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No. WP-97-03

Digital Libraries and the Practices of Scholarly Communication

Rob Kling 
Center for Social Informatics
Indiana University
10th and Jordan, Library 012
Bloomington, IN 47405-1801
Lisa Covi
SCILS - School of Communication,
Information and Library Studies
4 Huntington Street, Room 308
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
New Brunswick, NJ 08901-107
                                                                                                            Version 2.0a January 7, 1997
Report of a Project (October 1, 1994- September 30, 1996)

Center for Social Informatics
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN 47405


1. Project Summary
2. Introduction to the Project
3. Research Methods
4. Digital Materials and Disciplinary Practices
5. The Supply of Digital Library Services on University Campuses
6. Material Proficiency and Disciplinary Practices for Obtaining Paper and Digital Documents
7. Electronic Journals in Systems of Scholarly Communication
8. Digital Shift or Digital Drift?:Organizational Processes and the Transition to Electronic Publishing and Digital Libraries
9. Conclusions
10. Bibliography/References
Appendix I -- Faculty Interview Schedule
Appendix II -- Notes on Research Methods
Appendix III -- A Brief History of the Use of Gopher and WWW in 1993-1995.
Appendix IV -- Acknowledgements


This document reports an empirical study of the ways that faculty and graduate students in several fields in 8 major US research universities use Digital Library (DL) services in the course of their routine work. In the Winter and Spring of 1995 we carried out field studies and interviewed 124 faculty and graduate students in four disciplines. In addition, we interviewed over two dozen academic administrators about their investments in campus networking, and paper and digital media (See Sectioin 3). This document reports some early analyses of our data. At this point we draw the following conclusions:

a. There is substantial variations in the use of digital libraries across disciplines (Section 4). Literary theorists, sociologists and molecular biologists make significant use of indexes and abstracting services that were mediated by publishers and provided by their campus libraries. In contrast, computer scientists do not use such indexing and abstracting services; they were also the primary researchers who extracted electronic texts from Internet-mediated sources. (Section 4).

b. Universities vary substantially in the extent to which they provide computer networking and Internet access for the faculty. Some major universities have spent considerable money and effort to wire all campus offices while others have (so far) emphasized the laboratory sciences. Network access alone is not a good predictor of DL use, since productive scholars also want (network) access to discipline-specific indexes, abstracts or text corpuses. (Section 5).

c. The "Principle of Proficiency" influences professional practices for using documentary materials. This principle leads many scholars to organize their own private collections of materials, and also leads the publicly accessible data on the WWW to be of little value to many sociologists and literary theorists (Section 6)

d. The Internet might be of greater interest to scholars if electronic journals become a major medium of scholarly communication. We have found that too few scholars perceive electronic journals to be legitimate means of communication for them to become major media soon (Section 7).

e. While this appears to be a period of major structural transformation in a shift from print media to digital media, the internal structure of universities and budgetary limits lead to local processes that are better characterized as organizational drift to digital media. (Section 8).


There is an enormous decentralized national investment supporting the development of Digital Library (DL) services for colleges and universities. Much of the excitement focuses upon the computerization of new corpuses, the expansion of emerging formats (such as electronic journals), and the development of new electronic distribution systems (e.g., WWW). But it is not automatically the case that faculty and students will effectively use sophisticated and intellectually rich DL services simply because they are available on their campuses.

This document reports an empirical study of the ways that faculty and graduate students in several fields in research universities use DL services in the course of their routine work. We characterized DL services in broadly to include resources that are anchored in the traditions of library automation (ie., Online Public Access Catalogs, digital abstracts, full text databases) and digital materials that are available through the Internet (ie., certain electronic journals, conference proceedings, technical reports).

The project was funded from October 1, 1994 through September 30, 1996. The main sources of data derive from field studies in eight research universities that we carried out in the Winter and Spring of 1995. Some results of this project have been published as conference papers, journal articles, and a Ph.D. dissertation (Appendix I). In the body of this report we explain the project's background, our empirical research methods, and some of our major findings.


We conceptualized this project in the Fall of 1993 when there was little reliable information the working conditions and institutional and organizational practices that make DLs most usable and used by faculty, academic staff, and students. At that time there was tremendous excitement by information and computer scientists, some librarians, some scholars, and some politicians about the promise of DLs. These professionals -- as well as some foundation officials and some professionals in the publishing industry were curious and enthusiastic about the potentials of electronic publishing for speeding up and broadening access to materials in various media -- including print, data, pictures, and software.

It will be helpful to label this diverse group of professionals who have explored and also helped stimulate interest in the potentials of digital libraries. We use the term "DL movement" to refer to the professional movement to create digital libraries and popularize their value.

Sociologists have used the concept movement to refer to many different kinds of collective action. The most common term found in this literature is social movement, often used in a generic way to refer to movements in general. But sociologists also have written about professional movements, artistic movements, and scientific movements. What analyses of these movements share is a focus on the rise of organized, insurgent action to displace or overcome the status quo and establish a new way of life. Computerization movements are no different. Large-scale computerization projects are typically accompanied by political struggle and turmoil as the established structure is threatened and powerful actors fear being displaced. Historically, those who advocate radically new forms of computerization find themselves in the role of challengers of the status quo." (From, Iacono and Kling, 1996).

Professionals who organize "computerization movements" play key roles in stimulating interest in certain computer applications or modes of computer use -- such as personal computing, artificial intelligence, and instructional computing (see Kling and Iacono, 1988; Iacono and Kling, 1996).

DL movement participants had written enthusiastically about the promise of "electronic libraries" (Buckland, 1992) and electronic media to support scholarly communication (Okerson, 1991, 1992) for over 20 years, in a literature that is traced to a mid-1960's report by J.C.R. Licklider and Vanevar Bush's 1948 Atlantic Monthly article "As We May Think." Drabenscott and Burman's (1993) Analytical Review of the Library of the Future that was produced with support from the Council on Library Resources reflects the enthusiasm in this literature. Their report is a well organized compendium of generally optimistic quotations from earlier studies, but it is not a probing analytical examination of their repercussions for libraries or people who use them.

Through 1993, the majority of DL movement participants were information and library scientists (in diverse institutional locations), and their primary audiences were other movement participants, librarians, and some scholars. The DL movement was relatively small and specialized. The visions of DLs gained substantially greater public visibility as a byproduct of the Clinton-Gore administration's treating DLs as a major "application" of an enhanced National Information Infrastructure (White House, 1993).

The DL movement grew and began to jell in this period and focussed on the promise of DLs helping anyone access materials -- anytime and anywhere. For example, Vice President Al Gore gave several well-publicized talks in which he highlighted the possibility of a little girl in a small Tennessee town accessing the Library of Congress over the Internet. This image had immense symbolic power, even if though was problematic in many ways (ie., it undermined local booksellers and libraries, and focussed on a non-circulating library whose holdings required travel to Washington DC.).

The Internet was being opened for public access in a way that was unprecedented. Organizations, mostly academic, governmental and non-profit, were experimenting with Gopher services as ways to electronically publish various documents and make them accessible to diverse audiences. For example, the Clinton-Gore administration's Information Infrastructure Task Force reports were available on "the White House gopher." Universities experimented by putting materials such as course bulletins, faculty rosters and class schedules on campus Gophers. (These electronic documents helped us locate appropriate faculty informants when we were conducting this study). Some electronic journals, such as PostModern Culture and the Electronic Journal of Virtual Culture shifted to Gopher services (from LISTSERVs) for archiving and distribution. And some non-profit organizations began to issue their reports via Gophers in addition to printed forms.

In the six month period between January and June, 1994 that our proposal was under review at the US Department of Education, the DL world was punctuated by some major events. One set of events was a multimillion dollar "Digital Library Initiative" funded by the National Science Foundation, ARPA and NASA to grant six "awards of up to $1,200,000 a year for up to four years ... to conduct programs of research and to develop and test elements of a digital library on a significant scale in a distributed environment." This research initiative was primarily of interest to academic participants in the DL movement. But it served to legitimate the label, "Digital Library" (over competing labels, such as "electronic library") and give these substantial technologically-anchored DL projects notable visibility within a broader segment of the information and computer science research communities. Further, The DL Initiative helped to give a more substantial information and computer science research base to the DL movement and to amplify its intellectual momentum through a new conference series -- the annual Digital Library Conferences that are organized by the Association for Computing Machinery. The DL initiative also represented a major milestone in creating highly visible and technologically innovative DL projects that were not anchored in traditional libraries, traditional publishing houses, or even traditional materials, such as books and articles.

A second set of key DL events in Winter and Spring of 1994 cluster around the emergence of the World Wide Web as a major medium for documentary communication on the Internet. While the WWW was developed in 1989-90 at CERN as a medium for communication amongst international teams of physics research teams, it became a popular medium of communication by mid-1996. It is difficult to identify key markers of the rise of the WWW (and the demise of gopher) in the early 1990s. It's important to note that the earliest web browsers, such as Lynx, were text based and presented a viewing screen that was little more interesting than Gopher. (We briefly sketch some indicators of the shift from Gopher to WWW in 1993-1995 in Appendix B). In 1994 the WWW was actively popularized by the National Center for Supercomputing Activities, a developer of one of the first graphical browsers for the WWW. One of NCSA's promotional devices cleverly used WWW linking to publish a monthly list of "what's new" on the WWW. People using the WWW could see a burgeoning list of WWW sites, and quickly visit them by clicking on their links. This monthly list helped NCSA illustrate the diversity of possible WWW content -- including university labs, software support, commercial ventures, community libraries, and so on.

It is helpful to characterize the shifts in perceptions of DL services in the period in which we framed and conducted this study. This was a period of rapid change in the technological infrastructure that could support DL services. During our study, one molecular biologists asked us directly "How can you be sure that your results won't be out of date in six weeks?" Another colleague cautioned us:

"Both the available materials and the usability of the forms in which they are delivered will be changing drastically over the next five to ten years .... "library services" as viewed through today's libraries will not adequately capture the many "digital information services" being used in a less formal way, such as user-provided WWW pages, which will be integrated into the digital library as it develops."

One challenge was to develop a study whose results were sufficiently robust to be of interest to scholars, DL movement participants, librarians, and academic administrators during the next decade. This study pays much less attention to static behaviors (ie., that X% of faculty prefer to search their library's periodical shelf while Y% prefer to start with Internet sources) than to the social practices and organizational arrangements that tilt faculty towards periodical shelves and various DL services.

Our colleague understood our approach when he noted in a subsequent message:

"the important generalizations are not about the technology directions, but about models of human and organizational behavior. In fact, the studies can be extremely valuable to help guide the direction of the technology, when they aren't misinterpreted as blanket assessments of its value."


In order to have an empirically anchored study, we wanted to study the way that scholars and students in 1995 used DL services. The wide range of services that form today's academic DLs come from two related, but different professional worlds.

One set of facilities emerges from the world of publishers and libraries, and places skilled professionals in many intermediary roles to select valuable corpuses of materials, to index and organize them, and to help people find documents through them. Online Public Access Catalogs, abstracting services, and citation systems illustrate these facilities. Some of them have been in use for over 20 years, and these facilities of these sorts are widely used in academic libraries. While people who use these families of DL resources may sometimes be satisfied with a set of citations or abstracts, they usually use these computerized services to locate a paper book or article, which they often physically retrieve from a local library.

In addition, some university (and corporate) libraries subscribe to services that provide the complete text of articles from selected magazines, newspapers and journals. Companies such as Lexis/Nexis, KRI/Dialog and ABI/Inform license such services, but at prices that seem most affordable by relatively rich organizations -- such as research universities rather than comprehensive universities.

Another set of newer DL services that are more directly associated with the Internet come from other research worlds, especially computer science. These DL services, include (a) distribution systems such as WAIS and the World Wide Web; (b) electronic newsletters, such as those distributed through LISTSERVs; and (c) electronic journals. Universities usually place faculty, staff and students who use these Internet-based services in the roles of serving as their own librarians and computing consultants. They have to locate relevant sources (e.g., LISTSERVs, electronic journals, WWW sites), and find their own ways to download and perhaps print relevant files. Part of the reason for this shift in roles from personal service to self-service is that faculty and students may access some networked services from their offices and homes and on 7-day 24-hour schedules. Those who do, may seek access to DL resources at places and times where one does not traditionally find reference librarians and similar skilled help.

The effective value of DL services depends upon their practical usability by specific academic communities in their day to day working settings. Faculty and students need to learn about their contents, learn to use them, and have access to some complimentary computing resources (such as disk space and printers) to effectively utilize their output. University departments (or schools) vary in the extent to which they support DL services. Some administrators expect their faculty to rely primarily upon central library services or their own skills with DLs. Other administrators have developed departmental or school-specific DL support groups for their faculty and students. The local DL support groups also vary in the range of services they provide. At the extremes, some provide only core technical services while others provide consulting roles akin to research and reference librarians for Internet-based resources.


We are interested in the possible value of DLs in supporting scholarship and education. The study reported here examines the organizational and working conditions under which university faculty and students use of a variety of DL services in their routine work, and the institutional and organizational practices that make them most useful and usable.

The primary researchers on this project were both keenly interested in the ways that faculty and students could effectively use DL services in support of research, teaching, study, and other activities. We used certain DL services in our own research, teaching and study. Professor Kling -- then on the faculty of the University of California, Irvine (UCI) -- began actively using the on-line abstracting services licensed by the University of California from his home and office in support of his research and teaching in the early 1990s. He began using Gopher in the Spring of 1993. He found these services to be of substantial value in his own work, and discussed them informally with his colleagues (in various fields) and PhD students. Through these informal conversations he learned that few UCI faculty were aware of the diverse text databases available through the University of California Melvyl system, or used them in support of their research or teaching. Dr. Lisa Covi, then a Ph.D. student at UCI, was also keenly interested in the use of DL services. She worked with library automation and the early versions of the Internet in previous staff positions at the Columbia University Computing Center and at EDUCOM.

This study was carried out by a research team that was enthusiastic about the potential value of DLs, but who also were aware of various practical limitations and complexities and the fact that they could be "under-utilized." Supply-side accounts of DLs don't help us to understand the actual ways that people care to use or ignore DLs. The NSF/ARPA/NASA DL Initiative and the earliest demonstrations of Gopher and WWW use were "supply side" activities. Without digital documents and ways to access them, digital libraries would be purely fictional. However, it is possible to develop digital corpuses that people do not know of, do not value, find cumbersome, or simply do not use.

We conceived of this study to complement the "supply-side" visions that were common in the DL literature and in the discussion of various professionals about the promise and limits of the Internet. Most supply-side characterizations of DL use treat the acquisition and use of electronic materials as relatively unproblematic. In the simplest scenarios, a person -- scholar, student or teacher -- has technical access to an appropriate computer network. The person is usually searching for a specific document or kind of document and is portrayed as finding it rather easily. That is, suitable documents are in the electronic corpus and are locatable via electronic searches that the person is skilled in doing.

From our studies of computer use in various institutional settings (e.g., Kling and Jewett, 1994), and our observations of scholars and students we believed that consumption of electronic documents was often more problematic. The person might not know that some items that they want are available on-line, might not have technical access to a suitable computer system, might not have the skills to search effectively to find the items, and might not be able to effectively read the items even when they find them.


To effectively deploy DL services, we sought reliable systematic answers to some questions where there was anecdotal evidence and ungrounded speculation

1. How accurately do faculty and students perceive the contents and formats of information that these services provide;

2. How much do faculty and students actually utilize these resources, and how do they fit their informational preferences;

3. Under what conditions do faculty and students prefer electronic information to be available in specific forms electronic for reformatting or restructure; paper for mobility or annotation;

4. To what extent do faculty and students use services where they have assistance from skilled help -- such as reference librarians or colleagues;

5. How do these patterns of preferences and usage vary with the different disciplinary traditions and working conditions;

We did not begin this study with a blank slate. We examined a body of research about the conditions under which people will use computerized information and network resources and it suggested some important hypotheses that we extended to DLs (e.g.,, Kling and Jewett, 1994):

(1) While usage patterns will vary between individuals, and between groups, some structural conditions will shape the effective usability of DL resources.

(2) Disciplinary patterns will influence the extent to which important scholarly materials are likely to appear in electronic form, and the extent to which people find incentives to conduct one-shot searches or continuous scans.

(3) People's abilities to effectively use DL resources can depend upon their access to complementary computing resources (e.g., disk space, printers, local data management software).

(4) Access to these complementary computing resources will depend upon the ways that campuses allocate computing resources to faculty and students and upon the amount of outside funding a person's academic unit.

(5) Faculty and students will often need human assistance to effectively use DL resources, especially for newer services and one-shot searches.

These hypotheses guided our study design. Our project built on these hypotheses through an empirical study of the ways that faculty and students use a variety of DL resources to support their scholarship, teaching, and study. Among the nations' college and university students, graduate students are most likely to use libraries systematically and intensively and they were the student informants in this study.

To keep the project's costs within feasible bounds, the research team proposed a multilayered study design. We examined the nature of DL services and faculty usage through short field studies at eight diverse universities. These were chosen from among those campuses that had reputations for providing a relatively rich array of DL resources to their own faculty and students.

At each university, we interviewed faculty and graduate students in four disciplines: a lab science (molecular biology); an artifact-based discipline (computer science); a social science (sociology); and a humanities discipline (literary theory). These fields were chosen because of the different types of materials different disciplines use for their work. They also vary in their relative wealth, and the extent to which faculty and graduate student offices (or laboratories) might be linked to campus computer networks.

We also proposed more intensive interview and survey studies of the faculty and graduate students on one university campus (UCI) which had a significant array of DL resources through the universities libraries and through campus-wide Internet connections. This portion of the study was dropped after we learned hat we were funded at less than 50% of our proposed budget.

We will discuss our research methods in substantial detail in the next section.


In proposing this study, and in the introduction to this point, we have focussed on the extent to which faculty and students use DL services. We learned that our proposal was approved for funding in July 1994 and refined our conceptualization and research methods for this study.

Our major conceptual shift -- to focus on the use of DL services as part of a process of scholarly communication -- came as a byproduct of our efforts to identify meaningful social contexts for faculty and student use of DL services. In our early conceptualizations, we focussed on "local social contexts" -- such as the department and campus since both of these influenced the kinds of DL services that would be available in campus libraries, via campus computer networks, and available in faculty offices. We focussed on disciplines insofar as DLs would be likely to provide relevant materials. For example, we expected that literary scholars -- who rely upon books as sources of texts for analysis and for scholarly commentary -- would find DLs much less useful than would scholars who rely upon a relatively recent corpus of research reports and journal articles.

This conceptualization of DL use based on contexts that are "close at hand" to the person is congruent with much of the research literature on "information seeking behavior" and on the use of DL services. For example, the final report of a major project (TULIP) that enabled nine major research universities to provide the full-text 43 Elsevier science and engineering journals to their faculty, staff, and students (Borghuis, et. al. 1996) emphasizes the role of proximate context (ie., campus computing resources) in explaining relatively low levels of faculty usage. While the report is careful to characterize campus network and computing resources in some detail, it mentions the roles of faculty scholarly worlds in one sentence:

"The searching behavior of faculty is more focussed (than graduate students), because the network of personal contacts, etc. indicates the relevant sources" Borghuis, et. al. 1996:71)

The scholarly worlds of faculty -- and communication within them -- are more than a network of personal contacts. Especially at major research universities, such as those that participated in the TULIP project, faculty careers hinge on communicating within scholarly worlds so that one is seen as an important contributor.

At these universities, which included M.I.T., and the Universities of California, Michigan, Tennessee and Washington, faculty must do more than "simply publish" for various career rewards. They must publish work of sufficient quality (and quantity) that they are viewed as strong scholars (at their career stage) by their peers. These rewards include advancements in rank, being tenured, salary increases, and access to scarce campus research resources such as space, graduate assistants, research funds, and periodic teaching reductions. Some of these career rewards, such as advancements in rank to Associate and Full Professor, and awarding tenure can entail stringent reviews that include written evaluations by one's peers at other universities. Other rewards, such as small departmental research and travel grants may be based on short proposals and less formal internal reviews.

In any of these cases, the faculty member's recent publishing record is scrutinized for signs of quality. People who want to be rewarded well have strong incentives to publish in the major journals or with the major presses in their fields. Since the major journal editorial boards and presses turn to trusted scholars who publish through them, scholars are incentivized to read the major journals in their fields to know the kinds of scholarship and research results that is seen as leading edge.

This short sketch condenses a myriad of variations into a compact formula. Fields differ in the degree of consensus among their participants about "the best journals" and "the best publishing houses" (for book-oriented fields). At the extremes, every molecular biologist whom we interviewed reported regularly reading Science and Nature. In contrast, the computer scientists did not have substantial consensus in their choices of journals, because the field is split into numerous specialties with its own (overlapping) constellation of journals and conferences.

Faculty at the major research universities focus on the publishing outlets where their peers are most likely to read their work. This simple rule also has exceptions, such as the scholar hungry for rapid publication who tries to publish in a second tier outlet where her work may be more rapidly accepted. In short, scholarly communities (sometimes called "invisible colleges" (Crane, 1972)) can be viewed as communities of authors, editors, reviewers, and readers who treat specific journals, conferences, and publishing houses as major channels of communication.

Invisible colleges play strong roles in shaping formal (publishing) communication channels for research-active faculty in research universities. In our study, we found few exceptions to this rule. The few exceptions were senior established faculty who were seeking new audiences beyond their invisible colleges. In these cases (primarily in the humanities), the faculty were most enthusiastic about publishing in outlets that helped them reach a new group of readers.

There certainly are precedents for examining academic library services in a context of scholarly communication (Cummings, et. al., 1992). The major issue in identifying contextual dimensions is to identify those that will actually influence human behavior. In Section 6 we will examine the ways that the pursuit of mastery and effective communication in a discipline influences the ways that faculty and graduate students use DL services.

We informally renamed this project as the Scholarly Communication and Information Technology (SCIT) project. In the study we paid attention to both "local departmental campus contexts" in structuring access to resources, and to the ways that faculty and graduate students sought specific resources as part of their scholarly communications.


In order to study how researchers can more effectively use digital libraries in their routine work, we designed a study of both material use practices and material provision arrangements. The study of material use practices examined how faculty and advanced doctoral students make use of both paper and electronic materials in their routine research practices. The study of material provision arrangements examined sources of reported research materials, opportunities for obtaining research materials and provision policies for departmental, university-wide and regional collections.

We chose a research approach that elicited crucial details about routine work practices and local arrangements: an organizational field study with comparative cases. Because scholars are at the intersection of organizations (university departments) and transorganizational social systems (disciplines, invisible colleges), we needed to understand both components of their work life. Our study design provided comparisons between universities, work practices in different disciplines and research material provision in different departments.

We designed this project to collect our data in a series week-long field studies at eight diverse universities in four fields of research that used different modes of inquiry. We considered other methods such as surveys and telephone interviews, but face to face interviews and direct observation were the only options to collect this kind of data for several reasons. First, our informants were elites in the university research community. Their time was important to them so it was necessary to engage their interest as well as cooperation. Second, the phenomena we were studying was extremely complex. It would have been impossible to devise a questionnaire about the mix of materials they use or provide without interviewing them to understand what to ask them about. Third critical details would have been hard to see from afar. For instance, several times, at the end of the interview, we would learn something about the researcher, the university, or the informant*s professional life that altered our interpretation of their account. Fourth, most researchers and some providers did not completely understand the phenomenon that we were studying.

Many researchers were not familiar with the term "digital libraries" and some did not believe that their behavior was relevant to this study. Therefore face-to-face interviews helped to establish rapport, explain that we were interested in their use of paper materials as well as digital media, and engage the informants by discussing their scholarly work (a topic with which they were very familiar). Although faculty researchers were usually more aware of their research endeavors then the nuances of their material use practices, they could still report useful data in the context of projects or problems which consumed their worklife. Finally, this approach was necessary because we were not previously familiar with critical aspects of working in the chosen subspecialties and provision of particular types of materials. In the course of conducting interviews, we could, for instance, ask questions about the terminology researchers and providers were using to describe their work and verify initial patterns by actually asking other researchers about disciplinary practice in subsequent interviews.

We spent one week each per site and cross-checked different accounts between providers and scholars through interviews and exploration of the site. Most sites graciously provided us office space or laboratory access on their campuses from which we could coordinate our study during the week. Each day, we conducted four to seven interviews which lasted between 45 minutes to one hour. Interviews followed a semi-structured format customized for providers, faculty scholars or graduate students. During the course of the site visit we also collected use and provision documentation, and took notes on direct observations of use and provision behavior.

At each university, three faculty researchers were interviewed in each of four fields: a lab science (molecular biology); an artifact-based discipline (computer science); a social science (sociology); and a humanities discipline (literary theory). These fields were chosen because of the different types of materials different disciplines use for their work. The interviews focused on one or more exemplary research projects. When doctoral students were available in each field, they were also interviewed for this study. Doctoral students were included based on the resource discrimination rationale: doctoral students usually have access to different types of resources and sometimes have different work patterns than their advisors. In total, this study includes interviews with 96 faculty and 28 doctoral student researchers. This design allowed for cross-case comparisons between universities, between disciplines broadly, between departments narrowly and between multiple, varied resource levels.

We also conducted interviews with 23 key digital library infrastructure providers (several at each campus) such as a university librarian, a director of academic computing, a faculty senate library chair and other senior academic administrators such as a provost. These interviews focused on data about campus-wide patterns of material use, patterns across disciplines, and university investments in library and computer support. During visits to each campus, tours of library and computing facilities were documented to examine first-hand the resources and services reported in the interviews.


Our methods to discover how resource arrangements influence researchers' abilities to effectively use digital libraries was heavily guided by the quality of data collected from each site. Therefore, site selection played a critical role in the design of this study. The approach to site selection was based on a standard social science strategy for selecting cases for comparative study (Danziger et al., 1982). We identified three characteristics of each university that could substantially influence the ability of faculty to obtain or use paper and electronic materials on their campuses.

These three characteristics helped us to select sites for the study: investments in library resources, university governance (public/private), and the degree of library decentralization. We treated these characteristics as dictomous, and selected four universities that would be relatively high and four taht would be relatively low in each characteristic (ie., relatively rich or relatively poor in library reources).

a. Library investments (dollars per faculty member). We wanted to have a mix of richer and poorer universities in our study. We believed that a study who sample included eight of, say, the top 20 richest research universities, would not readily generalize to a wider mix of institutions.

We selected library investments per faculty member to indicate the existing resources for local library collections of all formats. This is a somewhat problematic measure for a study of DLs, since it does not directly tap DL support. Unfortunately, we could not find any systematic quantitative sources of data about campus investments in DLs, or even DL infrastructure, such as the fraction of faculty offices connected to the campus computer networks.

Measures of campus library investments are available through the United States Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Data are also available for the 108 members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) (http://arl.cni.org). In 1991, the nation's research universities spent between $3,200 to $37,500 per faculty member per year. Even the more elite ARL libraries made widely varied library investments (ranging between $5,000 and $37,100 per faculty member in 1994, with a median expenditure around $10,000 per faculty member). Universities such as Oklahoma State, Temple, Howard, Case Western and the University of Florida exemplify ARL campuses that made relatively low investments in their campus libraries (less than $7000/faculty member in 1994). In contrast, UC Berkeley, Brown, Stanford, Princeton and Harvard invested over $20,000 per faculty member in their campus libraries in 1994.

In selecting sites, we examined other per capitized measures (ie., library investments per graduate student and for all students) to insure that we our sites were at the relatively high end or low end on each of these scales. We also considered the role of academic computing infrastructure in supporting alternative digital library infrastructure resources and services.

b. University governance (public or private): We suspected that private universities would be more likely than public universities to expect each academic unit to "pay its own way." We expected that departments in "grants poor" fields, such as humanities and social sciences would disproportionately weaker local computing support in private universities than in public universities.

c. Degree of centralization of library facilities (the number of branch libraries): We suspected that faculty (and graduate students) would use libraries if they were closer to their offices, and would have greater incentives to value DL services if paper materials were less proximate.

To chose eight sites, we gathered data on 76 U.S. research universities including the winners of grants for the digital library initiative, institutions that expressed interest in participating in our study, institutions who had high-profiles in the development of electronic collections and institutions that might offer useful comparisons. (Our data sources were primarily the 1990-91 data from United States Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, and self-reported figures for data missing from those studies.)

This group of 76 universities included a mix of public and private universities of the 179 universities that the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching characterizes as Research I, Research II, and Doctoral I (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1994). These three categories are based on the total amount of annual research funds spent by a university, the number of doctoral degrees awarded annually and the diversity of its productive doctoral programs.

When we tried to learn about active research programs in each of our four disciplines (see below), we found that the Doctoral I universities might not have active Ph.D. programs in each of the four that we selected. We subsequently had to narrow our sample to the 67 of the 126 universities that fall into Carnegie Research I and II classification (institutions awarding more than 50 doctorates annually and with federal funding over 15.5 million).

Our sample (Table #3.1) included four public universities and four private universities with annual library investments (per faculty member). Each university is assigned a pseudonym to help protect the anonymity of our informants. If we identify an informant as a sociologist who studies social networks at say, the University of Toronto, he would be readily identifiable (in this case, professor Barry Wellman). Since all of our sites are U.S. universities, Toronto is not one of our eight sites. The University Librarians, provosts, and Directors of Academic Computing would also be quickly identifiable if we disclosed the names of these universities.

When we quote our informants, we use the abbreviations in Table 3.1 and a simple code to indicate a specific informant. For example, our computer science informants at Harbor University will be denoted by codes HUCS1, HUCS2 ...; Harbor's literary theorists are denoted by the codes HULT1, HULT2 ... and so on for each university and discipline. Harbor's University's Librarian is coded as HUUL, and similarly for other universities in our study.

Table 3.1 indicates broad ranges for the relevant parameters (ie., investments, number of library branches), rather than the specific ranges for these eight universities. These eight universities also varied in the number of branch libraries they operated. Our final choices were also influenced by budgetary and practical considerations: we selected some university pairs in the same metropolitan area to reduce airfare and also to enable us to have a two week window for interviews instead of the one week that we allowed for each university. This choice had the unanticipated serendipitous effect of our coming to appreciate the nature of metropolitan academic library resource ecologies.




(4-76 branches) 

Centralized Libraries  Decentralized Libraries

(4-76 branches) 

High Library $ ($10K-$25K library $ annually per faculty member)  Harbor University (HU)  Mountaintop University (MU)  Forest State University (FSU)  Branch State University (BSU) 
Lower Library $ ($3K-$10K library $ annually per faculty member)  Technical University (TU)  Revere University (RU)  Diamond State University (DSU)  River State University (RSU) 

Table #3-1: University Sites for the SCIT Study


We chose four disciplines which would provide contrasts in material use practices. We selected disciplines that vary in their modes of inquiry, resource levels, research materials and the visibility of their presence in online-discussion groups and networked bibliographic databases: a lab science (molecular biology); an artifact-based discipline (computer science); a social science (sociology); and a humanities discipline (literary theory). We explicitly decided not to study professional fields such as medicine, law and business because of practical considerations (off-campus facilities, the predominance of professional experience in training).

In each case, we considered alternative disciplines, such as mechanical engineering as an artifact-based discipline, philosophy as a humanities discipline, economics or psychology in the social sciences, and chemistry as a lab science. Our basic familiarity with a field so that we could more quickly grasp the worlds in which these researchers do their work was also a consideration. We will briefly discuss the bases for each of our final choices.

a. Molecular Biology is well-funded, is based upon laboratory work and work is interdependent on shared materials and data. Molecular biology is also the focus of several studies in Computer Supported Cooperative Work about the Worm Community (Schatz, 1993, Star and Ruhleder, 1994) and was also one of the exemplars for a recent study of national collaboratories (Computer Science Telecommunications Board, 1993). Within the molecular biology community, however, we chose the drosophila (fruitfly) subspecialty because more drosophila researchers were available and we were aware of their use of FLYBASE electronic database, a system that was similar in some ways to the worm community system.

b. Sociology encompasses multiple paradigms of inquiry and some specialties use large data sets or mathematical analytical techniques. We focused on the social networks subspecialty since we suspected that its participants might be more likely to have some familiarity and use of computer networks.

c. Computer science was a locus of technological development of digital library infrastructure. Within computer science, we focused on computer networking researchers since they were the first specialty area to adopt computer networks in support of their own work.

d. Literary Theory is a text-based discipline that had a large stake in print materials and collections. We chose to focus on the subspecialty of comparative literature since we knew of some appropriate electronic collections available and there were some avant guard uses of electronic materials, such as electronic journals.


Before this study, we executed a small pilot study with a simplified design to examine conceptions of digital library use focusing on faculty and digital library infrastructure providers on two campuses (Covi and Kling, 1996). This study provided a means to test the protocol of the proposed research. The pilot study led us to refocus our data collection on a larger number of faculty researchers and decrease the number of digital library infrastructure informants.

We interviewed three faculty members in each of four departments. (See Appendix II for a copy of the faculty interview schedule). We initially tried to focus on arranging interviews with informants in particular research subspecialties to develop some commonalties within each discipline. When possible, we selected informants at different institutions who worked in similar research subspecialties to follow invisible college ties through referral, journal editorial boards, and conference program committees. This strategy also helped us verify whether researchers shared reported work practices across a particular subspecialty.

The faculty informants assisted us in contacting graduate students. We chose to include doctoral student informants in our study for several reasons. First they often are instrumental in producing research (their own or in conjunction with their advisor) and could provide us some perspective on the outlook for research as they consider embarking on careers in academia or industry. Also, some of our colleagues suggested to us that doctoral students would be more comfortable with the technology and therefore more likely to use it. Besides getting a generational difference perspective in graduate preparation (which later showed up in our interviews of faculty informants), the doctoral student informants had differing access to materials, technology and other resources than the faculty.

Table #3.2 characterizes our informants by their academic rank. We interviewed more graduate students in molecular biology and computer science because they were more likely to work on campus in labs and offices in their departments. There was a fairly good mix of informants by rank in the other disciplines. The overall mix of informants rank was somewhat representative of faculty in their departments in terms of the growth of their research subspecialty and promotion practices in the different disciplines.
Graduate Students  Ass't 




Professor  Total

(per field) 

Molecular Biology  10  11  34 
Literary Theory  14  30 
Sociology  12  28 
Computer Science  10  32 
Total (by rank)  28  21  32  43  124 

Table #3.2: Profile of Faculty Informants by Rank and Discipline


We primarily interviewed digital library infrastructure providers responsible for the key resource allocation decisions and supplement our understanding of what digital library infrastructure resources were available at each campus through collecting documentation at campus computer centers and libraries. In many cases, we also spent several hours at each campus utilizing their library and computer resources ourselves. Based on previous work and consultation with expert colleagues, we focused data collection around features of campus and departmental organization perceived to effect researchers' accessibility to paper and electronic materials (Kling, 1987; Kling and Jewett, 1994).

Table #3.3 indicates our key informants for an overview of the digital library infrastructure on each campus.
University Librarian 
Dir. Academic Computing  NA  X NA 
Chair, Faculty Library Committee 
VP/Provost  X

Table #3.3 Informants about Campus Digital Library Infrastructure

In two cases, there was no comparable position for Academic Computing Director and we met instead with the Vice-President, Provost or Senior-level administrator who oversaw the academic computing domain. After the first two site visits, we added an interview with the faculty member at each campus who chaired the faculty library committee. The faculty library chair supplemented the accounts of the digital library infrastructure providers with opinions on resource provision from a faculty perspective. These interviews also provided insights into whether the needs faculty informants expressed were under consideration by providers.

For the interviews with the key digital library infrastructure providers, we used the following or a very similar variant of the following protocol for a semi-structured interview:


Professional/Educational Background

At what other institutions/universities has s/he worked?

Years at this university

Scope of Responsibility


Is there a preference for electronic formats in allocation for scholarly resources?

What are the current budgetary patterns?

What is their relationship to neighboring universities'/communities' libraries or computing facilities?

What consortiums are important to the facility?

What are surprises about coming to this institution or with new senior administrators/presidents?

What are the key trade-offs?

Status of Services

What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Library/Computing Facility?

What is the faculty demand for computing/library services?

What are the constituencies for this demand?

Are there specific constituencies who prefer electronic or paper materials?

Is there pressure for expanding library or computing services?

What joint projects (if any) are there between the library and the computing center?

Requests for Materials

Organizational Charts, Vision Statements, Recent Reports or Assessments, IPEDS data, ARL report, Annual Reports, Budget Statements


Several kinds of data were collected for this study. Each interview was tape-recorded except for meetings with infrastructure providers and several researchers who were uncomfortable with the recording. In addition to audio record, transcripts and field notes, we also made annotations on interview schedules to assist in analysis. When possible, we photographed the researchers in their offices as a memory aid to analysis and to compare the amount of paper and technology in different offices throughout the study.

At all sites, a site host (usually the university librarian or academic computer director) granted us access to library databases, facilities and Internet. We kept field notes on our direct observations of digital library and insights into reported difficulties or dilemmas with campus resources. If necessary, we consulted with the key digital library infrastructure providers for explanations of service trade-offs and continuing problems.

During interviews with the university researchers, we used a "grand tour" question (Spradley, 1979) to elicit material use patterns by asking researchers to select a manuscript they were working on in an advanced stage or had published and describe the sources of materials they used in its development. In most cases, we worked our ways sytematically through the bibliography -- asking how the person learned about and obtained copies of each item cited. Some of the researchers were able to provide to us a copy of their manuscript which aided transcription and analysis. We also took field notes on observations when informants demonstrated certain paper and electronic resources at hand they regularly.

We also collected materials from public information sources (brochures, newspapers, etc.), Academic Computer Centers and Libraries. Most universities' libraries and computer centers published resource guides, user documentation, directories, organizational charts, departmental and campus-wide studies, vision statements and statistical reports. We also collected some local publications that provided a sense of the cultural and intellectual character of the community.


The main form of data analysis was theoretical evolution through grounded analysis of this data (Strauss, 1987).

We coded from transcripts of the richest faculty research interviews. Proceeding from the initial coding we discussed and wrote analytic memos about the match between the analysis and the hypotheses and other emergent themes. Our initial coding focused on ways that researchers' concern for, knowledge of, and use of paper and digital resources were influenced by disciplinary, campus and departmental resource arrangements.

Each chapter in this report examine different themes, and data were analyzed somewhat differently as we developed each of these major themes. We discuss some of the limitations of our research methods in Appendix III.


We selected four disciplines to serve as a focus of this study: a lab science (molecular biology); an artifact-based discipline (computer science); a social science (sociology); and a humanities discipline (literary theory). These fields were chosen because of the different types of materials different disciplines use for their work. They also vary in their relative wealth and access to networked computing resources.

It helps to give the reader a portrait of the typical ways that faculty in each of these disciplines integrate paper and digital documents into their research. We will discuss the disciplines in a sequence -- from computer science to sociology -- that parallels the extent to which most faculty seemed to make decreasing use of digital documents.


Computer scientists study computers as artifacts and also examine some applications of computing to "real world" problems. This short description provides a general thumbnail sketch of the field:

Computer science is the study of computers--namely, their design (architecture) and their uses for computations, data processing, and systems control. Computer science includes engineering activities such as the design of computers and of the hardware and software that make up computer systems .... The major subdisciplines of computer science have traditionally been (1) architecture (including all levels of hardware design, as well as the integration of hardware and software components to form computer systems), (2) software( the programs, or sets of instructions, that tell a computer how to carry out tasks), here subdivided into software engineering, programming languages, operating systems, information systems and databases, artificial intelligence, and computer graphics, and (3) theory, which includes computational methods and numerical analysis on the one hand and data structures and algorithms on the other. (Britannica Online, 1996c).

Computer science had some identity problems as a discipline: computer scientists did not have a consensus on the balance between responsiveness to external interests for information technology and preservation of the integrity of the discipline as a "self-oriented science" (See Hartmanis and Lin, 1992). This controversy reflected the dual origins of computer science from engineering (as an applied discipline) and mathematics (a "pure science").

Our study focuses primarily on the more engineering-like research subspecialties. Specialization in computer science is primarily organized around professional organization umbrellas, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers(IEEE) or the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) which have numerous special interest groups and conferences. There are other organization that sponsor publications and conference in computer science but they often correspond to specialized groups in the ACM and IEEE.

Computer Scientists produced artifacts and theoretical findings and published their analyses in scientific journals, conference proceedings, and a variety of reports. Their work built on existing findings and technology. But research production requires a new or creative contribution via theory, proof of concept, or application of computational methods. Computer scientists tended to work within major subdisciplines, such as those mentioned above, but sometimes worked in several subspecialties such as drawing on information theory to design artificial intelligent agents. Most computer scientists belonged to several special interest groups that supported conferences and journals in their subspecialties.

Their work was also organized in ways that reflected doctoral training, external funding, and the division of labor among research groups headed by faculty investigators. In general, computer science doctoral students were supported by research grants administered by their advisors. They also often pursued internship opportunities in industry at different points of their doctoral training. The computer science faculty usually had close ties to funding agents in industry and government. They worked on multi-year grants funded typically by the Advanced Projects Research Agency (ARPA), National Science Foundation, and corporate sponsors. Funding levels varied (some of our CS informants had little or no external funding). Our typical CS faculty informant had annual grants of several hundred thousand dollars per year and several had over one million dollars per year. Computer science faculty worked as managers of the funded work, supporting groups of doctoral students who designed and implemented the systems and published on specific aspects of the project for their dissertations.

One assistant professor contrasted the shift in his work to writing (using the LaTex text formatting program) to programming in the C language:

I spend a lot more of my time writing English than writing C code -- programming. I run LaTex a lot more than I run the C compiler. [TUCS3]

The inputs to work production in computer science in terms of personnel and equipment were not always shared between research groups. Computer science departments usually provided a small group of computer support professionals to install and maintain computer systems and networks for all projects in the department. Although many researchers no longer used shared computational resources such as mainframes and central file servers, almost all researchers had desktop workstations connected to local high-speed computer networks in their offices which required coordination and support. In addition, some computer science departments provided direct dial-up access to the local resources to alleviate difficulties in access departmental resources through the regular campus network. Some computer science researchers used shared facilities such as supercomputers, but predominantly the department provided electronic mail access and storage backup rather than the bulk of computational resources.

Computer scientists had a normative work pattern that influenced their demand for infrastructural resources. They favored a work day beginning late in the morning and extending into the wee hours of the night. Although some researchers worked more of a business day schedule due to class schedules, outside consulting or personal family demands, computer scientists demanded a high level of access to and reliability in their computational resources around the clock. For instance, an unexpected outage of electronic mail was perceived as disastrous. often computer scientists organized their work to maximize their level of control, access and reliability to needed resources. Some computer scientists kept their primary work machine at home maintaining acceptable connectivity to the campus network. In general, computer scientists worked in the location that provided the best access to computational resources.

Research outputs were primarily short articles which appeared in diverse forums, usually in IEEE, or ACM-sponsored scientific conferences and journals. Conferences in computer science were considered a serious form of publication and were counted in performance evaluation. The importance of producing viable contributions for externalfunders was one explanation. Computer scientists judged the quality of the conference based on its rejection rate: the higher percentage of papers rejected, the better the conference. A "strong conference" has a 20% acceptance rate.

(In talks about our study, computer scientists have been surprised to learn that molecular biologists accept almost 100% of the submitted conference papers for presentation. In contrast, biologists have been surprised that computer scientists treat conference proceedings as a serious form of publication.)

In addition, computer scientists often published project reports, professional articles and technical reports distributed by their computer science department which were typically not refereed nor counted heavily toward promotion and raises. However, these non-refereed publications did play a role in securing and soliciting external funding. Computer science publications were predominantly multi-authored (with the convention that the first author received the most credit for the work, unless the order was alphabetical).

Computer scientists also produced software systems as another type of research product. Software systems were often used by research groups for several years. Sometimes computer scientists shared their systems with other researchers in a similar subspecialty, but these systems were typically used for research problems rather than industrial-oriented applications. Sometimes a group of researchers in a subspecialty shared test suites or common approaches to test the robustness of the systems they produced. These outputs were also cumulatively compiled and used in multiple projects over time. Experimental computer scientists were expected to develop new systems every few years in order to be considered productive, but also because of the rapid pace of technological innovation .

The enthusiasm for creating new artifacts did not parallel the technological innovation for publishing research in new media. The case of electronic journal publishing is an useful contrast that supports the notion that material use practices will change more slowly than the availability of new artifacts. Few informants in any discipline used electronic journals to identify source material. One computer science informant had contributed an article to the Electronic Journal of Virtual Culture "as an experiment" but did not believe his colleagues would consider it recognized as a legitimate publishing outlet.

I actually published in one [electronic journal]... To tell you the truth I haven't looked at it since then. In fact, I don't know whether it is still around or not .... Since I haven't come up for tenure, I think that [whether his article will count for tenure] will be fully answered only at that point. I only did it because I was curious about the whole electronic publishing area. This was... sort of a chapter from my dissertation which was my opinion about an issue .... I deliberately went to an outlet which I found was not controlled by the hierarchy so I could get my ideas published and get them out of my head and move on to something else. [DSUCS3]

In general, computer scientists felt that journals distributed in paper format were more legitimate, since most prestigious journals in their research subspecialties were distributed in paper (Kling and Covi, 1995). However, there was one exception that illustrated the pervasiveness of these normative values. Artificial Intelligence researchers published in and regularly read the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (JAIR). However, JAIR differed from other forays into electronic journal publishing because its publisher (Morgan-Kaufman) sold each volume in paper bound form at the end of each year. Although it was published and distributed electronically free of charge, the papers published via JAIR were not visually identifiable as electronic journal articles. Instead of distribution in plain text, JAIR distributed articles in postscript format which closely resembled a photocopy from the bound volume. One informant explained his understanding of JAIR's value:

The major journal of AI is the AI Journal [AIJ - paper] and it has a 2-year backlog and it takes a year to get papers reviewed... by the time they come out they're not relevant any longer. So [JAIR-electronic ] was an attempt to do something [about this problem]... It's not uncommon to try to get the reviews back in 6 weeks. You can get a paper published within two-three months of writing it .... The idea [behind using an electronic format that prints like a print journal] is ... if your deans are going to say, "Is this an electronic journal?" ... you can show him that it's a real journal, that the people using it can read it [in a print journal format] .... I guess I'm not quite sure [if it's "better" to get into AIJ-paper]. My feeling is that actually the [JAIR-electronic ] is better. [AIJ] unfortunately has had the same editor for 20 years and he*s been focusing it towards a certain class of research which is becoming less and less relevant to my own work .... [FSUCS1]

In this account, the informant first depicted the value of JAIR as a faster way of publishing research before it gets out of date. This account supports arguments about the impending demise of paper journals due to their inflexibility, the availability of the article around the clock, and the advantages of online searching (Odlyzko, 1995). However, as the informant continued to explain his use, he placed JAIR in relation to the norms of work production. JAIR met a need in the subspecialty to have an additional publication outlet with a faster time to publish. In addition, he has marginalized the value of the older paper journal due to the content rather than the distribution mechanism.

Even computer scientists who were associate editors of electronic journals expressed some doubts about the benefits of electronic publication. This senior professor contrasts benefits with the central issue of quality in research publication .

I can't answer [how e-journals figure into merit and promotion decisions_] very definitely because I do not know what quality these electronic journals will be. The conviction which we have for the [e-journal for which he is an associate editor] is that it will be fiercely written and so I would have no objections [to having e-journal articles count for tenure] if the evidence is strong that these are not just a sloppy way of getting papers published, you know -half-baked ideas .... [MUCS2]

Work production in computer science, as in the other disciplines, thus hinged on evaluating work based on the social processes that determine quality. In order to create quality contributions, researchers drew upon norms of work production.


Computer Networks research examines the architecture of computer communications. Here is a brief description of the major aspects of the research area:

An other important architectural area is the computer communications network, in which computers are linked together via cables over short distances to form local-area networks (LANs) or via telephone lines or satellite links to form wide-area networks (WANs). By the 1990s, worldwide communication became possible by internetworking, the interconnection of multiple networks by means of so-called gateways. Linking computers physically is easy; the challenge for computer scientists has been the development of protocols (i.e., standardized rules for the format and exchange of messages) to allow processes running on host computers to interpret the signals they receive and to engage in meaningful "conversations" in order to accomplish tasks on behalf of users. (Britannica Online, 1996d)

Much of the impetus for this work came from government and industry stakeholders in developing these protocols. Like other highly visible subspecialties in computer science, researchers were eligible for funding under large projects. This informant described a well-funded joint project to implement and test technologies such as the Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM):

The key product of our research is developed into protocols - network protocols and these protocols, we usually simulate, software simulation. We evaluate the analytic tools for simulation. And in some cases, we also implement. Now we have a couple of ARPA grants for which we are required to actually implement these protocols to see if they work .... We are now part of a testbed called [project]. It is an ATM testbed ... we're in the process of buying a switch right now and we will evaluate different congestion control schemes for ATM. For that we will have to be complying to standards. [BSUCS1]

In relation to other subspecialties in computer science, computer networks was one of the best funded and had the largest audience due to increased public interest in computer networking. The time frame for producing work in computer networks research was typically quite short in comparison with other disciplines. Here is an account of the genesis of a project from one researcher:

the workshop paper was presented in December, was written within the few months before that, I probably first started thinking seriously about it around a year ago or maybe a little more than a year ago. [TUCS3]

Although there was some competition in the computer networks subspecialty, there was less risk of loss for priority of discovery (as compared to molecular biology research). Like other computer science subspecialties, there were few penalties for not citing other relevant work. Researchers instead valued producing something important to address current problems in an appropriate time frame.

I guess I saw that this paper was coming out and from the title of the paper I knew it was related to what I was doing and I was sort of anxious - did somebody else just think of the same idea? But no, I wasn't scooped. What this other paper was, was sort of a pretty good improvement on the same basic way that the ten-year-old stuff had done. Interestingly unaware of the ten-year-old stuff as it turned out. [TUCS3]

Computer networks researchers typically organized themselves in project groups of doctoral students directed by a faculty researcher. They had regular meetings for their project group. The doctoral students shared group offices with separate desks and workstations whereas the faculty member usually worked in an office elsewhere in the department. Research groups usually shared meeting facilities, computer equipment and journals and conference (usually owned by the faculty director). In addition, doctoral students used departmental reading rooms and campus branch libraries to obtain paper materials.

The inputs for work production in computer networking often followed from needs in the telecommunications industry. Doctoral students in computer networks, like those in other computer science specialties often found ideas for dissertation projects in work related to projects their advisors were conducting. Computer science doctoral students would often work for industry for short periods of time, especially when their project was related to a current problem faced by industry.

Although several researchers in computer networks mentioned accessing bibliographies mounted on the WWW, they found the most relevant materials in conference proceedings. They attended and collected proceedings for the IEEE INFOCOMM, IEEE ICCC, ACM SIGCOMM, and the jointly sponsored IC3N conferences. Computer networks researchers belonged to the IEEE Communication Society as well as ACM's special interest group SIGCOMM. They typically read IEEE Networks, IEEE Transactions on Communications (TOC), Communications Magazine, IEEE/ACM Transactions on Networking (TON) as well as other subspecialty journals.

Students tended to use bibliographic databases, use net newsgroups and WWW more intensely than faculty researchers. They often served as "human" intelligent agents and filters to help faculty researchers identify lesser known literature or discussions. However, the primary role of the students was to produce the systems and analysis for the project. The faculty were generally pleased when the students found relevant references for the project, but faculty researchers tended to rely on current publications in conferences, journals and magazines, many of which they examined before publication through peer review.

The outputs of computer networks research appears in conference papers, journal articles and nonrefereed publications. The average length of computer networks publications were shorter than papers in most areas of sociology and literary theory but longer than the molecular biology papers. However, the production nonrefereed work distinguished computer science work production from the other disciplines.


Molecular biology as a discipline is a more recent subspecialty which grew from the discovery of DNA in the 1940s. This description provides an overview of the topic of inquiry:

Molecular Biology is a field of science concerned with studying the chemical structures and processes of biological phenomena at the molecular level. Of growing importance since the 1940s, molecular biology developed out of the related fields of biochemistry, genetics, and biophysics. The discipline is particularly concerned with the study of proteins, nucleic acids, and enzymes -- i.e., the macromolecules that are essential to life processes. Molecular biology seeks to understand the three-dimensional structure of these macromolecules through such techniques as X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy. The discipline particularly seeks to understand the molecular basis of genetic processes; molecular biologists map the location of genes on specific chromosomes, associate these genes with particular characters of an organism, and use recombinant-DNA technology to isolate and modify specific genes. (Britannica Online, 1996a).

Work production in molecular biology consisted of producing unique research results of that were acceptable for publication in a set of molecular biology journals. Molecular biologists worked on biological phenomena building directly on preceding work. They established themselves in specialties through many years of specialized training after a bachelor's degree including positions as technicians, doctoral student researchers, postdoctoral researchers and sometimes experience in industrial labs. Molecular biologists identified themselves in a hierarchy by their doctoral advisor and sometimes spoke of being a member of a generation of study in a particular specialty. Lab directors usually served as doctoral advisors for the doctoral students working in their labs. Lab directors were faculty researchers who coordinated the activities of the lab and facilitated close cooperation within the lab and with collaborators in other labs. Contribution to work in molecular biology was predicated on priority of discovery. Together with the temporal nature of the their biological materials, researchers were very concerned with coordinating their work with collaborators and if possible, competitors.

Molecular biologists shared inputs to work production. As a lab science, molecular biologists worked in lab groups that shared the same facilities and related research pursuits. They trained in laboratories run by faculty researchers who served as principal investigators of multiple grants providing total support upwards of $100,000 each year.

Because these researchers worked with biological materials which change over time, their work centered around access to their lab. They often worked on weekends in their facilities to support their tasks. They needed reliable access to biological, paper and electronic materials in their laboratories to conduct their work. Labs shared biological materials through centers that distributed biological material such as stocks, strains or cultures. They shared documents usually through fax or postal mail. They used electronic mail frequently to order biological materials or request documents but not to exchange documents. Some researchers used electronic mail to send reviews of journal, conference or grant submissions.

The output of work production in molecular biology appeared in a fairly homogeneous set of scientific journals. One set of outputs were short articles published in scientific journals chronicling advances that researcher teams had achieved. Molecular biologists coauthored most work which reflected the contributions of a variety of participants who worked on different parts of the problem. Usually, the first author was the person who took the lead on the project and the last author was the faculty researcher that supervised the project.

Because molecular biology production builds so much on previous work, crediting previous discovery when reporting a new discovery plays an important role in work production. However, since journal articles are relatively short, researchers must make choices about how to credit previous work. An other distinguishing feature of publication in molecular biology was its typical frequency. Nature and Science were both weekly, Cell was published biweekly and Genes and Development was published monthly. Although the publication lag was much shorter than in other disciplines, molecular biologists were greatly concerned about coordinating publication with discovery.

An other set of outputs were contributions to centrally maintained databases such as GENBANK. Publishers and granting agencies required that molecular biologists submit sequencing data to GENBANK before they would accept an article for publication or renew a grant. This public data was often repackaged for use in other specialty databases. The sharing of gene sequences was very important to the flow of production among molecular biologists. The following example illustrates how a field grew from the discovery of a homology (a sequence match) between different genes different researchers were studying:

It's funny, for 5 years [we didn't have any competitors] not at all. And it turned out that this ... gene had homology to some other genes that people were studying. It wound up being very important and so now, it went from a field that had maybe 10 people working on it, to a field that has maybe has 100-150 people working on it which was both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing in the sense that there's a lot more interest in it and in a way there's more money involved in it. But it's a curse in a sense that constant pressure to get something novel out. So yes, now there are many people working on it because of these genes. I told you it's what's called a transcription factor, it turns on other genes. It turns out that one of the those things it turns on is HIV- the AIDS virus. So this is a protein that controls the replication of the AIDS virus. So right away there's a lot of people interested. [RUMB1]

Conferences provided an other forum for the dissemination of research results. Researchers were required to submit an abstract to present at the conference, but acceptance was open since most researchers waited until research articles had been accepted for publication in a scientific journal before announcing their results. There were also smaller invited meetings called "Gordon Conferences" run by a group of senior researchers to encourage open communication between researchers. At Gordon conferences, researchers examined the direction of advances in the field rather than producing results from discussions at the conference. Researchers who lived in metropolitan areas often attended city or regional research seminars coordinated via electronic mail. Some researchers found these meetings to be convenient opportunities to arrange face-to-face meetings with our of state researchers giving visiting talks.

An other key aspect of work production in molecular biology was the way lab directors coordinated specialization of their lab's work. Because of the desire to coordinate publication with discovery, and the risk of an other lab's result eclipsing their work, lab directors spent a great deal of time (some reported 50%) communicating with collaborators (and sometimes competitors) on the telephone, over electronic mail and fax.

As a result, lab directors tended to know more about what other labs were doing than their staff members. Conferences (especially the Gordon conferences) supplemented the individual coordination laboratory directors maintained in order to produce contributions in their research subspecialty. Lab directors also coordinated collaborative projects with other labs. They shared biological material as well as paper and electronic materials.

Molecular biologists described their specializations in several ways. The most specific way was the particular problem they were working on such as identifying a structure, sequencing a particular gene, determining the function of a gene. More broadly, molecular biologists work in research subspecialties focusing on molecular aspects of model organisms. In this study the majority of molecular biologist informants were drosophila (fruit-fly) researchers. We also interviewed researchers in other model organism communities including one c.elegans (worm) researcher and several e.coli researchers. Although molecular biologists also identified themselves in terms of biochemistry, genetics, cell biology and microbiology, our analysis examines patterns within the model organism communities since that was the subspecialty to which researchers most often referred.


Drosophila researchers as a research subspecialty in molecular biology, were an older subspecialty (than c. elegans), and had developed electronic resources for their work. This section provides details from this subspecialty that illustrate specific aspects of work production in molecular biology.

Drosophila melanogaster is a fruit fly, a little insect about 3mm long, of the kind that accumulates around spoiled fruit. It is also one of the most valuable of organisms in biological research, particularly in genetics and developmental biology. Drosophila has been used as a model organism for research for almost a century, and today, several thousand scientists are working on many different aspects of the fruit fly. (Manning, 1996)

Drosophila researchers study the fruit fly as a model organism.[1] They refer to their peers as "fly people" or the "fly community." Biologists have been working with drosophila for many years so as molecular biology has grown in importance, drosophila became a popular model organism. Compared to other model organism work, drosophila work was cheaper. A group at Berkeley was conducting the drosophila genome project to clone all the drosophila genome and then to sequence it. This would provide drosophila researchers a different starting point of focus on more experimental issues without having to sequence it first. This example illustrated how the fly community's work is expected to change as a result of a large scale efforts to provide an exhaustive infrastructure for work.

Currently, the inputs for work include the sharing of biological materials through stock centers and documentation of sequence information through GENBANK. Drosophila researchers frequently mentioned using an electronic resource called FLYBASE usually via the gopher client software (it had recently become available on the WWW). It contained contact information about the drosophila researchers themselves as well as the addresses of the stock centers. It was started in an effort to make a list of cloned DNA sequences available to all researchers and put the data in the field-defining "RedBook" (Lindsley and Zimm, 1992) online. FLYBASE now includes:

! A bibliography of over 82,000 drosophila citations

! An address book of over 5,000 drosophila researchers

! Information on more than 32,000 alleles of nearly 10,000 genes

! Descriptions of over 12,000 chromosomal aberrations

! Drosophila genetic map information

! Information on the functions of gene products

! Lists of stock center and private lab drosophila stocks

! A listing of over 9,000 nucleic and over 3,000 protein sequence accession numbers

! Lists of over 7,000 genomic clones

! Allied databases

! Berkeley drosophila Genome Project data

! European drosophila Genome Project data

! the bionet.drosophila archives

! Drosophila Images

! Wild type drosophila strains and chromosomes (Flybase, 1996)

Most of the drosophila researchers primarily used the FLYBASE front-end to locate other molecular biologists or order stocks. For gene sequencing, most researchers used other computational resources over the Internet (such as BLAST or GCG) to match DNA and protein sequences in central databases (such as GENBANK, EMBL, FLYBASE data sets).

In terms of disseminating their results, drosophila researchers published in a similar set of scientific journals. Most molecular biologists subscribed to Nature, Science, Cell, Development and sometimes Genes and Development, and Genetics. These major journals were also indexed in MEDLINE which was available at all universities in this study. In addition some researchers also used BIOSIS, a database with similar coverage of journals but was based on Biological Abstracts (produced by BIOSIS) rather than Index Medicus (produced by the National Library of Medicine). Both bibliographic databases provided a large percentage of abstracts in addition to citations.

An other means of disseminating work outputs were conferences. There was a large annual research conference which they call the "fly meeting."They also attended a variety of annual conferences and often regional seminars. They shared with other molecular biologists materials such as biological indices, supported electronic and postal mailing lists and paper journal publications. In addition, they, like other model organism researchers, had developed electronic resources for disseminating research results, reference resources and contact information unique to their subspecialty. In addition to personal electronic mail and regional seminar mailing lists, some researchers, particularly doctoral students, used BIONET newsgroups to discuss techniques, get help with problem solving or read announcements.

BIOSCI [BIONET] is a series of freely accessible electronic communication forums (i.e., electronic bulletin boards or "newsgroups") for use by biological scientists worldwide. No fees are charged for the service. The system is intended to promote communication between professionals in the biological sciences. All postings to the newsgroups should be made in that spirit. While the general public may"listen in" to the discussions, these newsgroups are intended primarily for communications between researchers. There are other forums on use net such as sci.bio for the asking and answering of biological questions from lay persons. (BIOSCI/BIONET, 1996).

Although they sometimes found these newsgroups useful, faculty researchers sometimes found them too repetitive and chatty.

Drosophila lab directors resembled the other molecular biology lab directors in terms of coordinating the work of the lab and defining their specializations. However, one informant described an example of openness on the part of a leader in drosophila work:

the field as a whole is cooperative - it has had to be and we were lucky that the huge movers and shakers like Jerry Rubin... did something .... In 1981, Jerry and Allen Spradler figured out how to transform drosophila...absolutely necessary biological research. And it's like harder than hell to do. They figured out how to do it .... So what they did is that they announced it at one of these annual drosophila meetings. And of course, you can image how one might announce this. It's like the coming of the holy grail, you can do it to get everyone on their knees ...What they did was say okay,...Here's a 3X5 card going out. Put your name and address if you want the recipe and the stocks and we'll send them to you. I mean they went out of their way to be open, to be cooperative to be as helpful as they could be. Because they said look! we live on the fact that the fly community has existed and has made these mutations and has done all this work. We couldn't have done what we did with out the fly community. We want to share and give back just you do and in so doing, of course, they set the tone which had already -they confirmed the tone. That this is a community that shares. The guy who started that was the guy who started flies and that's Thomas Hunt Morgan. He had a dictum to share views. {BSUMBS]

The drosophila subspecialty was a rather typical example of a model-organism molecular biology subspecialty. Although work in molecular biology cross-cuts model organism subspecialties, the nature of working with a particular organism was a good way to compare work patterns.


Literary theory, as a research discipline in this study, refers to the analysis of literature by drawing on theories of philosophy, linguistics, cultural studies and other fields in humanities and social sciences. A literary theory, as a particular analytic approach refers to one of a set of theories employed in textual analysis. The use of these terms can be confusing, even to people who work in the discipline. One definition equated literary theory with one particular theory: poststructuralism (Komar, 1994). On the other hand, one informant described his theoretical work as "literary theory of romanticism" which was, in fact, opposed to poststructuralism. Literary theorists often provided their own definitions when writing about "literary theory" and other related terms. In an introspective paper about literary criticism and theory, one scholar writes:

By 'literary discourse' I mean writing about literature; by 'theory' I mean general principles applied in literary discourse; and by 'criticism' I mean commentary on specific literary texts. (Harris, 1996)

The confusion over the use of the term literary theory was characteristic of work production in the discipline. Establishing meaning was a central activity of work production in literary theory. with respect to the ways the informants presented their work production, this study refers to them as scholars rather than researchers. This term sets them of from informants in the other three disciplines who predominantly characterized themselves as scientists: computer scientists, social scientists or biological scientists. Instead, literary theorists are humanists, part of the family of inquiry that includes philosophy, languages, classics and history. The term research was also problematic. For example, one informant took research to mean scouring the library (or even the libraries of the world) for critical materials:

It would probably be a misnomer to say I do research. I mean I do arguments and so I'd be more interested in, informed by what other critics have had to say about this argument. So I read a lot in philosophy, I read alot in social theory, but I don't do anything resembling research and there's never a point where I would need the standard week in the library to find arcane text .... I deal primarily with fairly well known primary texts. [DSULT3]

However, the term scholar and scholarship was problematic for other informants. For this informant "scholarship" connoted a historical tradition of an ascetic lifestyle of library work separated from worldly concerns.

I'm not really a scholar .... I guess I do have a feeling, especially the semester I spent in the Bibliotheque Nationale, it was sort of playing at being a scholar. Going to the library everyday and reading all these old 19th century books, and that was - I knew that was not really me... I was playing that role for a moment ....Critic versus scholar is usually is the way we used to speak of it. But I'm not really, not particularly nostalgic for that. [MULT1]

Noting these conflicts, we often refer to literary theorists as scholars rather than researchers.

Similar to sociology, the pluralistic nature of the discipline produced central disagreements about a common paradigm for inquiry. In several key debates in the study of literature, literary theory as a research discipline plays a central role. Jay Parini, a literary theorist, wrote in an opinion column in the Chronicle of Higher Education about one key debate:

Traditional scholars -- those who edit texts, write biographies, and provide close readings of poems and novels -- are upset by literary theory and its supposed downgrading of literature into "textuality." (Parini, 1995)

Although some informants relied on more "traditional approaches" in their work, they were all aware of the literary theory approach and provided contrasts between their techniques and those of "literary theory." Another conflict in the study of literature was between literary theory, creative writing, and criticism outside the university. For example, Mark Edmundson, a literary theorist at the University of Virginia, characterized this conflict as reminiscent of the classical debate between poets and philosophers about the nature and purpose of literature (Edmundson,1995).

These debates provide clues to the boundaries of what literary theorists consider their discipline. These definitions of work also circumscribe the generalizability of this studies findings to the "literary theory" approach to analyzing literature. There were several informants who worked in both literary theory and other approaches or disciplines. We will note differences in those informants' material use practices.

In the acrimony of some debates, some academics and administrators question the legitimacy of the study of literature. The tradition of literary studies dates back to ancient times but had declined in status over the years in the face of increasing emphasis on big science at most research universities. Sociology suffered similar problems with legitimacy. Reginald Gibbons, a poetry critic, remarks in his examination of criticism in the university:

If there is a crisis in literary criticism as it is practiced in the academy, it is not the struggle between opposing theoretical camps, but the question of whether any kind of literary criticism is of great value now (Gibbons, 1985)

The declining legitimacy of literary studies affected the infrastructural arrangements for work production. There were few sources of funding for their scholarship. Small grants from within universities and fellowships outside the university often paid for conference attendance, travel to remote libraries for study and sometimes even infrastructure for materials use. However, most literary theorists depended upon allocations from the department, school or university. They often used old computer equipment, slow computer network connections and scarce computer support assistance from their department offices. In several departments, informants did not even have access to high speed networks. When they did have access, it was usually because of some additional responsibility that spurred an installation :

Well, I think it started with this [university committee about technology] that I was on ....Then the chair says well of course we'll send memos to each other via e-mail and I was the only person in the humanities and I was the only person that was not connected to e-mail. And so... The chair ... had to get special permission for me to plug into the [campus network] because this building was not even wired ... other people [in the building ] had to use modems... so that I could use e-mail. So then I was probably a year or two ahead of colleagues in using e-mail .... A work study student gave me a ten-minute orientation. with that ten-minute orientation I was the department's instant expert. [MULT3]

This informant emphatically denied that she was knowledgeable about computers. In fact, although she was publishing a paper concerning theoretical issues in computer mediated communication, she confessed that the occasion for her increased interest and use of electronic networks and services was because of a family issue at home:

That actually came about because of a news report a couple of years ago with the earthquake. The LA earthquake. There were earthquakes in Los Angeles and there was major blizzards up east. And there was a news report that Compuserve's use jumped those couple of days - 70% and most of the place where it jumped was on kids whowere home from school and were sending messages to each other across the country saying what about the earthquake. And we thought, our children are missing out. [MULT3]

In general, literary theorists had low access to computer skill and depended upon the scarce help of shared computer support specialists. At several universities there was only one specialist assigned to all departments in the humanities. Therefore literary theorists primarily had to rely upon themselves to learn how to use digital resources effectively in their work. Many of their institutions offered Internet courses, but there was a common problem with these opportunities:

Unless it is directly relevant to what I'm doing at the moment, if I go to a 2-hour seminar on the world-wide web, it sounds interesting ....I did that at the very beginning of the term, back in January and now I've basically forgotten everything he's said. I've probably got a piece of paper that he handed out somewhere and I might be able to reconstruct it, but .... [MULT1]

This corroborates findings from other knowledge work settings about the importance of introducing new skills and technologies during a "window of opportunity" (Tyre and Orlikowski, 1994). The digital library infrastructural arrangements for work production in literary theory were often minimal and sometimes substandard with respect to other disciplines. Next, I explain the predominant characteristics of work practices of the scholars.

Work production in literary theory included a set of very individualized work practices that resulted in the production of essays, arguments, presented papers, articles, book chapters or books about literature. Work production depended upon discourse, contemplation, writing, and a theoretical orientation with which to interpret the work. Literary theory did not build directly upon previous results in the way that scientists depended upon each other 's findings. Instead, they organized themselves according to their common interests based on theoretical approaches, arguments, or materials. Most literary theorists did not directly share inputs to work production, even during graduate training. Unless they shared works that were used in special library collections, literary theorists tended to collect what they need, work individually and share ideas through written or oral discourse.

Literary theorists described their work flow in terms of projects. The occasions for initiating a project were diverse: invited papers, tangents from ongoing projects, or the discovery of a new material. often, the first book literary theorists wrote was a revised and extended version of the dissertation. Typically, one work leads to an other helping them produce several articles, papers and book chapters related areas:

I was invited to contribute a book chapter ... on the strength of [my] book. So the project's been through a number of phases. I've written two papers based on it: one that I gave at the Shakespeare association on [topic] in the 18th century, and one that I gave at the Society for the [related topic] on publishing at the Library of Congress which focused on a little more on [narrower topic] per se. Then I actually gave an other lecture where it's much closer to the final form on - at a conference on [topic] at [Neighboring State University]. And using all that material, I submitted one draft of the article. In November I did an other draft, a revised draft right around the 8th of December... [DSULT1]

In an other case, the occasion for an initial work was the organization of a group of literary theorists to comment on a particular work. These occasions sometimes triggered extended discourse with other scholars on the same project.

[Author] had this essay which the editorial board found very interesting -provocative and invited a number of people to respond to it. And the idea was to make a special issue then in which they would have this essay and have this essay responses from these people. [MULT3]

Book projects differed in many ways from the projects producing articles. One common approach to publishing a book was for a literary theorist to select several previously published essays written on different occasions united by one or more common themes between them. Typically books included original work in addition to previously published articles or extensions to previous papers. other occasions for pursuing new themes came from invited lectures and discussions in graduate seminars. This example illustrates how a literary theorist drew upon his teaching experience to revitalize a 10 year old book project:

While I was reading for that, I discovered in fact, ...that I wasn't doing that at all. I was off on, in fact, an other book which grew out of that which is the one I've now finished ....I just got back my original proposal and I've been teaching a course for the second time that goes back to the original proposal. And I thought, how did I ever get around to this?... That's not how I'm teaching it anymore. [RULT3]

In other cases, scholars initiated work upon discovery of new material: a critical obscure book that provided rich material for exploration, access to a newly cataloged collection in a scholar's own university library, or a deeper exploration of a previously known book. Here is an example (from field notes) of the way a novel sparked a book project:

The piece on [Author] was started 2 years ago when she encountered a novels he hadn't read before... This was [Author]'s last novel which was a miserable failure, but experimental and more daring than novels nowadays. She said that this novel "took over my life." It was so compelling that she taught a graduate seminar around value of fiction, especially as expressed in this book. They used this book " as a prism to read everything else." [HULT1]

Typically, the source texts about which literary theorists write tended to be older than the materials used in the other disciplines. They also used browsing to examine journals in the library and journals they owned. Literary theorists were not in competition with each other for credit but nevertheless took pride in discovering little-known unique or rare texts. Reading as an activity was more central to disciplinary practice than in the other disciplines. In addition, some literary theorists were beginning to explore themes having to do with theoretical views of discourse via and about internetworked technologies (e.g.,electronic mail, electronic journals). There was a burgeoning number of gopher and WWW sites publicizing and archiving discussion lists and journals for literary theory.

Literary theorists typically worked on projects (especially books) over a number of years. Two years was a short time frame for a book as compared to ten years or more for some projects. Although most literary theorists tended to work intensely on one paper or chapter at a time, many projects were ongoing. The balance between reading and writing was more critical in this discipline than typically in the other three of this study:

In practice, since you usually have deadlines of one sort or an other for a lecture or a conference paper that you agreed to give so you are sort of reading and writing at the same time. You're writing some part which may not be designated as a particular part of the project that is part of it nonetheless. A talk for a conference or an essay. So you are doing both. And certainly that's one reason one accepts those obligations, is to keep yourself, keep writing. Right, because it would be easy to just go on reading forever, with out writing. [MULT1]

The careers of literary theorists tended to be quite closely tied to classroom responsibilities. Doctoral students supported themselves largely on teaching assistantships and it was not uncommon for literary theory graduate students to teach every term (especially in compulsory writing programs for undergraduates). Some doctoral students even found positions in other areas of the university based on other skills. Finding academic positions had become highly competitive in literary theory and most students could not recruit for tenure-track positions until they had completed their doctorates. Faculty advisors carried a larger number of graduate students than the other disciplines but work with them less frequently for joint projects.

Although most work was single-authored, literary theorists connected their work to other scholars in several ways. Several informants had created their own groups of colleagues with whom they shared their work, sometimes at workshops, journal editorial board meetings or private electronic mail discussion lists. Some informants found new technologies helpful to same precious money and time in gathering resources and communicating with colleagues. For example, this literary theorist used electronic mail to supplement her interaction with a valued colleague.

I think I sent a draft off to a friend of mine [at Canadian University],... and he made some suggestions. We exchanged work because he is doing something for the same collection. So we had a conversation about, [common topic of interest] So we exchanged sources that way .... He read my dissertation actually and we did similar kinds of works and we wrote and we e-mailed and we're seeing each other times at conferences. [DSULT1]

The main professional organization to which the literary theorists belonged was the Modern Language Association (MLA). They met yearly in late December at a large scholarly conference that hosted paper sessions and professional services (workshops and employment resources) for their members. Several informants preferred smaller conferences and workshops to the MLA conference:

I actually tend to avoid MLA - I like the smaller conferences: the Shakespeare Association or more specialized conferences rather than MLA if I can manage it .... I average about 2 a year. [DSULT1]

Work practices varied by individual, but typically literary theorists studied and wrote at home, while visiting other institutions, during summers and while on sabbatical. This literary theorist provided a typical example of how isolation from library materials and colleagues often spurred interest in trying new types of materials and technologies to connect with other scholars.

Next year, I'm going to be... living in a village in [Europe] and the electronic world is likely to be much more important to me .... I know very little about the resources that the local university library and the [university] so my plan is not to worry about it too much. I'll be there with [ the author he is writing about] and such notes as I have on my laptop and huge hard disk - just working. But I am ...trying to rely on e-mail for contact with people... I could imagine in certain sense in which I want to talk. [MULT1]

In summary, literary theory, as a discipline, drew on different theories to analyze literature and had construction of meaning as a central activity of work production. The production of papers involved personal contemplation and individual writing. However, scholars connected their work with other through written and oral discourse.


The comparative study of literature is concerned with the relationships between literature and other arts and fields of knowledge. Its traditional emphasis has been on the systematic comparison of literary works from more than one country. This comparison may be made in the framework of a literary genre, of a period in literary history, or of dominant themes and motifs; or it can be undertaken in the context of the mutual impact of two national cultures or entire civilizations. (Stevens, 1996)

Comparative Literature informants further identified their specialties by the kind of texts they used ( often read in other languages) or by their incorporation of cultural theory into literary interpretation and criticism. They regularly worked abroad, sometimes for part of the year. Some of them published in foreign language journals.

Comparative literature informants were much more likely to use foreign language libraries or collections than the literary theorists who primarily worked with English. Work production other wise resembled the other specialties in terms of flow, individual orientation and outputs.

I had an [] fellowship for a different, I mean it was a [Author] project, but it had a different title and a slightly different focus back in 1987-88, I guess ....But it's now different, it's now rather different - it's focus than what it was then. But still .... that was still a year that I spent, I spent that year at [Prestige University]. I had been doing a lot of reading in the library ....And the bibliotheque national e, in 1990, I spent a lot of time reading earlier criticism of [author], the 19th century criticism and the early 20th century that I've never tackled. [MULT1]

Comparative literature informants relished unique opportunities to work with colleagues in different countries. Even when they didn't work abroad as frequently as they would have liked, they maintained contact with colleagues via correspondence and increasingly electronic mail. Sometimes projects arose from this correspondence. In this example, a comparative literature scholar described how her experience using e-mail during a political event provided material for an article about themes of location :

This is an article which began as a response to a theoretical discussion on [subspecialty] literature and the postcolonial situation. And so there was an original article and ... a full length article .... that was a response to it. And when I wrote the article it was about a year ago exactly when the [political event happened]. And so it became kind of a meditation on topics of location and the location that it specifically used was the location of e-mail. That is, what does it mean when the location is the net rather than specific geographical space. And so I wrote this article using [political event] as the example, incorporating a lot of stuff that was coming over the e-mail network. [MULT2]

Opportunities for writing figured as key factors in work production. Access to people and materials was also important but the amount and quality of time shaped that access.

[Mountaintop]'s holdings are actually quite good. It's just somehow when I'm here, I don't spend enough time in the library .... So even [FSU], if I may say so... I was more productive there with a less good collection than here, but with more time to get at it. [MULT1]

Comparative literature scholars were also more likely to span multiple subspecialties than literary theorists in other specialties who worked with one theory, genre or time period. As was the case in other disciplines in this study, when people worked in various subspecialties, they often sought different kinds of materials. This example illustrates an occasion for finding source materials on the WWW:

As an idea, of course it floats around in European philosophical circles rather than American circles .... So the French have established on the [world wide] web culture and history [home pages] where there is considerable bibliographical resources as well as some useful information on current work in architecture or architectural history, current exhibitions in Europe. [RSULT3]

Since the subspecialty of comparative literature was predicated upon comparing materials from at least two countries, scholars needed to be able to identify and select materials from a variety of sources in different languages.

The publications of comparative literature scholars were not homogeneous. The choice to study Judaic texts, classics, Hispanic literature or German culture influenced the outlets where informants preferred to publish. However, there were some common journals that most comparative literature scholars subscribed to or browsed occasionally. In terms of length, number of references these journals most resemble those in sociology. Both these journals and those in (Sociology) usually come out quarterly or bimonthly rather than every month(Computer Science) or every week (Molecular Biology).

At the time of this study, several new journals had been started which were distributed in electronic format (e.g., E-Journal and the Journal of Postmodern Culture). However, informants were still reading and publishing in predominantly traditional print forums.

Book publishing played a greater role in comparative literature and literary theory as a means of establishing one's contribution.


Sociologists study societies and social-scale behavior in a wide variety of settings. The report their research in articles and books. Sociological research concerned topics which had broad interest outside the specialty area, though the approach and conceptualization was not always easily understandable by a lay person. The following excerpt describes the way this issue influences the character of the discipline:

It is evident that sociology has not achieved triumphs comparable to those of the several older and more heavily supported sciences .... The true situation appears to be that in some parts of the discipline...there has in fact taken place a slow but accelerating accumulation of organized and tested knowledge. In some other [parts of the discipline] the expansion of the volume of literature has not appeared to have had this property ....Bias, in more than one direction, is sometimes presumed to be a chronic affliction of sociology. This may arise in part from the fact that the subject matter of sociology is familiar and important in the daily life of everyone, so that there exist many opportunities for the abundant variations in philosophical outlook and individual preferences to appear as irrational bias (Britannica Online, 1996b)

This excerpt indicates that the broad interest in sociological inquiry undercuts its legitimacy. In sharp contrast to computer science where external interests provided support for research, sociological inquiry had been to a large extent absorbed into other research disciplines where funding is less focused on social behavior and more focused on social behavior in a particular context. Sociology also lacked a common core of knowledge.

As a multiparadigmatic discipline, sociology encompassed several approaches for inquiry. This study included informants who used experimental paradigms, simulations, modeling, statistical analysis, historical and qualitative analysis. Work in sociology tended to be project-oriented, focusing on theoretical development or analysis of different kinds of data. Sociologists spoke of "getting papers out of " projects. In this example, a sociologist described a shift in his work from secondary to primary data analysis.

I think part of [ the shift in his work from analyzing secondary data to collecting his own data] is that if you have the opportunity to interview these people, it gives you more information. But the problem with that is that you have to have some funding to do that. [FSUSOC1]

Grants helped sociologists purchase data sets, collect data, analyze data, collect supplementary materials or collaborate with distant colleagues. Sociologists in this study varied in terms of grant funding. The majority of the 24 informants were not currently funded by grants. Several had grants of $25,000-60,000/year. A few sociologists had grants over $100,000/year for large or multiple projects.

Many of the sociologists collected their own data, but some acquired datasets from public or private sources. Some sociologists created computer programs for analyzing data, or creating simulations. Others worked with computers much as they would have 20 years ago, using statistical programs to computationally analyze large data sets, though in recent years the resources they needed had become faster and more affordable. Some sociologists explored interaction in networked computing environments. Others used their computing resources primarily to prepare papers, communicate with colleagues and search for library materials. Some sociologists drew very heavily on materials they used in their doctoral training which provided them an initial set of materials to draw upon.

Sociologists who worked with data sets were starting to use the WWW for retrieving data or papers from certain study centers.

But in terms of research, it's primarily going into homepages of say, population centers, say Wisconsin, Michigan. They have available, say their working papers, their working paper series that they have so I can see those... [HUSOC2]

However, most of the sociologists at the time of this study were using computer networks more for electronic mail and accessing library-oriented resources than creating their own WWW pages. There was a dearth of discussion lists, Usenet newsgroups, electronic journals and WWW pages on Sociology at the time of this study.

Sociologists disseminated research contributions via two publication models: refereed articles and books/monographs. Whereas in some humanistic fields, a scholar might publish a much-revised version of her dissertation as a first book, a post-dissertation project was necessary to establish a legitimate contribution in the sociology book publication model. However, criteria for credit varied in different university departments.

Sociologists also attended conferences but did not cite conference papers frequently in their publications. In fact, submission of conference papers at some meetings was optional and although there were formal and informal arrangements to obtain copies of papers presented, proceedings were not always available as such. Here is an example of how one informant described his use of conference papers.

[About receiving paper preprints] Not really, not unless I request it... It gears up a little bit around conference time too because you miss all these paper sessions and like the titles, so after the conference, you [request them]. of course they never actually have finished the papers they're presenting... You ask them for a paper at the conference, they say, can you write me for that and I'll send it to you later, you know [laughs] ....Yeah, they're presenting some draft of the paper at the conference because often times all you need is an abstract. The abstract sells enough to get on the program. There are some conferences like ASA that actually require a paper be submitted [HUSOC3].

The output of work production in sociology was spread across multiple specialized publications. For high visibility and prestige, sociologists submitted manuscripts to several widely read outlets: American Sociological Review (ASR) published by the American Sociological Association (ASA), Social Forces published by the Southern Sociological Society, and the American Journal of Sociology (AJS) published by the University of Chicago Press. In addition, sociologists also published in specialty journals, gave papers at the ASA annual meeting and specialty conferences, wrote books and contributed book chapters.

Before I got tenure, that would be ... a seven year output, I had about 12 refereed articles, something like that, 6 book chapters, and there were two Social Forces and one ASR. So that probably gives you a fairly good sense... But then in the last year, two books have gotten done. Between about October and February I got an edited book out with my colleague... and then also a solo book out that had been kind of laying around and hadn't gotten finished, you know, but I finally got it done. And then in addition to that, there's a couple other journal articles have been accepted. And now I'm backed up and I haven't been able... one of them is accepted pending revision ...So I'll probably be able to get a couple of journal articles out .... I'm getting asked to do more chapter text, I've been invited to and stuff. [FSUSOC1]

Instructions to contributors for journals commonly mentioned by the informants showed no explicit page length limit or number of reference limit. However, the length of abstracts were limited, probably because of abstracting and indexing services. Many sociology journals also require a $15 submission fee. Compared to the cross-cutting journals (ASR, AJS, Social Forces), Social network journals printed shorter articles (in terms of number of pages and references) and there was no submission fee. Contemporary Sociology (CS) was a popular journal among sociologists since it reviewed a broad range of relevant books. For instance, in a special issue on the ten most influential books, CS reviews included Foucault's Discipline and Punish, a book of great interest in philosophy, literary theory and sociology, and the Boston Women's Health Collective's, Our Bodies, Ourselves, which is more popular reference manual in women's health than a formal research contribution .

Sociologists described their specialties in terms of methods they use or topics they study. The multiple diverse subspecialties are shown in the following list of "sections" which organize and meet around the annual August ASA meeting :

Alcohol and Drugs

Asia and Asian America

Collective Behavior

and Social Movements

Community and Urban Sociology

Comparative and Historical Sociology

Crime, Law, and Deviance

Environment and Technology


International Migration

Latino/a Sociology

Marxist Sociology

Medical Sociology


Organizations, Occupations,

and Work

Peace and War

Political Sociology

Political Economy

of the World systems

Racial and Ethnic Minorities

Rational Choice

Science, Knowledge,

and Technology

Sex and Gender

Social Psychology

Sociological Practice

Sociology and Computers

Sociology of Aging

Sociology of Children

Sociology of Culture

Sociology of Education

Sociology of Emotions

Sociology of Law

Sociology of Mental Health

Sociology of Population

Sociology of Religion


Undergraduate Education

Table 4.1 List of ASA Sections (Subspecialties)

Because sociological research cut across multiple subspecialties, it demanded that sociologists keep current in multiple, diverse fields to address not only related topics from general discussion, but also to address findings from other areas. The tension between specialization and generalizing from different specialties was particularly evident in interdisciplinary projects.

This sociologist was exemplary of social scientists working on interdisciplinary projects. Her project emerged from two established areas: sociology of education and sociology of the family. She had gained mastery in both areas. However, because her project entailed examining links between a variety of institutions, she needed to develop mastery in these related specialties to be able to address her central inquiry.

So although it's allegedly on [social group], it's really on the linkages between [social groups] and institutions. When I was at [Alma Mater] I was well-trained in both education and family. So I was pretty sure that I knew the literature in both education and family... [However] I have to study a lot of fields that essentially, I'm not interested in: say dentist's office: Is there a class difference in how often kids go to the dentist? how parents interact with dentists?, and I have no idea what I am doing. I mean I send an [research assistant] in the library saying well look at dental journals. I didn't even know the name of the databases. [DSUSOC3]

She observed that one of the challenges in this project was the specialization inherent in research. Whereas she was trying to address a very important question that cuts across a variety of specialties, she had to develop a minimal level of mastery in each of those specialties in order to produce legitimate work in her field. She concluded that interdisciplinary projects tended to be overwhelming and time consuming. She considered the problem to be a "database" (body of knowledge) problem.

But it's partly I think there is an intellectual issue here because you can see the pressure to specialization. And I'm trying to do a project that's resisting specialization .... And there are formidable barriers because you end up looking like an incompetent. But on the other hand, you spend the time to become competent, which is sort of a database issue in some ways, it's just too overwhelming. [DSUSOC3]

Despite the lack of a common mode of inquiry, work production patterns in sociology as a whole have common patterns. Work tends to be project focused, overlapping, not usually well-funded and published in both field-wide and specialty journals. Another characteristic of work production is the plethora of subspecialties, the need to connect to relevant areas outside of the focal subspecialty and the need to manage multiple types of materials.


Work production in social networks constituted one subspecialty in sociology and had subspecialty conference and publications. In this section, we describe the subspecialty and their inputs to research. We then highlight specific features of work production in this subspecialty and describe how they differed from other sociology subspecialists.

The following description of the social networks subspecialty was posted on a WWW page adjacent to one of the major journal for the subspecialty:

Social network analysis is focused on uncovering the patterning of people's interaction ...From the outset, the network approach to the study of behavior has involved two commitments: (1) it is guided by formal theory organized in mathematical terms, and (2) it is grounded in the systematic analysis of empirical data. It was not until the 1970s, therefore--when modern discrete combinatorics (particularly graph theory) experienced rapid development and relatively powerful computers became readily available--that the study of social networks really began to take off as an interdisciplinary specialty. (Freeman, 1996)

Among sociology specialties, sociologists categorized social networks as mathematical sociology. Beside social networks, mathematical sociology included econometrics research. Social networks researchers made use of computational resources to carry out simulations, modeling work and analyze data sets. Some methods they used were structural analysis, discrete mathematics and network visualization. Programs implementing these methods were amenable to sharing and social network researchers made their network analysis programs available on ftp sites and WWW home pages.

Social networks researchers were likely to belong to the International Network for Social Analysis (in addition to the American Sociological Association) which published the journal Social Networks (mentioned above). Social networks research was also relevant to business and industry who are interested in the relationship between "who talks to whom" and measures of productivity.

The principal functions of INSNA are as follows. First, it publishes Connections, a bulletin containing news, scholarly articles, technical columns, and abstracts and book reviews. Second, it sponsors the annual International Social Networks Conference (also known as Sunbelt). Third, it maintains three electronic services: (a) a web page accessible as http://thecore.socy.sc.edu/INSNA, (b) INSNALIB, an anonymous ftp site for sharing network papers, computer programs and data files, and (c) SOCNET, a ListServ electronic discussion forum. Fourth, INSNA maintains a database of information on members, selling a mailing list to selected publishers and educator. Fifth, it provides a way to subscribe to the Journal of Social Networks, published by Elsevier and edited by Lin Freeman. (International Network for Social Analysis, 1996)

It also sponsored an ftp site and the SOCNET listserv mailing list as well as other member services. Social network researchers also tended to read the Journal of Mathematical Sociology. The social networks researchers sometimes attended the Sunbelt conference in addition to attendance at more general conferences such as the ASA or the Southern Sociological Society Conference.

Unlike some most sociologists in other specialties, the social networks researchers were extremely knowledgeable about software and computer systems, though some mentioned not keeping up with the latest technology. Similar to sociologists in other specialties, social networks researchers varied in their knowledge of and degree of use of bibliographic databases and other library-oriented electronic resources on their camp uses. Social network researchers tended to use computational resources more intensely than sociologists using qualitative approaches or even those using more conventional quantitative data analysis. However, social networks researchers did not rely upon more electronic publishing outlets than other sociologists. Some electronic journals were in the works during the time of this study, but there was not yet significant publishing or reading activities in this media.

Social networks researchers used the same abstract and indexing services as other sociologists: Sociological Abstracts and Sociofile. In addition, some of them used Magazine Indices, News Indices, ABI/Inform and other specialty services. The Social Networks researchers accessed more mathematically-oriented services than other sociologists.

This example illustrates the interdisciplinary nature of social networks research. Here, a social network researcher described a project which overlapped other specialties and approaches. Although this project favored mathematical methods for analysis, it also included using other methods to investigate subtasks as part of the phenomenon under inquiry.

The project is this multi-year thing .... And it involves several things. It involves simulation of [work groups], using alternate models of human cognition, so it gets you into what extent the model matters. It involved collecting experimental data on [work groups] and relating that back to the simulations, collecting real-world archival data on [work groups] relating that back to the simulations. And we're looking across multiple organizational tasks, from one involving [manufacturing ], doing [sales]-type things to this [accounting ] task which is really a categorization task. [TUSOC2]

Although the social networks subspecialty was not particularly characteristic of other subspecialties in sociology, it provided an interesting example of work production.


It should be no surprise that in 1995, paper was the dominant medium in which scholars retrieve and read materials. Even so, there were some significant signs of transition to the use of DL services by the participants in our study. Our data supports the view that the biggest shifts are best understood in terms of fields (and their disciplinary practices) rather than in terms of individuals (and their predilections towards electronic media or innovation sui generis).

In every field, academic reading attention was specially focussed on what scholars viewed as the highest quality scholarship and research in their areas of interest. This attention took different forms -- from literary theorists finding appropriate books (in paper) to computer scientists searching the WWW home pages of selected colleagues to download (and print!) technical papers.

The most powerful networks for directing attention were social networks that were often organized along specialty lines within disciplines! In every field, the majority of academics identified themselves with specialty areas, identified its literature, and used it as a reading guide.

Each active scholar regularly read or scanned a certain corpus of journals. Most faculty subscribed to about 6 paper journals, but disciplinary practices varied. Molecular biologists reprinted the greatest consensus on the journals that they subscribed to (ie., Cell, Science, Nature). Many found an adequate set of journals to be too expensive, and they often visited specialty libraries (often in their buildings) to scan other journals. In contrast, computer scientists routinely purchased the proceedings of certain annual conferences (often by attending), as well as specific journals. Many sociologists subscribed to field-wide journals (AJS, Social Forces), as well as journals in their areas of specialization (ie., Social Networks). In these fields, members of specific specialties seemed to have a high consensus about the identity of the best journals. There are, of course, exceptions, as illustrated by our discussion of the emergence of the (electronic) Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research to serve as an alternative to the Artificial Intelligence Journal.

In molecular biology and computer science, scholars seemed most attentive to tracking the research done by a small set of other laboratories that carried out related research. Molecular biologists reported talking with colleagues up to two hours a day by telephone, whereas computer scientists rarely used telephones and preferred the use of email. Molecular biologists also exchanged their preprints in paper form, while computer scientists (especially graduate students and younger faculty) preferred to use the Internet to retrieve research papers or to distribute them. In contrast, sociologists and literary theorists were less rivetted on the work of a few other colleagues worldwide.

Even when computer scientists obtained papers through the Internet, they usually printed them for reading. It is important to remember that even the editorial board of the electronic Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research carefully designed its format so that it would appear to be a paper journal when articles were downloaded and printed. As an extreme example, we interviewed one computer scientist at Mountaintop University who had a collection of workstations and a 50GB disk farm in a laboratory adjacent to his office. In one corner of his office was a loosely strewn pile of 1000-2000 8.5x11" paper sheets. He told us the pile was garbage; papers that he'd read and tossed away. He didn't spend much time filing papers; he'd print new copies if he needed to read a paper on a subsequent occasion!

Most commonly, the senior faculty who directed laboratories with several graduate student assistant often did not know in what form a paper was retrieved, since it was printed out or photocopied for their convenience. They read paper documents, regardless of the form in which their assistants retrieved it.

Scholars in all of four fields read articles that were not published in recent issues of their primary journals (conference proceedings). We will discuss the processed by which scholars located such materials in Section 6 at some length. Here, in brief, it is important to note that scholars in every field consulted colleagues for key materials and they followed "reference chains" from the bibliographies of articles, reports and books.

Molecular biologists also used disciplinary indices that were available on the Internet. Fruit-fly researchers used Flybase to locate articles that reported the sequencing of specific DNA sequences; those who studied protein structure used a different but comparable "Protein Database" to identify publications that reported the structure of specific proteins.

Literary theorists, sociologists, and molecular biologists also used electronic book catalogs and electronic abstracting indices to locate relevant materials. Computer scientists stood out as rarely using these library mediated documentary indices.

Last, and most intriguing, none of our sociologist informants reported using the Internet to locate or obtain research materials. We found a few literary theorists who were interested in contemporary events (such as political crises on other continents) using the Internet to obtain some documents for their research.

It is difficult to disentangle demand for electronic materials in each discipline from the access available on each campus, since people often learn how to work without resources that they don't have at hand. In the next section (5), we will briefly discuss the availability of digital materials on the campuses in our study.

5. The Supply of Digital Library Services on University Campuses

Before we begin our discussion of documentary use in these four disciplines, it helps to indicate how library resources, both digital and paper, can vary at North American research universities.

5.1 Variations in Computer Networking Across Campuses and Departments

Networking is a critical infrastructure for supporting access to DL resources, but it is not -- itself -- a DL resource. In 1995, when we carried out our field studies, we found that faculty offices in computer science and lab sciences were almost universally networked at the eight research universities. In contrast, faculty offices in the social sciences and humanities were networked on some campuses (especially HU, MU, TU, and BSU).

One of these universities, Technical University, had an exceptionally strong campus computer network, but relatively few abstracts or full text sources of interest to scholars, except for those available over the Internet. In contrast, BSU provided a special network for social science faculty on which the campus had licensed several abstract databases (such as Sociofile and PychInfo) and social science datasets. Two universities provided such databases on CD ROMs that were available in a campus library, but not over campus computer networks (RSU, DSU).

In short, networking is an important infrastructural resource, but today, many proprietary on-line resources are segmented by the extent to which universities license them, and whether they are available over all or part of the campus networks. Since the vendors often charge fees based on the number of faculty and students who would be "expected users." Thus, BSU pays less for Sociofile by making it available only on the campuses' social science subnet (to perhaps 1000 faculty and students) than it would if it were licensed campus wide (to tens of thousands of faculty and students).

Of the campuses that had not yet networked all of these offices, some had discernable plans to network these offices, while two universities did not (RU and RSU). In some cases, networking funds seemed to be the limiting factor, since campus computing administrators were eager to network faculty offices in all fields, and seemed to have strong support from senior academic administrators for their plans. The situation at RU and RSU was a bit more ambiguous since their campus were, in part, street-front buildings in large cities. They faced relatively high costs in running cables under urban thoroughfares and through buildings that were built well before World War II. At RU, there was a history of conflict between the university president and some academic departments. Out of favor departments were housed in old buildings in which faculty shared phones (ie. three telephones for 15 sociology faculty).

It is difficult to separate demand for DL services from local supplies -- people often learn how to work without resources that they don't have at hand.

5.2 Variations in Scholar's Access to Paper Library Materials

Scholars obtain journal articles, reports, and books from a variety of sources. First and foremost, most active scholars subscribe to some of the key journals and purchase the many of the books that they use routinely. This can be an expensive practice, and personal purchase is too costly for most active scholars. Many scientific journals cost over $100/year, even for individual subscriptions; monographs can easily cost $25 for paperback editions and $50 for hardbacks. Specialized books can be even more expensive.

Even so, many scholars obtain a significant fraction of their research materials through purchase. It was common for sociologists and literary theorists to own 3,000-5,000 books. In contrast, computer scientists and molecular biologists often owned 50-200 scientific books, and used most of them to support their teaching. However they often subscribed to 6-8 journals, and many computer scientists owned several series of conference proceedings.

These private collections can easily costs $1,000-$2000/year, and relying upon them is "no way to run a university." Scholars often need to peruse materials that they don't own (and are out of print); graduate students and young faculty can't afford to acquire workable libraries.

The most immediate alternative to a scholar's personal library is her university's library. University libraries vary considerably in size. The Association of Research Libraries includes 108 universities with the largest holdings in North America. These university libraries vary considerably in actual size and effective size. In actual size, Colorado State university has the smallest ARL book library with 1.6 million volume; the University of Rochester subscribes to the least number of journals and periodicals (about 10,000 per year). These two universities each spend about $9 million per year on their campus libraries. At the other end of the ARL scale, Harvard has the largest book collection (13 million volummes) and subscribes to the largest number of serials (96,000 per year). The University of California at Berkeley owns 8.2 million volummes and subscribes to about 87,000 periodicals per year).

It is well known that university faculty have been gaining access to larger effective collection through various sharing arrangements, on-line union catalogs, and interlibrary loans with computer support for locating materials. As a byproduct of these arrangements, a faculty member on any University of California campus can use the MELVYL system to locate most of the 25 million volummes that are held across the University of California campus libraries and obtain copies of these that are not checked out within a few days. State university systems form the most obvious consortia; but some universities in metropolitan regions have formed consortia and developed "union catalogs" to search their collections.

What is less well known is the way in which the major university libraries in some metropolitan areas also service faculty at other universities, regardless of consortial arrangements. The large libraries of major public universities with multi-million volume holdings in large metropolitan areas serve as regional resources (including UCB, UCLA, U of Washington, U of Minnesota, Ohio State, U of Pittsburgh, Arizona State). Faculty and students from other research universities, comprehensive universities and teaching colleges often use them as their primary library in lieu of their own campus libraries since their public mandates does not limit access to their own faculty and students.

However, even the well endowed libraries of private universities are not exempt from serving as regional resources. We learned that the Dean of Arts and Science at DSU was willing to pay the $500 annual fee for his untenured faculty to purchase library privileges at a major university that was located nearby! In addition, those academics whose spouses are on the faculty or staff of other universities often extend their effective libraries (and campus computing resources) by relying upon their privileges.

Sometimes these computing and library resources that are "bootlegged" through family ties prove critical for faculty or graduate students. At DSU we interviewed one molecular biologist in the drosophila community whose access to FLYBASE depended upon a fragile bootlegged arrangement that involved kin employment at a neighboring university with substantially better Internet access.


In our introduction (Section 2), we noted that faculty at research universities, must do more than "simply publish" for various career rewards. They must publish work of sufficient quality (and quantity) that they are viewed as strong scholars (at their career stage) by their peers.

One major finding of this study was that the ways that active scholars at major research universities use of both paper and electronic materials are strongly shaped by the requirement to understand specific bodies of knowledge sufficiently well that they can publish works that others in their invisible colleges will value.

This section describes the role of such proficiency in three practices for obtaining relevant documents: comprehensive searching, browsing and retrieving. We will examine how these practices vary across four disciplines -- molecular biology, literary theory, sociology and computer science. A much more detailed analysis is also available (Covi, 1996a).

In the following discussion we will focus on the kinds of documentary materials that scholars can find in libraries and in digital corpuses, such as articles, books, algorithms, genetic sequences, and photographs. We will also focus on one way of using these materials -- identifying relevant materials from a much larger corpus. This discussion thus focusses on one key aspect at the intersection of digital libraries and scholarly practice.

It is important to bear in mind that academic proficiency requires a larger body of skills in working with documentary and other materials such as the ability to interpret a text that one reads. In addition, experimental biologists have to be able to conduct physical work in their laboratories, or to train and manage suitable assistants who do their bench work with animals, genetic materials, and various chemicals. The ability to obtain materials from libraries -- digital or traditional -- is only one part of masterful academic work. Even so, the skilled use of libraries requires significant academic knowhow, and the practices for rapidly obtaining a set of useful documents is not the same in all fields.

6.1 Proficiency as a Key Attribute of Knowledge Work Production

Scholars in research universities drew upon a body of knowledge relevant to their "community of practice" to sustain their work production. "Communities of practice" is a phrase coined by Lave and Wenger (1991) who studied how people work and play together in naturalistic settings. Communities of practice refers to groups of people who share similar goals and interests. In pursuit of these goals and interests, they employ common practices, work with the same tools and express themselves in a common language. It is a generalization of the concept of academic "invisible colleges."

In order to utilize a body of knowledge in their community of practice, scholars need a minimal level of expertise whose character is shaped by through community socialization and the community's norms for participation. A minimal level of expertise entailed being able to discern the scope of the body of knowledge, the qualities of specific materials in that corpus, and relationships between materials. Knowledge became part of work production through some of the practices for using documentary materials: selection of relevant materials from a body of knowledge. These materials include a wide variety of artifacts such as books, articles, indices and networked databases.

6.2 The Principle of Proficiency Infleunces Professional Practices for Using Documentary Materials

The "principle of proficiency" refers to the importance of social processes through which knowledge workers in a community of practice assess others' levels of expertise in working with a body of knowledge (according to an idealized standard of competency). A minimal level of expertise includes knowing the scope of the body of knowledge, qualities of materials in the corpus and relationships between materials. Researchers are initially socialized to aspire to proficiency ideals within particular subspecialties through doctoral programs and postgraduate preparation.

Once they attain a minimal level of expertise, scholars increase their levels of expertise (or at least sustain it) through producing works that elicit feedback from colleagues via peer review. Our study provides evidence that the principle of proficiency characterizes practices in four academic disciplines and we how it shapes material use practices in them.

We must be clear about one key point: most academic publications that invisible colleges value highly do not simply report the state of knowledge, but advance it in some key ways. Libraries, whether digital or paper, are storeplaces for materials that -- at best -- represent previous advances in a field, reports of the state of knowledge in a field, debates about the significance of various theories, and approaches, etc.

Sometimes scholars can innovate significantly in field A by adapting theories or methods that have been well been developed in field B. But in order for a scholar to advance field A, she has to convince some of its participants that she understands its issues, theories, and methods well enough so that her readers can readily appreciate the nature of her advance. It is critical for such scholars to be able to locate, read and interpret key materials about field A well enough so that she can effectively communicate the nature of her advance.

Other kinds of expertise may be required as well. The experimental scientist must be able to execute experiments in ways that are perceived as reliable by members of her invisible college; the mathematician must be able to produce plausible proofs for theorems that will interest her peers, and so on. The ability to locate credible materials in libraries -- whether digital or paper -- is simply one important element in a vastly more complex professional performance.

The importance of the principle of proficiency rests on the rather trite observation that scholars work in worlds of limited resources -- not all aspirants can get attractive scholarly jobs, not all faculty will be advanced in their careers, not all submitted manuscripts will be published by high quality publications, and not all grants applications are likely to be funded. During the last two decades in the U.S. academic resources have shrunk dramatically relative to the number of aspirants. The net effect is higher levels of competition. While personal connections, ascribed status, and serendipity can sometimes play key roles in helping a person obtain a specific job, publish a specific book or article, or obtain a specific grant, they are too happenstance to sustain dynamic careers in research universities.

The principle of proficiency was derived from a similar mechanism which shapes use of technology in the study of diffusion of technological innovation (Petrella, 1996). Researchers who study of diffusion of innovation define the term "social mastery of technology" to mean the ability of a social group to incorporate technology into its community life. They relate their definition to a conception of industrial mastery as a necessary condition of a country, society or firm to incorporate technology into its routine operations.

The principle of proficiency, as defined in our study, departs from this conception in several ways. First, we characterize the principle of proficiency as a social process rather than as a measure of the diffusion of an innovation. Social mastery is closer to the notion of the expertise ideal: community members' conceptions of the highest levels of competence in a subspecialty. Second, our study refers to expertise over a body of knowledge rather than expertise of one or more electronic technologies. In this way, the principle of proficiency differs from the conception of the requirement for an individual to have expertise at the information interface (Zuboff, 1985). Although our study examines the use of electronic materials, the principle of proficiency is generalizable to use of both paper and electronic material.

In examining a broad range of resources and services connected with paper and electronic materials, our study analyzed three material use practices: comprehensive searching, browsing, and retrieving (Table 6.2.1). Comprehensive searching has been well-studied by information scientists who study end-user searching, particularly in relation to online public access catalogs and bibliographic databases. Browsing behavior has been examined in information use studies and has gained increasing interest from information scientists who study the use of the WWW. Retrieving is the third material use practice. Although retrieving was the predominant mode of material use in our study, it has been previously understudied. Retrieving consists of obtaining a desired material in either paper or digital form based on reference information in the knowledge worker's memory or some other identifier (e.g., a citation). These practices were also used in conjunction with each other.

Table 6.2.1: The Principle of Proficiency in Material Use Practices
Material Use Practice Definition 

(in terms of this study)

Findings about the Principle of proficiency in Materials Use Practice
Comprehensive searching  Looking into or over the body of knowledge thoroughly in an effort to find or discover something  Expertise replaced comprehensive searching. Researchers searched comprehensively to develop expertise of a body of knowledge 
Browsing  Looking into or over the body of knowledge reading random passages that catch the eye in search of something of interest  Expertise enabled browsing.

Researchers browsed as a time effective way to examine materials when they know them to be in a legitimate and bounded body of knowledge. 

Retrieving  Getting and bringing back from storage something chosen for a reason  Expertise was necessary for retrieval. Researchers retrieved to collect materials they already know they want. 

Researchers searched comprehensively on occasions when they entered a new research subspecialty or returned to work in one where they were no longer current. In this example a sociologist expresses his experience with comprehensive searching:

If I'm branching out into some area I know nothing about - if it's an area that I know something about, then I know the area, I know the people. I know about everything that they've done. There are no mysteries. If I looked at Soc Abstracts then, I'd just find an incomplete listing of what I know exists. I use it when I'm completely utterly unfamiliar and don't know much about what's been going on. If I knew something about the area 15 years ago, and I wonder what's been happening since, that's when I use it. [BSUSOC1]

Scholars were most likely to search comprehensively when they were investigating a problem in another research subspecialty or writing a broad review article. Researchers searched comprehensively to help develop their expertise over a new or broader body of knowledge. Comprehensive searching would help them learn about the scope of the body of knowledge, how authors investigated particular topics, recent work in a particular area and terminology researchers utilized to describe certain issues.

Although comprehensive searching was a relatively quick way to begin to learn these things, researchers also used review articles, reference lists of key papers and author's vitae to discover these patterns. Comprehensive searching would often lead to browsing or retrieving some materials that were identified in the search. However, the results of a search were frequently insufficient for a researcher's immediate need. Expertise replaced comprehensive searching because once a researcher became familiar enough with a body of knowledge, there was no need to take the time to examine the results of long comprehensive searches to find relevant materials. Researchers found comprehensive searching most useful when they had acquired some skill to perform the search, they were familiar with the organization and keywords in the database and searching produced desired results. However, in most cases, researchers didn't search comprehensively. They did not have the time or attention to develop the skill necessary to make comprehensive searching useful.

Researchers frequently browse for paper materials but computer scientists primarily browsed for electronic materials. Researchers occasionally browsed in libraries and bookstores for interesting materials but they perceived this kind of materials use practice (area searching) to be a luxury or recreational. On the other hand, researchers often browsed to examine tables of contents of periodicals in their own collections or in libraries for new materials of interest. The following example shows how the development of a new field of cancer research, cell death came to the attention of one molecular biologist through routine browsing. He contrasted this with the emergence of interest in a new field due to a discovery of a link to something on which an "important person," meaning a person who is well-known and has lots of resources, is also working.

I wouldn't say that [the increase of interest in cell death] was driven by an important person, though....So there were a lot of journal [articles], it was talked about at meetings a lot of times and was starting to be reviewed a lot, in Nature, News and Views, things like that. There were starting to be a lot of editorials on cell death and why it was important, reviews about the subject so it developed a life of its own [sic] kind of as a field. [RUMB1]

Since reading an entire scholarly work could be time-consuming, researchers would frequently first browse to identify materials of interest to the task at hand. The occasions for browsing were varied from routinely glancing at journals when they arrived in a lab to making a point to examine a particular collection during the course of a project. Some researchers browsed on the WWW with their family or in pursuit of recreational interests, but they did not consider that activity part of serious work. (Scholars may treat such browsing more seriously when they can find substantial corpuses of reliable research materials via the WWW.)

Browsing sometimes resulted in researchers retrieving particular material that they wanted to read at length or more intensely. Expertise enabled browsing because it allowed researchers to move quickly through related materials. However in order to browse effectively, they required a bounded search space in which they had confidence they could find legitimate and relevant materials. Browsing also sometimes resulted in the identification of key words common in a certain class or materials that could later be used for comprehensive searching or retrieving. Researchers didn't browse when they didn't know the scope of the collection they were browsing, they didn't trust source material, or they required a closer evaluation of materials than browsing enabled.

Of the three practices, retrieval was the most frequently reported for both paper and electronic materials. Even graduate students who had fewer resources than the faculty researchers to conduct their work preferred to use retrieving (i.e., purchase, copy or otherwise obtain materials) to create their own personal libraries rather than depend upon access to centralized organizations or resources (such as libraries and collections available over computer networks). All the researchers in our study had files of reprints, journal collections, books and conference proceedings on shelves in their workspaces. Even the researchers who favored electronic materials, created electronic copies on their own disk space and frequently printed electronic copies on paper when they wanted to read or discuss the material with colleagues. The most common mode of material use was for researchers to obtain the material they wanted to work with and use it in a paper form. The following example, from a literary theorist (but was common to material use practices in computer science and molecular biology) shows how retrieving ultimate leads to researchers creating their own collections of books they like (or find relevant).

I use the library more for books I don't like - I don't want to own. Most of the books I respond to, I buy [DSULT3].

Retrieving requires that a researcher have a unique identifier and a means to obtain an accessible material. Unique identifiers included call numbers, volume and issue numbers, ISDN numbers, page numbers, ftp sites and file names, URL's on the WWW, or the filing system of personal libraries. Expertise was necessary for retrieval because retrieving requires that a research know exactly what material they want and the reason they want it. They didn't use retrieving when identifiers were unreliable, an identifier did not exist, or they couldn't distinguish between very similar materials.

Our study found that these three material use practices were used sequentially and nonsequentially. When used sequentially, comprehensive searching helped a researcher construct a search space, browsing allowed the researcher to sift through the materials and retrieving brings the material into the researchers own personal collection. Because to some extent all researchers are constructing their own unique bodies of knowledge for work production, all three practices are useful regardless of whether the researchers uses a central library, an digital library or resources or personal libraries.

6.3 Expertise in Information Science Research

Previous information science research examined several aspects of knowledge work production. End-user searching research has tackled problems concerning how material use practices make a body of knowledge available for work. For instance, the implementation of cognitive models for online information retrieval described the interaction between an individual user and an online information system (Hawkins, 1981). Studies of online catalog use found that comprehensive searching of online information systems based on subject was popular but had problems such as producing results which were too broad or retrieving nothing at all (Mischo and Lee, 1987). Our study explained why these problems persist, in the world of both paper and electronic materials practice by identifying the principle of proficiency to access a body of knowledge. For instance, our study provided evidence that highly skilled researchers frequently preferred retrieving to comprehensive searching and browsing when they already have mastered the body of knowledge. Our study took a user-centered approach by shifting the paradigm of inquiry from examining interactions between users and systems to a paradigm to examining social aspects of how people produce credible knowledge work in a research subspecialty.

Information scientists who study "information needs" have explored aspects of how the principle of proficiency influences material use practices for work production. They focused on communities of practice and conceptualizes material use practices in terms of the values of the communities (Sugar, 1995). For instance, Dervin's sense-making approach (Dervin 1992) viewed knowledge-workers as active creators of their own information. This was particularly relevant to this study of faculty researchers at research universities since they play primary roles as authors and also as reviewers of each others' work. Kuhlthau's study on intellectual access also supported the principle of proficiency in knowledge work (Kuhlthau, 1993). Kuhlthau described the occasions for information seeking as "uncertainty due to a lack of understanding, a gap in meaning or a limited construct."

Our study combined these two streams of work by investigating how material use practices are shaped by the principle of proficiency. Although digitization of collections make new material use practices possible, it does not change the demands upon knowledge workers to select materials according to social norms of professional practice. Though the norms may change (this is not studied here), the role of the norms do not.

6.4 Documentary Practices in Four Disciplines

We examined the principle of proficiency in four academic disciplines: sociology, molecular biology, literary theory and computer science. Our informants were researchers in different research subspecialties. These disciplines studied different questions, had different access to different kinds of materials and conducted their work on different time scales. The work produced are forms of scholarly communication, such as published research articles, books, and conference talks.

The principle of proficiency was very apparent in molecular biology. The nature of biological discovery was so interdependent on sharing previous results that the body of knowledge upon which molecular biologists based their work was highly organized and standardized. All the molecular biologists used the MEDLINE bibliographic database which indexed the vast majority of relevant journals. Publishers and funding agents also mandated contribution of genetic sequences to GENBANK or similar other sequence databases which they widely used. The stakes were high for a molecular biologist to keep abreast of the latest developments in a subspecialty: researchers compete for multi-year grants providing support of at least $100,000 a year. Winning a grant meant the chance to be the first to discover a gene sequence, functions or structures of a particular model organism. The norms for research in molecular biology shape arrangement for reading and publication. For example:

In a competitive situation, where three years worth of work may become completely worthless, if you work came out 15 days late, ... that happens all the time. Under those circumstance, you try your best to talk it out and see if it wasn't possible to send it to journals in a coordinated kind of way so that things come out at about the same time. So that's a very unpleasant situation usually. Sometimes it can be interesting because you are looking at something from one point of view and someone else is looking at it from a totally different point of view but your points of view coincide at the end and then you do some negotiations to make sure those come out at the same time. [BSUMB2]

Browsing the latest journal issue table of contents was widespread (as was continuous communication with colleagues by telephone and electronic mail). Molecular biologists also retrieved by photocopying articles or exchanging preprints by postal mail. Because articles frequently used graphics to report results and biologists did not share common formats for exchanging electronic documents, molecular biologist relied primarily upon print materials.

Sociology is a multiparadigmatic discipline. As such some sociologists followed a humanistic approach and others worked with a scientific approach. In addition, sociology often tackled topics of popular interest and topics of interest to a wide range of subspecialties in sociology and other academic disciplines. Therefore sociologists have to develop expertise in multiple subspecialties. The following sociologist was exemplary of social scientists working on interdisciplinary projects. Her project emerged from two established areas: sociology of education and sociology of the family. She had attained a minimal level of expertise in both areas. However, because her project entailed examining links between a variety of institutions, she needed to develop expertise in these related specialties to be able to address her central inquiry.

So although it's allegedly on [social group], it's really on the linkages between [social groups] and institutions. When I was at [Alma Mater] I was well-trained in both education and family. So I was pretty sure that I knew the literature in both education and family... [However] I have to study a lot of fields that essentially, I'm not interested in: say dentist's office: Is there a class difference in how often kids go to the dentist? how parents interact with dentists?, and I have no idea what I am doing. I mean I send an [research assistant] in the library saying well look at dental journals. I didn't even know the name of the databases. [DSUSOC3]

The sociologists tended not to search comprehensively in their own subspecialty, but often used it in other subspecialties. Comprehensive searching helped sociologists develop expertise because they could use results to develop expertise in other subspecialties. Browsing supported the application of expertise in a sociologist's own subspecialty to a related area in other subspecialties. Retrieving tended to be centered around borrowing or purchasing books and photocopying articles. Sociologists tended to rely on retrieving to focus the selection of materials for work.

Table 6.4.1: The Principle of proficiency in Four Disciplines
Discipline  Comprehensive


Browsing Retrieving
Molecular Biology  Researchers searched MEDLINE for grants and in new areas  Researchers browsed tables of contents of subscribed journals to keep up with field  Researchers copied articles and shared postal mail preprints with trusted peers 
The Principle of proficiency in Molecular Biology  Comprehensive searching helped researchers gain knowledge of areas outside their specialty  Browsing helped researchers keep current with newly published results  Retrieving helped researchers create a more field-specific corpus to use 
Sociology  Researchers found it hard to limit search space by topic, but searched outside subspecialties  Researchers found identification of materials outside of a subspecialty difficult when browsing  Researchers tended to collect the vast majority of materials they needed 
The Principle of proficiency in Sociology  Searching was difficult because the body of knowledge includes a wide range of both popular and scholarly materials  A minimal level of expertise was necessary for browsing outside of a subspecialty  Retrieving helped researchers develop more focused bodies of knowledge from larger or more diverse collections 
Computer Science  Graduate students predominantly used bibliographic databases  Researchers browsed conference proceedings, announcements and tables of contents  Researchers retrieved materials in electronic format or using e-mail to obtain paper 
The Principle of proficiency in Computer Science  Access to current or relevant materials was more important than comprehensiveness  The preference for online materials and tools facilitated browsing  Direct distribution of materials matched preferences for efficient, fast access to current work. 
Literary Theory  Scholars limited their search to an author's works but rarely searched comprehensively  Scholars browsed catalogs and topic-oriented corpora to select source materials  Scholars worked with books and articles obtained from personal collection or libraries 

Principle of proficiency in Literary Theory 

Searching was infrequent because literary theorists' body of knowledge was more individually-defined  Browsing indices of textual works helped scholars identify materials for retrieval  Retrieving helped scholars create their own body of knowledge 

Computer scientists used more electronic documents than either the sociologists or the literary theorists. The importance of producing results quickly and responding to external stakeholders in their work made conference publication an important outlet in computer science. Computer Scientists therefore needed a working knowledge of both conference and journal literature in their subspecialties; however, they reported less frequent comprehensive searching than our informants in other disciplines. One informant describes how specialized workshops organized by a specific funding agency (ARPA) served his needs to identify materials and keep up with relevant projects.

I follow stuff coming out of [western state university], ... I follow everything coming out of the [subspecialty] group in [midwest state university]... and the [inter-university ARPA- funded project] work. [The project] work has a mechanism for [following other people's work], -- we have a workshop every nine months. Every single person talks and you know what they're doing. And then of course, you have to correspond [via e-mail] with them to get the real details because the talks are only 10 minutes long. [TUCS1]

Some computer scientists used other researchers* online bibliographies or worked from review articles to peruse a body of work. The computer scientists in our study usually focused on creation of artifacts (such as databases, models and programs) and the infrastructure to support them. Thus they were more able to exchange electronic documents than those without space or equipment to utilize networked electronic resources. The norms for work production in computer science often induced use and provision of the body of knowledge in electronic form, even if most work was published in print form. Computers scientists retrieved when they sought electronic preprints (via ftp sites and electronic mail to the author) and browsed when looking for information about conferences, grants, and projects (via mailing lists and WWW home pages).

Literary theorists rarely searched comprehensively and instead favored browsing online public access catalogs, topic-oriented bibliographies or even WWW collections to identify materials which they obtained through retrieving mechanisms. The expertise ideal in literary theory differed from the other three disciplines which used predominantly scientific modes of inquiry. Instead, literary theorists constructed meaning through a more solitary mode of work. They analyzed specialized individual collections of materials. The next informant described how he mastered the abilities to work in a new area. He not only had to identify useful texts, but also the discourses or traditions surrounding the work of these key figures.

Those are new fields for me. They demanded a certain amount of working from scratch. So I had to use a number of very general say histories of anthropology, histories of sociology. I had to work backwards in many ways. I knew that a lot of the work that I was dealing with made references to, let's use a very obvious example, made references to the work of Marcel Mauss. I then realized that I had to understand to some extent the tradition out of which Mauss came, which led me to Durkheim. So then I had to read some books on Durkheim to figure out what I wanted to do there. So there's really a process of working backwards. [BSULT1]

Literary theorists sustained their expertise based on a particular subgenre of literature and the intellectual discourse about it. They wrote relatively long articles and books about a particular text or set of texts from a certain author, time period or school of thought. Browsing library catalogs or special collections was more prevalent than comprehensive searching because they preferred to limit the amount and nature of materials they examined. Literary theorists were usually bibliophiles and retrieved books as well as articles.

Table 6.4.2 Attributes of Expertise Ideals in Four Disciplines
Discipline  Examples of Disciplinary Expertise 
Molecular Biology  Molecular Biologists have knowledge of both previous and concurrent research projects to make a unique contribution 
Sociology  Sociologists attain and sustain expertise of bodies of knowledge in multiple subspecialties 
Computer Science  Computer Scientists have a working knowledge of both conference and journal literature in their subspecialties 
Literary Theory  Literary Theorists master a particular subgenre of literature and intellectual discourse about it. 

6.5 Implications for Digital Libraries and Scholarly Communication

Our finding that the principle of proficiency shapes the ways that scholars use documentary materials in their research has important implications.

First, it is a key institutional dimension of the effective use of digital libraries. Because the institutional character of worklife is socially constituted, sanctioned work practices (such as where one publishes, what kinds of materials are appropriate, opportunities to use electronic materials) will change more slowly than technology development. We suspect that disciplinary expertise will continue to play a key role in shaping the use of digital libraries and what is considered effective use within professional practice. Further work to examine what constitutes expertise in other professions may help digital library designers and providers to provide an appropriate mix of resources to spur effective use.

Second is our observation that researchers prefer to create their own collections of relevant materials in both electronic and paper format. This is a critical component of effective use and raises questions for providers of shared resources based on assumptions of shared use. Finding ways to leverage economies of scale for resource provision with changing constraints on provision of shared electronic information poses an important challenge for digital library providers who wish to protect their vital role within a decentralized work world that masks the value their services provide.

Third, the concern for locating materials that are credible in a community of practice means that the content of a library is often of greater importance than its size or even the technical ease of searching it. This is a point that is sometimes missed by enthusiasts for the WWW who refer to the "tens of millions of documents" indexed by search engines such as Alta Vista or Lycos. Few scholars need access to a corpus of tens of millions of documents. Most care about having good access to a few thousand documents that report the best "results" in their fields, or documents that can serve as raw materials for scholarly analysis. If a corpus does not contain these, it is not of high scholarly value. So far, laboratory scientists seem to have been the most capable of creating some large WWW corpuses that effectively serve some of their scholarly interests.


Scholarly publishing in books and journals, like lecture series, workshops and conferences, are forums for scholarly communications whose character can be influenced by the media of communication. With each electronic invention, many scholars hope that new media can expand authors' or speakers' abilities to reach new audiences. They hope that listeners or readers will hear new voices, or hear old voices faster or more conveniently.

Advocates of electronic publication often hold that paper-based journals (and books) will become obsolete within a few decades, that materials will remain in electronic form once they are in electronic form, that electronic publication offers an exceptional opportunity to speed and expand the range of scholarly communication, and that the shift to scholarly electronic publication is inevitable (Lanham, 1993, 1994; Okerson 1991; Odlyzko 1995).

We were curious about these hopes. In the course of our study, we routinely asked our informants about their knowledge of electronic journals (e-journals) and the extent to which they read them or published in them. Our empirical findings are fairly easy summarize. Few of our informants had much knowledge about e-journals (in 1995), and few of them read them. In 1995, there were relatively few e-journals. There were, however, at least two e-journals for computer scientists, one for sociologists, and a few of possible interest to literary theorists. At the time, there were no e-journals for molecular biologists.

In our small sample of academic informants, two computer scientists published in an e-journal, and another computer scientists served on the editorial board of a different e-journal. None of the sociologists reported familiarity with the sole sociology e-journal, Electronic Journal of Sociology. And few of the literary theorists had examined e-journals, such as PostModern Culture, although none reported reading such journals routinely. In contrast, most of our academic informants subscribed to about six paper journals and at least scanned the table of contents of each issue.

The experiences of two of the three computer scientists are very instructive (also see Section 4). One young computer scientist published an article derived from a chapter of his dissertation in an e-journal, and was "curious about the experience." He seemed to hope for a stronger form of interaction with his readers than he had from paper journals. He didn't find that electronic publishing was any more satisfying that paper publishing, and he also lost interest in that particular e-journal. The other computer scientist was very senior, and was on the editorial board of a e-journal. He was an active scholar, but he reported "never having thought about" publishing in that e-journal when we asked him about it as an outlet for his own articles.

There are viable e-journals, insofar as they routinely publish regular issues. Some of them have high status scholars on their editorial boards. But there are serious questions about e-journals. Some of our informants were misinformed about e-journals. For example, some assumed that e-journals were not refereed.

It is interesting that few critics of electronic publication express their misgivings in writing, and dismiss these publications through indifference. But many scholars who are wary of electronic publication seem to think that the intellectual quality of electronic publications must be deficient in some key ways (in contrast with paper-based alternatives).

This section offers a way to conceptualize scholarly publications that can help understand some key issues in the debates about the appropriate roles of paper and electronic publication. It also examines some key beliefs that appear in the debates about electronic publication. Our analysis builds on our field observations, but in a somewhat different way than the previous section about "Material Mastery and Disciplinary Practices for Obtaining Paper and Digital Documents." Our analysis in that section relied upon a fine grained study of our interviews. After all, 100% of our informants obtained documents of various kinds to support their research!

In the case of e-journals, we have an complementary kind of phenomenon, with effectively 0% of our informants publishing in them or routinely reading them! However, we have data about the ways that most of our informants are concerned with material mastery as it is defined in their communities of practice. We will build our analysis of e-journals on these observations, as well as other informal discussions with colleagues who serve on the editorial boards of two e-journals: the Journal of AI Research and PostModern Culture.

For simplicity, we will define an electronic journal (e-journal) as one which is distributed to most of its primary subscribers in electronic form. In contrast, a paper journal (p-journal) is one that is distributed primarily in paper form. It does not take much work to find that the number of e-journals is growing annually and includes fields from theoretical computer science to medieval literature, or to find numerous instances where scholars have learned of new results or studies more rapidly by using electronic media.

The more difficult questions are how to conceptualize the changing scholarly communications systems and their social roles. we are especially concerned about the next few decades -- a period of experimentation, excitement, confusion, and anxiety -- for the publication forms that thrive in this period may become institutionalized as the most valid forms of scholarly journals for the following century. We will examine what we believe are the range of plausible forms of viable scholarly publishing, rather than emphasizing the most exciting but more socially fragile possibilities of electronic publication.


While few scholars have diverse experiences with electronic publishing, academics are familiar with oral forms of scholarly communication, and its alteration by electronic communication. Amplifiers in lecture halls, video conferencing, and videotape alter the nature of audiences that scholars can reach, and also shift the relationships between those audiences and lecturers/speakers. These electronically enhanced forums do not simply provide "more communication," but also alter the ways that people speak and interact. As the audience scales up in size, or moves out in space and time with real-time video or othertime video-tape, the informal give and take between speakers and listeners becomes more difficult (in contrast with the smaller face-to-face seminar). On the other hand, people watching a videotape may privately replay sections to enhance their comprehension, while in a face to face meeting they may have to ask questions (that might also embarrass the speaker or questioner).

Voice-based face-to-face conference, video conferencing, and videotape are not simply technologies; they shape scholarly communications as socio-technical systems in which social characteristics such as controls over access (via pricing and distribution channels), and social protocols for regulating discussions between speakers and audience also influence character of scholarly communications. The nature of videotape pricing and the distribution channels can lead to minor or huge expansions beyond the original conferees. Despite scholars' potentially broader access to conference talks via videotape distribution, a face-to-face conference is different from a videotape collection of its talks because of the diverse informal discussions and important social networking that conferences support. The face-to-face conference and the videotape collection are different scholarly communication systems with overlapping capabilities, but which also support very different forms of scholarly communication. These observations discourage us from conceiving of electronic media in exclusively celebratory, cornucopic, technologically utopian terms (see Kling and Lamb, 1996).

In a similar way, a scholarly journal can also be usefully understood as the product of a socio-technical production and communications system. The publishing communication system includes both full-text materials (articles and books), and indexes/pointers to these materials (including book reviews, abstract sets, specialized bibliographies, and diverse catalogs).

Most readers of p-journals see few of the social and technical alternatives that differentiate one journal's production and distribution systems from another's. Scholars are aware of different reviewing practices of journals in which they publish, and also aware of the time periods between the date that they send a final manuscript to a publisher and the date that it appears in print.

But other differences in the production systems that create a journal's issues can also be substantial, and have been changing over time. Some scientific journals print color plates of a kind that were implausible twenty years ago, while many mathematics and humanistic journals still print exclusively black and white text and diagrams. Most p-journals are now willing to accept the final form of manuscripts in electronic form, and a few require it. Further, some p-journals are willing to review articles that are submitted in electronic form. The production of scholarly journals has become much more computer intensive in the last decade, and there has been no significant scholarly controversies over these shifts. However, the possibility of electronic distribution -- the distinguishing characteristic of e-journals -- is the one that is most subject to debate by both publishers and scholars. E-journal editors and publishers have been experimenting with different ways to charge for an e-journal (now often free), have articles reviewed, layout each issue, and distribute it. We will discuss some of the differences in the socio-technical design of e-journals below.


Scholarly publishing should be viewed as one part of the scholarly communications systems that connect authors and readers. In the extremes, world-class scholars (and national class scholars) are eager to have their works be read (and appreciated) by their peers, and also by some larger disciplinary or cross-disciplinary audiences that usually number in the range of hundreds to thousands. In contrast, there are other scholars who are simply happy to publish periodically, or at least publish before receiving tenure or other professorial promotions. Scholars are very sensitive to the legitimacy and status of the journals (or publishing houses) that publish their work, but they vary in their insistence in publishing in the journals that their peers regard most highly.

Every major traditional field has a few high status journals whose content is controlled by a small set of gatekeepers and is widely read within its scholarly community. Other journals that are believed to be of lesser quality and at the bottom tier are "write only journals" that few scholars read regularly.

Within the United States alone there are over 2,000 four year colleges and universities, of which fewer than 200 have vigorous campus-wide research programs. A relatively small fraction of 500,000 professors in the U.S. publish routinely in the highest status journals in their fields. The majority of professors publish relatively few scholarly works, and in the lesser quality journals, especially after receiving tenure. But even in many of the 1,800 colleges and universities with minimal research programs, faculty are often required to publish some work as a criterion for tenure. Some analysts would draw the boundary between these two classes more narrowly, and refer to perhaps 100 research intensive universities and 1900 other colleges and universities. Regardless of where one draws such boundaries, there is tremendous heterogeneity within these classes and a huge cultural divide in the meanings of scholarly publishing between them.

While communication systems link people (or groups), not every scholar writes to be widely read. They may publish so as to be seen as "being in the scholarly system" by their colleagues and academic administrators who review them for promotions and pay raises. In contrast, scholarly readers are usually seeking highly trustworthy or "interesting" materials within what they see as a huge corpus of publications (books and articles with plausibly relevant titles.) Scholars who work within well-defined article-based disciplines report that they routinely read a few "high-quality" journals (or conference proceedings). They find other works through diverse socially filtered processes that emphasize the credibility or "quality" of the work such as asking expert colleagues for references to related studies, tracing references in the bibliographies and footnotes of "high quality studies," or seeking the relevant publications of respected scholars.

Scholars often use electronic indices and abstracts to facilitate parts of these searches, especially when they are searching for a specific document or its location, based on clues about the author or title. These electronic indices and abstract services have expanded greatly in the last decade, and there is a good chance that they will continue to expand. For example, journal publishers may post their own journals abstracts on the WWW (or others services), although field-wide abstracts (ie., Chemical Abstracts) will probably remain viable for-profit independent services. Conference organizers may also post paper abstracts and author contact information on the WWW, and thus enable many potential readers to track parts of a field or to contact authors for specific papers (which they might send electronically or in paper).

But social networks also play a key role in informal scholarly communication. Scholars usually track the work of 10-50 colleagues (or labs). They often learn about new studies and results in their immediate areas well before they are published -- through collegial conversation, conference presentations, attending invited seminars, acting as journal editors and reviewers, and receiving manuscript drafts or preprints from close colleagues. Active scholars are usually well positioned in these (primarily) verbal networks.

We have heard active scientists dismiss the value of journal publishing because they print "old news."in fast moving fields when the publishing delays are one to three years between the time that an article is accepted and it appears in print. High energy physicists have taken a lead in developing a preprint server (http://xxx.lanl.gov) where physicists can post articles that have been submitted for publication (articles are removed after they have been published). According to Stevan Harnad (1995) 25,000 physicists worldwide are accessing the archive 45,000 times a day, with 350 new papers deposited per week. Computer scientists have at least two networks of technical report search systems that can help eager readers locate papers when they are issued in the technical report series of the computer science departments at the major research universities.

Journals continue to play many key roles in scholarly communication, in helping ensure that published work is of higher quality than under a self-publishing system, resolving "priority of discovery" disputes, and in making work available to those who are outside of the tiny subcommunities that produce the leading work on narrowly defined topics. The journal system of scholarly publishing also seems to work as an efficient system of packaging materials and signalling the likely quality of the edited articles (as with brand names).


To the extent that journals reflect the worldviews of their editorial boards, they also serve as relatively closed communication systems which innovate slowly. The most common conception behind new journals is the rise of new topics and new fields. But another key incentive for starting a new journal comes when a scholarly subcommunity has trouble getting its form of research published in highly legitimate or trustworthy journals.

The emergence of e-journals is driven by a few large scale social forces, above and beyond the technical capabilities and allure of low cost electronic distribution. Some of these include the continuing downsizing of US university budgets (relative to inflation), with a consequent flattening of growth in academic library budgets. At the same time, the costs of subscribing to scholarly journals has been generally rising much higher than inflation, with the largest price increases coming from for-profit European scientific publishing houses. These increases have been partly driven by the declining value of the US dollar against Western European currencies, and partly by increases in the cost structure of the publishing houses.

These economic conditions influence the nature of academic journals, as well as their circulation. The price of journals is highly correlated with their page counts, and both scholarly societies and trade publishers have been reluctant to increase page counts and prices, independently of the scholarly dynamism in the fields covered by a journal. Academic libraries have been cancelling journal subscriptions (but generally shifting their materials acquisitions budgets from acquiring monographs to maintaining journal subscriptions).

These economic conditions make it harder for scholars who want to initiate new journals to develop a workable circulation. Academic (and sometimes industrial laboratory) libraries are a major subscription base for scholarly journals. But when libraries are cancelling subscriptions, scholars face an uphill battle in having their library add new journals. Some university libraries are marked by the balance in their collections between old and new journals: they have respectable collections of established journals, but relatively few subscriptions to newer journals. This balance can undermine their abilities to support scholarship and teaching in new or emerging fields.

These conditions could also foster the development of e-journals, but e-journals have not yet become legitimate publication outlets. As with paper publications, articles that are submitted to e-journals may be lightly edited or tightly reviewed by an editorial board with strong academic standards. Today, many scholars are confused about the formats and intellectual quality of e-journals. In extreme cases, they feel that e-journals must be of lower intellectual quality than p-journals, because they sense something insubstantial and potentially transient -- ghostly, superficial, unreal, and thus untrustworthy -- in electronic media. In practice, some refereed e-journals publish high quality articles, but they are not well known by their existential critics.


E-journals are not all alike. Like p-journals, they differ in the care with which their editors (and editorial boards) review papers. But they also differ in the way that they format articles for distribution and their actual distribution channels. We believe that the ways that e-journal editors design these aspects of their journals influences their likely acceptability by productive scholars, and thus their overall legitimacy.

In numerous conversations and interviews with diverse academics and librarians, We have heard some significant and common (but not universal) confusions about the nature and meanings of electronic publication. Scholars who do not work routinely with electronic texts often assume that they are deficient in some ways. For example, in when the editorial board of the ACM's Transactions on Information Systems (TOIS) discussed various formats for an electronic alternative, e-TOIS, in 1994, a mathematician colleague of one editorial board member sent a note which stated that "an electronic journal must be deficient in every way when compared with a paper journal." It is ironic that some of the editorial board's discussion was how and whether to make the e-TOIS superior in some ways to p-TOIS (for example by including more artwork, sets of data, and electronic pointers to related research).

One of the remarkable features of today's e-journals is that few of them use special features of the electronic media to scholarly intellectual advantage. Most of the e-journals publish papers that could appear in p-journals. In contrast, the Journal of Current Clinical Trials creates hypertext links between related articles and also letters to the editor related to specific articles. Computer scientists have speculated about including executable algorithms and data sets with e-journal articles. And it might happen in the (electronic) Chicago Journal of Theoretical ComputerScience. But, today, the articles that appear in e-journals, such as PostModern Culture, Electronic Journal of Sociology, Electronic Journal of Virtual Culture, and Public Access Computer Systems Review (and so on) do not make special use of their electronic formats, except for distribution.

With a few exceptions, e-journals exist in a kind of ghostly netherworld of academic publishing. As we mentioned earlier, university librarians seem puzzled about how to integrate them into their collections and how to provide them to their clients. They are not (yet) indexed in the Science Citation Index (with the exception of the Journal of Current Clinical Trials) or Social Science Citation indices, or in abstracting services such as MLA Abstracts or Sociological Abstracts.

One e-journal is worth singling out for attention because of its sociologically clever formats. The Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research (URL gopher://p.gp.cs.cmu.edu/) is a relatively new e-journal that publishes its articles in electronic form, in Postscript, on WWW, gopher, and ftp servers when they are accepted for publication. The title and abstract are also posted on a Usenet newsgroup, comp.ai.jair.announce and also available on the Usenet newsgroup comp.ai.jair.papers. JAIR's editors offer authors the promise of rapid international access to their articles. Each article is formatted and paginated as it would appear in a printed journal. Someone who prints the Postscript file has an article which looks like the photocopy of an article from a traditional p-journal. A publishing house, Morgan-Kaufman, also sells a printed version of the journal in an annual issue to libraries and others, so that librarians can readily integrate Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research into their catalogs and collections.

We think of JAIR as the Stealth E-journal of Artificial Intelligence Research. Its editors cleverly exploit the broad rapid international distribution afforded by Internet services such as WWW, while simultaneously calming authors' fears of publishing in a stigmatized electronic medium because it always looks like a p-journal and can be purchased in paper form. In fact, JAIR's editors encourage readers to cite articles published in JAIR in the same format that they would cite a p-journal article (and they do not encourage citations to include URLs).

The case of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research illustrates many key social features of electronic scholarly publishing. By publishing polymorphously in paper and electronic media, this journal can offer an electronic edge to authors while appearing traditional to those who do not know its workings. Its authors and readers are part of a scholarly community where there is strong consensus on a computerized typesetting format (in this case Postscript), and in which every research lab has free (or subsidized) electronic access to Internet services. And JAIR is allied with a (commercial) publisher that routinely markets and sells books to libraries, scholars and professionals. One other key feature of JAIR's stealth approach is that it doesn't broadcast its e-journal status in its name. It is a fascinating model.

A few e-journals are affiliated with publishing houses that sell paper versions of the journal in annual bound volumes. We suspect that these e-journals which distribute both e-journal and p-journal versions have greater chance of being seen as legitimate publication outlets than those e-journals that distribute only in electronic form. However many of these e-journals, such as the Public Access Computer Systems Review distribute their electronic articles as ASCII text. When they are printed for extended reading, annotation or distribution to colleagues, they do not appear to be neatly formatted bone fide journal articles.

In contrast JAIR takes an important step beyond that of most e-journals that also distribute and sell paper annual volumes by insuring that every printed copy of a JAIR article appears as a visually well -crafted facsimile of a photocopied journal page -- complete with headers, footers and the specific page numbers for each article as they will appear in the paper volume that Morgan-Kaufman sells to libraries. JAIR leaves no traces of its e-journal status for academic administrators such as department chairs and deans to sneer at. If they see a JAIR article during an academic career review, it appears as a bone fide p-journal publication, and can be assessed on the basis of its content.

Some of these serendipitous enabling conditions that help link authors and readers may be found in some other fields, such as mathematics, where LaTex is a typesetting standard and where the active researchers also have Internet access. In many field, posting articles in multiple print formats -- WordPerfect, RTF, and MS-Word -- would probably make them accessible to most readers[2].

JAIR was able to become a legitimate computer science journal by through a clever set of conventions that hides its e-journal status. However, it can attract good authors by offering the advantages of rapid publication and a strategy of avoiding any stigma of e-publishing. JAIR also allows authors to include elaborate appendices that can contain executable computer programs and data that are not published in the paper version. But aside from these optional appendices, JAIR's articles appear like traditional p-journal articles. The disadvantage of the JAIR format is that it doesn't allow articles to utilize key features of electronic publishing, such as hypertext within articles.


University libraries have not yet developed ways to effectively archive e-journals and integrate them into their catalogs and collections, unless they can buy paper versions (as with JAIR, Public Access Computer Systems Review, etc.). There are serious questions about what a library should deliver when a client requests an article from an e-journal -- a printout, a file, or a URL, for example. In a seminar in 1993, Rob Kling suggested that libraries print e-journals and integrate them into their paper collections. A librarian sternly informed him that a paper version of an e-journal "undermined the concept" of an e-journal.

In principle, paper and electronic media need not influence the scholarly quality of a book or journal. But paper and electronic media do have significantly different material properties, and that influences some of their social properties. It is usually easier to transform an electronic document into a paper form, than vice versa. In practice, paper and electronic formats have complementary virtues and vices. A key point is that most scholarly documents that start in electronic form will end up in paper form sooner or later. When publishers or readers (and their assistants) transform electronic documents into paper is part of the story of electronic publishing.

Fifty years ago, most scholars worked from longhand notes and manuscripts. In the 1940s to 1970s, many scholars developed typing skills and transformed rough notes and verbatim manuscripts from long hand to typescript. Some scholars composed on a keyboard. In the 1980s, many scholars began using word processors in lieu of typewriters. Scholars vary in the extent to which they start a manuscript by composing on keyboards or develop notes, outline or even a first full draft in longhand. Today, virtually all scholarly manuscripts exist, in part, in electronic form in a scholar's office. Pictures and diagrams are least often in electronic form, and the frequency of pictures and diagrams in a book or article varies a lot by discipline and subfield.

Even when scholars prepare papers and books in electronic form, they commonly print intermediate drafts for their own review and revision. Most scholars find it much easier to annotate paper manuscripts than electronic drafts. Paper manuscripts offers different affordances than electronic formats: ease of getting a sense of the whole, ease of short marginal comments and arbitrary markings, and portability. In contrast, electronic documents can be more rapidly searched for keywords and radically restructured. These complementary properties of paper and electronic documents also influence readers and well as authors. When academics obtain documents in electronic form -- drafts, preprints, technical reports, and whole articles, they may preview them on screen. But in our research, they universally report preferring to print manuscripts for serious reading and annotation.

Collaborating co-authors may prefer paper formats for reading and electronic documents to facilitate revision. But other than authors, few scholars have a deep interest in revising the works that they receive! (One kind of exception is my own preference of reformatting electronic documents in a large easy to read font for subsequent printing and reading).

We suspect that scholars in diverse fields will continue to write and revise their manuscripts while shifting back and forth between paper notes, electronic documents, and printed drafts read and marked for revisions. The existence of electronic documents heightens the possibility that they could be readily published (and distributed) in electronic form at lower costs to wider international audiences.

Scholarly book and journal publishers vary in the extent to which they will accept electronic submissions of original manuscripts, although the publishers are drifting towards accepting (or even preferring) electronic final copies in addition to a printed version.

Electronic documents do not remain in electronic form, and discussions of electronic publishing should be cognizant that exclusively electronic representations will be relatively rare in serious scholarly publications. Even so, there is a continuing slow shift from exclusively paper to a mixture of paper and electronic publishing, distribution, archiving, searching and previewing scholarly journals.


Some key technological demographics will change considerably in the next two decades. More colleges and universities will wire many more of their faculties' offices and labs, although some campuses face daunting costs and complexities in cabling older stone buildings or cabling scattered buildings in dense urban districts.

Despite a cornucopia of new information that might be rapidly accessible, scholars will still work and live within a 168 hour week that does not expand. Active scholars often work sixty to seventy hour weeks, and are mindful of their time. Their attention is a precious resource. And publications in which editors or indexers help them focus on what they believe are the highest quality articles and reports are now and will remain at a premium.

We suspect that there will be many more electronic indexing systems that help point scholars to paper-based journals and conferences (see above). We did not cover the sharing of datasets and software, but it is likely that there will be more specialties in which scholars share these costly intellectual resources via computer networks (much in the way that molecular biologists within very specialized communities use FLYBASE, GENBANK, and the Protein DataBase (PDB)). Doubtless, more scholars will post preprints and reprints of articles on services like the World Wide Web (WWW). But will scholarly electronic publishing become legitimate and routine in this same time frame?

Andrew Odlyzko (1995) argues that the demise of p-journals is inevitable, and Harnad (1995) argues that academics should immediately abandon p-journals and publish in e-journals. These arguments focus on the technical process and economic costs of distributing e-journals (in contrast with paper). We have tried to locate journal publication within a larger social system of scholarly communication. And, within this frame, the rapid demise of p-journals seems less likely. We are specially impressed by the way that molecular biologists who routinely share DNA sequences via GENBANK circulate paper preprints rather than electronic preprints. This might be a technological peculiarity which will shift as soon as 1200 dpi printers cost as little as a Laserjet (or Laserwriter). But there are deeper social relationships in scientific communities that influence these patterns.

Most academics now view electronic publishing as experimental, at best. The segregation of e-journals into an electronic space that isn't (yet) integrated into the scholarly document systems of libraries, indices, abstracting services, and so on is a formula for continued marginality. In addition, commercial publishers are only cautiously experimenting with allowing the full text of p-journals to be licensed for electronic access (as in Elsevier's TULIP project). All paper-based publishers are wary that unlimited on-line access to journal articles will erode their subscription base, and they have not yet developed good electronic subscription models to supplement paper publication. Scholars are used to unlimited access to journals that they subscribe to, and have relatively little enthusiasm for pay-per-use models for electronic access. There is little empirical guidance at this time for publishers to learn how different forms of e-journal dissemination will amplify, synergize with, or erode their revenues.

The scholarly societies are possible loci of change in the systems of scholarly communication. The American Mathematical Society and the Association for Computing Machinery are both exploring electronic publication. These societies could experiment with posting electronic preprints of articles accepted for their p-journals as a form of member service. Since the membership fees in scholarly associations cover diverse "memberships services" as well as some journal subscriptions, the associations have some flexibility in shifting their investments, services and pricing. In contrast, the commercial publishers only offer a set of journals and draw their revenues exclusively from direct subscriptions and related post-publishing income (such as permissions fees). Even so, we would predict more rapid rates of change in the overall scholarly communications systems if many associations and publishers were actively experimenting with electronic formats, rather than just a few.

Part of the dilemma is in encouraging prestigious scholars to take the risk of publishing in e-journals, or in electronic extensions of traditional p-journals to help enhance their legitimacy. The polymorphous model of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research offers some promise in the technologically savvy scientific associations, since they already publish their own p-journals. The other main shifts in the next two decades -- perhaps more likely in many fields -- is that scholars will share some of their preprints with colleagues via field-specific or departmental WWW servers (or whatever technologies follow after WWW).

These changes in scholarly communication could be accelerated if a critical mass of the highest status scholars in a given field were willing to publish their best work in electronic media. However, the highest status scientists have the least to gain in terms of personal visibility and prestige in such moves. And scholars whose status is just a bit lower are likely to publish in the same journals as the highest status scientists. And so on down the prestige hierarchies, until one reaches scientists who have trouble publishing in 1st and 2nd tier journals, and who have "less to lose." To the extent that scholarly communication takes place within a system of prestige that extends well beyond the immediate sub-disciplinary groupings, social change will be slower than if technical and economic conditions alone drove the scientific world.

Hess, Sproull, Kiesler and Walsh (1993) argue that networked discussion lists help improve the visibility and influence of scholars who are outside an inner circle within a field -- ie. those who are in lower status institutions, institutions with weaker programs in a particular specialty, and those who are lower ranked. Electronic publication might also give these people greater visibility, if their e-journal articles were read by scholars in more prestigious positions or more central locations. Today, e-journals can be read worldwide by scholars and students with modest access to the Internet. But e-journals' isolation in a kind of ghostly netherworld of academic publishing doesn't help those who publish in them to be seen by prestigious and established scholars whose intellectual blood circulates in oral and paper networks.


Stevan Harnad (1995) offers a "subversive proposal" for ushering in an era in which e-journals replace p-journals:

If from this day forward, everyone were to make available on the Net, in publicly accessible archives on the World Wide Web, the texts of all their current papers (and whichever past ones are still sitting on their word processors' disks) then the transition to the PostGutenberg Galaxy would happen virtually overnight.

Harnad's proposal to move scholars from one set of communication systems to another has much in common with many utopian proposals: there is no effective analysis of how to encourage diverse scholars make a workable transition. In practice, scholars will become interested in e-journals at varying rates. Today, a scholar who is facing a choice between publishing in a p-journal and publishing in an e-journal (other than JAIR) faces a choice between legitimate (but perhaps slow) publication, and more rapid publication in e-journals that are viewed as of lesser quality (or even not serious journals). The e-journal may promise world-wide accessibility. But the scholar who wants to be read by his or her colleagues is more concerned that the article be seen by valued peers than that it be seen by a possibly larger but much less influential group of readers. Today, p-journals are better able to promise appropriate readership than are e-journals, with a few exceptions.

The scholar who selects a journal to submit an article to for possible publication cannot wave a joystick and enact Harnad's subversive proposal. If the scholar is in a field where paper journals reign supreme and electronic journals are fledgling operations, there is little incentive to try the e-journal unless the scholar has serious problems being published in higher quality p-journals.

We have examined some of the key features of the scholarly communication system that e-journal enthusiasts must face if they wish to accelerate the pace at which e-journals become legitimate. These include finding ways to synergize with the paper world, because readers will often print out articles for subsequent careful reading even if they receive them electronically. In practical terms, it can entail using stealth strategies such as those pioneered by JAIR.

The e-journals that thrive are most likely to be those who editorial boards can design formats that are compatible with the p-journal world, while adding e-journal virtues, such as rapid dissemination of accepted articles and the possibility of elaborate and computationally rich appendices. In my view, this is a more subversive proposal because it aims to alter the scholarly communication systems while seeming to be a routine part of the dominant paper systems.

8. Digital Shift or Digital Drift?: Organizational Processes and the Transition to Electronic Publishing and Digital Libraries

Many information technology (IT) managers, information and computer scientists, as well as some librarians and scattered academics take for granted the shift from paper to electronic documents as part of a digital revolution. In the 1990s, national indicators of the growth of network usage support shifts to digital documents: exponential increases in the number of Internet hosts, the number of electronic mail addresses and the number of World Wide Web sites. There are numerous scholarly experiments with digital media in virtually every academic discipline, as well as a growing array of academics who are developing on-line instruction.

As an example of a digital shift, almost every major university and many minor universities created instititutional web papges for their campuses in 1994 and 1995. (Many of these web pages were built rapidly by using pre-existing materials from campus gopher files that were developed between 1992-1994. Even so, the depth and variety of materials on these collections of pages is uneven). And it is easy to find universities that support support a particular electronic journal, or electronic course reserves for a few courses, and so on. A few universities, such as the University of Southern California with its $15M Leavy Library, have developed major centers for electronic media in support of teaching and scholarship.

The conventional wisdom among academic digital-media enthusiasts is that digital projects are gaining social momentum and fresh converts at exponential rates. Further, they will soon sweep through academia, and the rapid shift from paper media and face-to-face communication to digital media should lead to a major restructuring of teaching and research. For example, in a highly visible Science article, Eli Noam (1995) prophesized the likely end to universities as we know them based in the ways that computer networks would undermine most students' needs to physically attend a university.

"In the past, people came to the information, which was stored at the university. In the future, the information will come to the people, wherever they are. What then is the role of the university? Will it be more than a collection of remaining physical functions, such as the science laboratory and football team? Will the impact of electronics on the university be like that of printing on the medieval cathedral, ending its central role in information transfer? Have we reached the end of the line of a model that goes back to Ninevah, more than 2,500 years ago? Can we self-reform the university, or must things get much worse first?' " (Noam, 1995:)

Our data and observations in this study do not support the claim that a wholesale digital revolution will force the restructuring of academia in the next few decades. On the surface, the computer revolutionary argument is the more interesting position to take in these debates -- it offers the excitement of the new and the possibility of projecting one's dreams about desireable forms of university life onto a plastic virtual canvass. Noam, for example, concludes:

True teaching and learning are about more than information and its transmission. Education is based on mentoring, internalization, identification, role modeling, guidance, socialization, interaction and group activity. In these processes, physical proximity plays an important role. Thus, the strength of the future physical university lies less in pure information and more in college as a community; less in wholesale lecture, and more in individual turorial; less in Cyber-U, and more in Goodbye-Mr.-Chips College. Technology would augment, not substitute, and provide new tools for strengthening community on campus...

We might expect that academic administrators who are charged with planning IT support for faculty, staff and students, would be working to support a rapid "digital shift" in support of scholarship and teaching on their campuses. But such examples of the scale of the Leavy Library are expensive and rare. The spotty and ideosyncratic patterns of "pockets of interest in digital media" seems to be more common today.

In ths study we have found a more modest, incremental "digital drift." rather than a rapid digital shift. Can whole industries drift into major IT investments without coherent strategies? Such a pattern is anathema in the literatures about information systems as purposive strategic investments (Morton, 1991). Even those who criticize the ways that organizations computerize tend to assume managerial rationality -- albeit around values that they criticize (see, for example, Zuboff (1988) on computerizing in ways that degrades or enhances jobs). There has been an interesting set of studies of the ways that managerial rationality may backfire, and information systems may not be developed or used as their enthusiasts expect (ie., Zuboff, 1988; Kling and Iacono, 1989; Orlikowski, 1993). One interesting alternative to managerial rationality is bureaucratic drift, in which organizations (or clusters of them) develop tacit large- scale policies through balkanized management and managers playing semi-coordinated short-term games in their "organizational turf" (See Allison, 1971; Kling and Iacono, 1984).

In this section we discuss the ways that demand for digital and paper materials is reflected in university decision-making. We will theorize these patterns in terms of analytical models of organizational change (see for example, Allison, 1971; Kling and Iacono, 1984; Kling and Iacono, 1989).


Paper Libraries

Paper libraries are rarely the glamour centers of university life: they store books in musty stacks, attempt to maintain tight control over the collections, and are often well posted with signs for visitors to remain quiet and leave food and drink outside. They sometimes offer quiet places for reflective reading, but are often used as warehouses in which faculty and students seek specific kinds of books or articles but read them elsewhere.

Academic libraries are also major expenditures for colleges and universities. In 1992-93, thirty-eight U.S. universities each spent between $15M/yr and $58M/yr on academic libraries, and twenty-two of these universities each spent over $20M/yr (ARL, 1995). These investments get relatively little attention from professors and students. In the last 5 years libraries have been faced with rapidly rising prices for books and journals. In the face of rising costs and relatively flat (and sometimes declining) university budgets, university librarians have usually slowed the rate at which they buy books, and have sometimes canceled large numbers of journals subscriptions.

Library Automation and Digital Libraries

The exciting elements in recent stories of academic publication have focused on digital libraries in various forms. There are two common approaches to defining digital libraries, one based on Internet services and the other based on library automation. Computer scientists often identify digital libraries with collections of whole text documents and images that are available via Internet services, such as ftp, gopher, and World Wide Web (WWW). These corpuses are growing at a relatively rapid rate, and include some standard versions of classical texts, preprints of academic articles, technical reports, published papers, diverse but incomplete sets of government reports, electronic journals, and a few new books. Library and Information Scientists cast a different net, and include on-line card catalogs, searchable citation collections (ie. Medline, Current Contents), abstracting services (ie. Chem Abstracts, INSPEC), and agglomerations that offer whole text (Dialog, Lexis, Nexis) (Arms, 1990; Buckland, 1992). Buckland refers to this latter group of as "automated library services." They are offered independently of the Internet (although they are sometimes available through it) and are usually purchased by university libraries. Automated library services identify books and articles that may be in a library's holdings or available through interlibrary loan arrangements.

Many direct costs of automated library services show up in university library budgets, and their costs and usage are, in principle, controllable by academic administrators such as University Librarians (chief administrators of university libraries) and chief academic administrators (such as Provosts and Academic Vice Chancellors). The contracts for automated library services and parts of the human and technological infrastructure to support them can be traded off against other parts of academic library budgets. For example, one University Librarian claims to be investing in automated library support with a growth rate of 10%, while the rest of his much larger overall budget remains flat. This budgeting process resembles disjointed incremental analysis (Lindbloom 1979) which includes several strategies and focuses on areas for remediation rather than specific broad ambitions. Despite optimistic plans for improving research with information technology campus-wide, administrators are careful to align their projects with other incremental goals such as serving more students, lowering costs and improving the education process. We do not take a particular position about desirable investment rates for library automation; we simply observe that this segment of digital library budgets can be made relatively visible, controllable, and tradable against other inputs for library services (i.e. holdings, hours, and staffing).

The control over access to networked digital library resources relatively decentralized in North American universities. Universities primarily provide access to the Internet, but the nature of such access and the ways that academic schools, departments, and institutes pay for services varies from one university to another. In extreme cases, some "leading edge" universities have provided two ethernet connections to every campus office and classroom, while other universities have wired only a fraction of offices (often in the sciences) with twisted pair and don't offer SLIP or PPP. All of the universities that we have studied rely upon academic units to find funding for relatively "up-to-date" high performance PCs or Macs and printers if they want such equipment for all faculty and Ph.D. students. Universities vary in the extent to which they centralize or decentralize the purchase of file servers, support for computer training, network consulting, and other "human infrastructure." A local collection of computers, networks, software, and technical staff does not constitute a digital library. It provides a basis for scholars to search for and try to read, possibly print, and use documents that are stored in digital form elsewhere

A few (often elite) universities have created campus-wide networked resources and services through "big-step" computing policies (Lindbloom, 1979). In contrast, most universities have grown their networks over longer periods of time through incrental extensions. But the use of campus computer nets for scholar;y work depends upon numerous decentralized decision-making processes (i.e. what types of contributions count for tenure and promotion) that fragment centralized efforts to promote use of both paper and digital resources. For example, we found one project to catalog a special collection of rare prints that was clearly a mutual process between a faculty member (and a cadre of students who will find it easier to work with this material) and librarian who needs a constituency to justify budgeting for an previously little-used resource.

We have not yet located any university libraries (or other academic units) that help manage these Internet-based electronic archives for students and scholars. Libraries may provide workstations with some Internet tools, such as web browsers. But the digital archives, including their integrity, permanence, indexing (if any), and manipulability is outside the domain that librarians define for themselves. The high energy physicist who seeks preprints from HEPnet (maintained by Stanford Linear Accelerator (Okerson, 1991) does so by himself, or with help from his graduate students. The literary scholar who seeks articles in the (electronic) Bryn Mawr Journal of Medieval Studies or the (electronic) journal, PostModern Culture, usually searches, downloads, prints, and reads by himself or herself. These e-journals, as well as preprint servers, LISTSERVs and diverse archives provide a cornucopia of materials whose marginal cost of acquisition often seems small to scholars. The Computer Scientist who obtains preprints in postscript from the (electronic) Journal of AI Research via a Web server does so at his or her own discretion and with his or her own trust in the authenticity of the documents. This electronic AI journal is particularly interesting since its editors have taken special pains to integrate it into the paper corpus of academic scholarship by having joint paper publication and by distributing in a form such that its articles appear as if they were photocopies from a paper journal (see Kling and Covi, 1996).

Scholars who use Internet services have a delightful freedom from the collection control policies of campus librarians. Moreover, their preferences seem to be strongly influenced by shifting standards in their own subspecialties, to which university libraries do not usually respond very rapidly. It is easy to find enthusiasts for digital library services that are mediated by the Internet (ie, Harnad, 1995; Drabenscott, 1993; Okerson 1991). But we have not found coherent accounts that situate the use of digital and paper materials in the context of specific scholarly projects, or of coherent university policies.

The costs of acquiring and storing materials from the Internet is also hidden from organizational accounting. Standards vary for what constitutes "cheap storage": many humanities scholars still use computers with 80MB disk drives while a few computer scientists have 40GB disk farms. We have had difficulty in finding university officials who have budgetary control over the diverse computing support that supports effective Internet access and also paper resources acquired by university libraries. While most research universities are incrementally increasing their support for Internet access by faculty and students, it does not seem to be managed in some visible way as a direct tradeoff with paper library investments. Moreover, faculty maintain their own copies of (or pointers to) Internet-based materials, universities do not purchase sharable resources with their Internet investments. In contrast with the journals or books that libraries acquire, catalog, shelve, and make available to all, the materials on a faculty or students' hard drives are a form of private property and are not visible to others.


Which models of organizational choice and change best describe these shifting investments in new (digital library) information systems? Overall, universities are making steady increases in their investments in digital library resources. While there are occasional large investments in digital resources, the bulk of investments seem to be driven by local disjointed incrementalism within departments. There might seem to be a big digital shift from paper to electronic materials taking place in universities. There certainly is technological momentum behind this move (Smith & Marx, 1994). But, simultaneously, paper materials remain supreme in most fields.

Faculty outside the humanities prefer to publish in paper journals and often subscribe to 4-8 journals personally. Aside from computer science, most faculty exchange preprints in paper by mail. And even Computer Scientists prefer to print preprints and technical reports for reading. There are today perhaps 100 refereed electronic journals, but few seem to be widely read by top academics (Kling and Covi, 1996). But when graduate students or faculty read electronic journals, they usually print the articles for sustained reading. Paper does not disappear when faculty use digital materials.

Our early observations suggest that universities appear to be steadily drifting into more intensive digital investments with little managerial oversight about the extent to which their investments are effective or efficient, adequate or frugal. Few academic administrators seem to see this situation as a problem. Brown University*s President Vartan Gregorian recently commented:

"The role of the president, of course, is not to lead the development of new information technologies, nor even to herald their arrival, argue their importance, or warn of their dangers. If presidents are successful at their leadership and managerial tasks, then there will be plenty of others who will be doing those things within the university community. The role of the president is to establish a process that will promote the integration of these new technologies, with each other and with the mission and the core values of the university (Gregorian, 1996)"

Presidents delegate the oversight to Provosts and other senior administrators. In turn, oversight is delegated down and across the administrative hierarchies. In the end, faculty and their disciplines drive the demand for digital media.


Quantifiable indicators such as the number of Web sites, electronic mail addresses or even bits carried across research networks impress administrators to consider large shifts in resource allocation. After all, how can they attract research funding, capable students and support the best scholarly work without access to digital libraries? Nevertheless we have seen how drift and disjointed incremental decision-making figure prominently in campus IT policy.

We have found that academic IT managers and librarians base their primary IT investment decisions on modest incremental extensions of their pre-existing IT infrastructure rather than on trying to match the national level growth in signs of demand for digital media in academia. They track local measures of actual computer use as a basis for planning --- the number of people who seem to depend upon World Wide Web for their work, the demand for electronic mail accounts and number of information retrieval requests from bibliographic databases. To be sure, many research universities have some kind of digital media supported somewhere on their campuses. But the necessity of basing decisions on decentralized use in a period of strong fiscal limits for universities makes drift rather than shift characterize the production and use of digital documents in North American universities in the next decade.


This document reports an empirical study of the ways that faculty and graduate students in several fields in research universities use DL services in the course of their routine work. In the Winter and Spring of 1995 we carried out field studies in eight U.S. research universities, and interviewed 124 faculty and graduate students in four disciplines. In addition, we interviewed over 24 academics administrators about their investments in campus networking, and paper and digital media (See Section 3). This report includes some early analyses of our data and at this point we draw the following conclusions:

a. Our major conceptual shift -- to focus on the use of DL services as part of a process of scholarly communication -- was extremely productive.

b. We found substantial variations in the use of digital libraries in the four disciplines (Section 4). Literary theorists, sociologists and molecular biologists made significant use of indexes and abstracting services that were mediated by publishers and provided by their campus libraries. In contrast, computer scientists did not use such indexing and abstracting services; they were also the primary researchers who extracted electronic texts from Internet-mediated sources. (Section 4).

c. Universities vary substantially in the extent to which they provide computer networking and Internet access for the faculty. Some major universities have spent considerable money and effort to wire all campus offices while others have (so far) emphasized the laboratory sciences. Network access alone is not a good predictor of DL use, since productive scholars also want (network) access to discipline-specific indexes, abstracts or text corpuses. (Section 5).

d. The "Principle of Proficiency" influences professional practices for using documentary materials. This principle leads many scholars to organize their own private collections of materials, and also leads the publicly accessible data on the WWW to be of little value to many sociologists and literary theorists (Section 6)

e. The "Principle of Proficiency" helps us to understand why and when scholars in particular fields prefer to used DL sources in conducting a comprehensive search, to browse, or to retrieve items that have been previevously identified. (Section 6)

f. The Internet might be of greater interest to scholars if electronic journals become a major medium of scholarly communication. We have found that too few scholars perceive electronic journals to be legitimate means of communication for them to become major media soon (Section 7).

g. While this appears to be a period of major structural transformation in a shift from print media to digital media, the internal structure of universities and budgetary limits lead to local processes that are better characterized as organizational drift to digital media. (Section 8).

These early findings from our study have been communicated to various groups in the library and information sciences and computer sciences through 9 articles, one Ph.D. dissertation, and 16 presentations at conferences and universities.

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Appendix I

Faculty Interview Schedule

Opening: Thanks for time, introduce self, briefly explain SCIT, discuss anonymity, sign consent forms, interview overview

Faculty Name _____________________ Dept _____________

Office Addr. _______________ Phone __________

Email ____

Interviewer __________ Date ________

Interview Code ___


PhD Field ______________________ University ___________ Yr ___

Yrs @ This Campus __________________ Rank ___________________


TEACHING: # of classes per yr ____ #BS/BA ___ #MA/MS #PhD _____

# PhD active dissertation advises _________ #MA/MS ths ___

Use computers in teaching


RESEARCH: Specialties ________________

basic scholarly approach (experimental, secondary data anal, simulation, system building, documentary, theoretical ....)

Grants:$/yr ______ (key sources) __________ duration __

Common meetings/workshops: _____________________

Invited lectures at other universities/institutes/ etc.

Typical formats of publication & frequency ____________

PROF ROLES: EDITORIAL ___________________

CONF. PROGRAMS _____________

OTHER _______________________



Central Narrative

Select a current project that represents your scholarly work and is in ms form or has been published.

We'd like to understand your central questions and the research process with special attention to your use of articles, books, reports -- both paper and electronic -- at various stages of your research -- conception, development, funding, research publication.... Feel free to discuss your relationships with collaborators & RAs re. use of documentary materials on this project.

(Examine bibliography of paper/book and discuss citations, if possible/sensible).


PAPER - MOST RELEVANT COLLECTIONS & JOURNALS & CONF. + where found & basis of relevance (content, visibility, status, ...) .....


# books in office _______ # bookcases @ home _____ (#books____ _)

#jrnl subscriptions ____ # lib books ________

#ILL _____ Freq (ILL) ________________

Other Libraries Visited ______________________________

Which jrnls:


- MOST RELEVANT (& TRIED): & How accessed, perceived value & legitimacy.


Email, LISTSERV, Netnews,

gopher, WWW

OPAC, Bib Databases,

Outside databases

E-journals, Other ......(local, commercial)

Note other formats: CD, Video, Microforms, slides.

How typical is your style of use re. your colleagues in your dept or field?

How sophisticated is your electronics materials usage relative to your colleagues & PhD students?


Discuss the size and character of the academic community which the person sees as their primary audiences? Whom do they want to see their research? Who seems to see it (via personal contacts, citations) .... and how (talks, papers, electronic media).

Has R reviewed papers/proposals with inappropriate/poor/inadequate citations? (Actions?)


Common work locations & why: (Probe for electronic access from locations)

When do you do most of your scholarly work

How do you work w/collaborators?

How do you use the campus/departmental libraries?

How do you learn about new electronic document sources (Campus or Internet)?

What kinds of help do you have re. work, incl. secretarial?

How many share secy? _________ + tasks ??? ______

Who do you ask for help w/docs & computing?

Ever get help from computing consultants? (scope, value)

Ever get help from librarians? (scope, value)

How typical is your style of work re. your colleagues in your dept or field?


Probe for hardware, software, communications, OS, WP choices,

Which HW/SW used most often?

Which printing ...?

Internet access?

Managing long electronic documents?

computer/laptop -- printer -- modem -- network -- other (scanner)


COMPUTING FACIL. NR. OFFICE ___________________

COMPUTING FACIL. @ HOME ______________________


Who paid for key eqpt & upgrades?



Inquire about possible PhD students to interview ...

Take a photo of office/work area ...

What could (YOUR UNIVERSITY/UNIT) do better in providing computing support or library support for your research?

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Appendix II

Notes on Research Methods

We have described our research methods in some detail in Section 3 of this report. We believe that the data from the study yield important, useful, and reliable conclusions. However, like all social research, our data and methods are subject to some specific limitations:

1. The study design was initially focused on collecting data on resource arrangements for digital library use and thus site selection reflected a diverse set of resource availability by institution rather than sampling on more germane variables such as reported mastery ability level or drawing a snowball sample of participants in particular research subspecialties. Gathering data from these alternative designs would have yielded findings about what constituted mastery ability levels in different world worlds or more specific attributes of the mastery ideal in research subspecialties rather than in the research disciplines.

2. Because analysis is data-driven, analysis is limited to the findings present in the data collected. Because the study design narrowed the range of informant selection to faculty and doctoral students at Carnegie I institutions, the data set oversampled faculty researchers who had a high level of mastery in their work worlds. In addition, the selection of these elite researchers at prominent U.S. universities limited consideration of the mastery abilities of the researchers who win the most grants, attract the most highly ranked students and interact with other prominent researchers. The sample does, however accurately represent work practices of highly productive researchers.

3. Another limitation of this data set is the undersampling of doctoral student researchers, particularly in sociology and literary theory. Because it was difficult to locate for interviews students in these disciplines who were in the later stages of their doctoral work, the study's findings do not include a great deal of evidence about doctoral students' use of materials on their different mastery ability levels.

4. This study was also limited by the schedule for data collection (See Appendix II). Because the vast majority of research informants were only interviewed once, the findings reflect a static snapshot of informants material use practices at one particular moment in time. For example, discussions of the principle of mastery therefore do not take into account the way informants' mastery ability changes over time or the relationship between mastery ability and changing technology. It is left for future work to examine how differences in accounts taken at different times affect the principle mastery and material use practices.

5. This study is limited by the self-reported nature of the data collected about the behavior of faculty and graduate students in using digital and paper media. Although the data collected by doctoral students who worked closely with faculty researchers and reports from digital library infrastructure providers on use of campus resources were used to check the accuracy of faculty informant accounts, the data do not always reflect the true behavior of the informants. However, the focus of analysis on perceptions and reported material use practices produce useful results about how researchers approach paper and electronic materials if not how they actually use them. The principle of mastery embodies both actual behaviors and perceptions of norms which shape rather than mandate individual behavior.

6. The analysis was also limited by the small number of sites and interviews (data collection) due to time, travel and budget constraints. Studying material use practices involved complex and interdependent aspects of worklife so it was impossible to chronicle all the factors involved with this approach. These limitations make theory evolution based on field studies hard, but it remains the best strategy to begin to understand what factors shape practice in situ.

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Appendix III

A Brief History of the Use of Gopher and WWW in 1993-1995.

The National Center for Supercomputing Activities's (NCSA) development of Mosaic, a graphical WWW browser, was critical in catalyzing the WWW as a communication medium that was accessible outside the laboratory sciences and technical communities. In early 1993, Mosaic was available exclusively for X-windows platforms; beta-test versions of Mosaic for Apple Macintoshs and Windows became available in September, 1993. By January 1, 1994, NCSA reported about 84,000 X-Mosiac downloads, 45,000 Mac-Mosaic downloads, and 21,000 Win-Mosaic cumulative total downloads (http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/Presentations/Stats/MosCum.html). While these numbers underestimate the number of Mosaic copies in circulation because of mirror sites as software sources and relatively free circulation of the software. There were about 400 WWW sites worldwide, while the number of Gopher sites numbered closer to 4,000. The number of WWW sites and the fraction of Internet traffic attributable to WWW grew exponentially in 1994 and 1995. Accordng to The Internet Society, gopher traffic was about 309,000 MB in December 1993, and the WWW was responsible for about 225,000 MB (http://www.isoc.org/ftp/isoc/charts/90s-www.txt).

In 1994, the WWW was still a technology whose use was relatively limited even though its was growing rapidly. For example, NCSA reports that 260,000 cumulative downloads each for X-Mosaic and Mac-Mosaic by December 1994 (http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/Presentations/Stats/MosCum.html). August 1994 was the first month in which the cumulative number of Win-Mosaic downloads (about 195,000) exceeded the cumulative totals of X-Mosaic downloads (187,000) and Mac-Mosaic downloads (145,000). By November 1995 the cumulative number of WinMosaic downloads (about 1.2 million) exceeded number the X-Mosaic and MacMosaic downloads from NCSA. March 1994 was the first month in which WWW traffic exceeded Gopher traffic (518,000 MB vs. 480,000 MB) (http://www.isoc.org/ftp/isoc/charts/90s-www.txt). Both services continued to grow, but WWW began to outstrip Gopher. By November 1994, WWW Internet traffic was about four times the size of Gopher traffic. Even today, the Gopher is stillm in use. For example, many of the historical reports on The Internet Society's homepage are in gopher directories and formats in late 1996.

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Appendix IV


This project would not have been possible without significant (and often enthusiastic) cooperation from numerous academic administrators, faculty, and graduate students. First, and foremost, we owe special thanks to the University Librarians, Directors of Academic Computing, and faculty in computer science, literature, molecular biology, and sociology at he eight universities that participated in this study. In order to protect the identities of faculty informants, we have given these universities pseudonyms (Section 3).

Funding for a grant, "Institutional and Organizational Dimensions of the Effective Use of Digital Libraries, " (US. Department of Education Grant #R197D40030) paid for critical travel. Mr. Neal Kaske of the US. Department of Education was an enthusiastic program manager during his tenure.

We also appreciate the support of UC Irvine's Center for Research on Information Technology and Organizations -- both key staff members and its Director Prof. Kenneth L. Kraemer for creating a hospitable environment for hosting this project. Prof. Michael Pazzani, Chair of UCI's Department of Information and Computer Science was also helpful in supporting sabbaticals for Prof. Rob Kling in the Winter quarters of AY 1994-95 and AY 1995-96. This periods of teaching release were critical for the conduct of this study.

In addition, we have discussed various aspects of academic electronic publishing and digital library use pertinent to this study's design, execution, data collection, and interpretation with various colleagues since early 1994. Unfortunately, the list does not include an additional group who raised interesting points and questions when we discussed these topics in seminars and lectures at American University, the University of Tampere (Finland), Umea University (Sweden), Indiana University, the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland, the University of Illinois, Syracuse University, and the University of California-Irvine.

The interest and support of colleagues in numerous disciplines, as well as academic librarians and computing administrators, energized us in the conduct of this study. However, the projects' investigators are responsible for the final design and execution of the study, and any questions about the data and interpretations reported here.

We would like to thank the following colleagues for their interest, support and helpful comments and criticisms:

Phil Agre UC - San Diego

Paul Attewell CUNY Graduate Center

Charles Baily University of Houston

Howard Besser UC- Berkeley

Ann Bishop University of Illinois, UC

Christine Borgmann UCLA

Michael Buckland UC-Berkeley

Walter Crawford Research Libraries Group

Andrew Dillon Indiana University

Margaret Elliott UC-Irvine

Leigh Estabrook University of Illinois, UC

JoAnne Euster UC-Irvine

Tom Finholt University of Michigan

Ed Fox Virginia Polytechnic & State University

Stephen Franklin UC-Irvine

Julia Gelfand UC-Irvine

Steven Gilbert Amer. Ass'n of Higher Education

Rebecca Grinter Lucent Technologies

Jonathan Grudin UC-Irvine

Carol A. Hert Indiana University - Bloomington

Suzanne Iacono Boston University

Perrti Jarvinen University of Tampere

Neal Kaske University of Maryland

Sarah Kiesler Carnegie-Mellon University

Don Kraft Louisiana State University

Robert Kraut Carnegie-Mellon University

John L. King UC-Irvine

Kenneth L. Kraemer UC-Irvine

Roberta Lamb UC-Irvine

Mitzi Lewison Indiana University - Bloomington

Cynthia Lopata Syracuse University

Clifford Lynch UC- Department of Library Automation

Charles McClure Syracuse University

Munir Mandiwallah Temple University

Robert Newsom UC-Irvine

Michael Pazzani UC-Irvine

Paul Evans Peters Coalition for Networked Information

Mark Poster UC-Irvine

Karen Ruhleder University of Illinois, UC

David Shumway Carnegie-Mellon University

Lee Sproull Boston University

John Walsh University of Illinois, Chicago

Barry Wellman University of Toronto

Gregory Welsh American University

Terry Winograd Stanford University

[1] Drosophila is more precisely known as the vinegar fly.

[2] In contrast, in some biological sciences, like cell biology, very high resolution (1200 dpi) photographs play a key role in communicating findings. But biologists are not yet enabled to produce and print documents that integrate text, charts, drawings and high-resolution photographs. Michael Zack Northeastern University

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social informatics, centers, research, information technology, computerization, social and organizational change, electronic communities, kling, covi,values, digital economy, CMC, CSCW, education, theory, socio-technical systems