and, although research into 'everyday life information seeking' has become more significant, there are many aspects of the working world that are untouched.

The other two ISIC-oriented papers are by Lynne McKechnie and her colleagues on the failure of ISIC authors to communicate their work to practitioners in the field (something to which Pertti Vakkari also draws attention), and by Theresa Dirndorfer Anderson and Jo Orsatti on the place of the conference in information seeking research, which shows that ISIC plays a significant role for the research community.

As for the rest, there is great diversity: from Bonnie Nardi's exploration of information behaviour in the virtual world of gaming to the information barriers faced by Maori secondary school students, and from business information services in Japan to mobile information systems for police in the U.K.

The Doctoral Workshop summaries show a similar diversity: I don't think that all of the students submitted a summary, but the thirteen who did so will probably find that appearance here will make the information research world aware of their work. We have not always presented the summaries in this way, but, when we have, it is interesting how often some of them are cited.

As for the papers in the 'regular' bit of the journal: we seem, accidentally, to have a significant Latin flavour, with papers from Brazil, Mexico and Spain, as well as one from Finland. Their scope is diverse: from the connection between e-mail overload and 'burnout' to the experience of the Open Archives Initiative in Spain.

The open access movement
The open access movement seems to be gaining strength, with a number of interesting developments recently. The business model of author charging is attracting new publishers like e-Century Publishing Corporation, which charges $100 a page, leaves copyright with the authors and publishes under a Creative Commons licence. Established journals are also taking the OA route - the British Medical Journal is now a fully OA journal and many more developments are noted in Peter Suber's excellent Open Access News - if you don't know this source, make sure that you get on the mailing list.

A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our readers.

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