NFAIS: Research in the Web Era

MacKenzie Smith, Associate Director for Technology at the MIT Libraries gave us a talk entitled “The Value Equation: Social Science Perspective (or Why I Love Google).”

MacKenzie started by admitting that MIT (where she works) spends millions on research databases (570 of them including 45,000 e-journals), but she doesn’t use any of them … instead she relies on conference proceedings, white papers, email, blog posts and other related project websites. The problem she finds that most of the peer-reviewed journal articles are just way too old. She needs to know about these topics now! Not a year from now. Instead, many of the resources she relies on are free and open access – resources that are and always have been open access.

The problem she finds when searching databases (and this is one I’m very familiar with) how do you search across disciplines – how do you know what database to use to find information that crosses disciplines. In my world this would be my common research areas of open source development (technology/computer programming) for and in libraries (social sciences).

In addition – even though she has access to EndNote & RefWords she uses Zotero. This is because Zotero is evolving more quickly to deal with the varying types of content we want to save and cite. Also, Zotero offers more mobility – accessibility form all over – and the ability to share resources with her colleagues. (As a side note, MacKenzie pointed out Mendeley which is Zotero for scientists).

When it comes to searching, MacKenzie doesn’t usually use advanced search, she instead starts with a seed and then builds on that. Then to review the content she doesn’t use the publisher to decide on the quality. She instead uses the author, the organization or the person who recommended that she read the article. In the end this devolves into the fact that we depend very much on our social networks.

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