Leveraging the power of aggregation to achieve an enhanced research environment

Walker, Jenny (2010)

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Paper presented at the Stellenbosch University Library 2010 Symposium / IFLA Presidential Meeting. Knowing is not enough: Engaging in the knowledge economy, 18 to 19 February 2010. With advances in scholarly communication, the academic research world is becoming more global and collaborative. E-Science, for example, has introduced scientific projects on a whole new scale in terms of collaborative effort, the dissemination of information, technical infrastructure, and the amount of data that is generated. In this global environment, scholars’ quest for information transcends borders; indeed, every research document, no matter where it was created, can be accessed globally and its impact can be felt widely. Information providers publish a growing quantity of quality materials and disseminate them to institutions around the world. Institutions, for their part, are striving to offer and facilitate the searching of as many relevant information resources as can feasibly be provided to their users, given local resource constraints. Researchers, in turn, are faced with the challenge of searching in multiple, discrete information repositories or overcoming the limitations of metasearch systems, which are currently deployed in a large number of libraries. As a result, new services are emerging that are intended to help users in their research tasks. An example of such services is vendors’ provision of large aggregations of scholarly materials from diverse information providers, made possible through recent advances in technologies and the increasing willingness of most publishers to broaden access to their collections. Quick to embrace these aggregations, institutions have begun integrating them tightly with local library collections for the benefit of their users. With this growing amount of accessible scholarly data, scholars are in need of new tools to help them home in on the information that they seek instead of wading through masses of materials. The recent introduction of faceted categorization assists in this task, helping users refine large result sets intuitively. Other useful tools for researchers are system-generated recommendations that are based on the search behavior of scholars who previously searched for similar materials (as on e-commerce sites that tell users that “customers who bought this item also bought…”). Because research today is conducted with no regard to geographic location or institutional affiliation, a recommender service of this kind becomes even more meaningful with the increase in the body of information upon which it relies. This presentation will illustrate the power of aggregation in providing tools for today’s researchers and will draw on library examples to do this.

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