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Friday, May 09, 2008

High-energy physics as an example for other fields

Anne Gentil-Beccot and four co-authors, Information Resources in High-Energy Physics: Surveying the Present Landscape and Charting the Future Course, a preprint, deposited in arXiv April 22, 2008.  (Thanks to SymmetryBreaking.)

Abstract:   Access to previous results is of paramount importance in the scientific process. Recent progress in information management focuses on building e-infrastructures for the optimization of the research workflow, through both policy-driven and user-pulled dynamics. For decades, High-Energy Physics (HEP) has pioneered innovative solutions in the field of information management and dissemination. In light of a transforming information environment, it is important to assess the current usage of information resources by researchers and HEP provides a unique test-bed for this assessment. A survey of about 10% of practitioners in the field reveals usage trends and information needs. Community-based services, such as the pioneering arXiv and SPIRES systems, largely answer the need of the scientists, with a limited but increasing fraction of younger users relying on Google. Commercial services offered by publishers or database vendors are essentially unused in the field. The survey offers an insight into the most important features that users require to optimize their research workflow. These results inform the future evolution of information management in HEP and, as these researchers are traditionally "early adopters" of innovation in scholarly communication, can inspire developments of disciplinary repositories serving other communities.

From the body of the paper:

...In light of this fast-changing world, it is important to assess the usage by HEP researchers of HEP-specific information resources. Such a study serves two purposes: within the field, it informs on the need for such community-based resources and their real role in the present internet landscape, inspiring their future evolution; globally, it provides an in-depth case study of the impact of discipline-based information resources, as opposed to institution-based information resources or cross-cutting (commercial) information platforms. This information is particularly relevant in light of recent worldwide moves towards self-archiving of research results at the institutional or disciplinary level, and the need to effectively incorporate these resources in the research workflow....

While the various community-based systems have stronger and weaker features, users attach paramount importance to three axes of excellence: access to full-text, depth of coverage and quality of content....

The results discussed in this Article confirm the exceptional situation of the HEP community in the field of scholarly communication: decades of efforts in developing, maintaining, populating and curating community-based services enable an efficient research workflow for HEP scientists and are met by overwhelming user loyalty. Scholarly communication is at the dawn of a new era, with the onset of institutional repositories and author self-archiving of research results. In this evolving landscape, could the decades-old success story of community-based HEP information systems, and their discipline-based content aggregation, provide inspiration for scholarly communication in other fields?