NFAIS: Now About that Filter!

Dr. Cameron Neylon was up next to talk to us about filtering information in the scientific world. Carmeron finished high school in 1990 and had his first email address in 1991. His professor told him that he had to spend 1/2 a day a week in the library to read new journals so he could keep up with new information. It wasn’t until 1995 that he really discovered the web. Around 1997 – “Someone showed me Google and finally the web worked.” By 2001/2 everyone is subscribed to table of contents updates via email – and no one is reading them. How do we improve the situation?

Search is by far the dominant filter in a researchers lives – in the science world, Scopus, Google Scholar, PubMed … etc. Now to get table of contents you can do a text search on your database of choice and then subscribe to the RSS feeds. That said, you’re not really searching full text in many cases – you’re searching abstracts only. In the end you’re left with a very lacking set of data.

How do we improve this? Cameron showed us FriendFeed and showed how he can now get information relevant to him – not just relevant but current information – instantaneous updates. Because we can’t cope with the about of information we’re talking about we have to share the load, we have to use tools like this and let our friends share the information they have found with us. This is how I use tools like Twitter and Facebook and FriendFeed – I make sure that all of the resources I find that might be interesting to my colleagues is shared on these resources so that I hopefully can help them find the information that is important to them.

Carmeron brought up a great point – using these tools to gather information completely bypasses having to use the database products that many of the people in the room provide. Why? Because outside of those tools we can customize our search to center around us. After all each one of us is the center of the universe 🙂 All the information you receive comes from a network that you built – not from a few peer-reviewers that a publisher selected that you have never met or heard of.

We need our publishers to give us better tools for aggregating, summarizing and sharing information. Right now there is information stored in several different places – Facebook, FriendFeed, Twitter, the Journal’s site, etc. and we need a way to bring all of that information together and then allow us to filter them to our needs. We need a way to connect with people – not the people who are going to agree with me – but the people who are going to challenge me and help me learn more.

These tools are still incredibly crude and the people in this room are best placed to create tools that use the good from these sites and improve upon them for research purposes.

[update] Cameron has posted his slides on Slideshare. [/update]

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