The role of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) in information and communication in science. A conceptual framework and empirical study
Pikas, Christina Kirk
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Problem This dissertation presents a literature-based framework for communication in science (with the elements partners, purposes, message, and channel), which it then applies in and amends through an empirical study of how geoscientists use two social computing technologies (SCTs), blogging and Twitter (both general use and tweeting from conferences). How are these technologies used and what value do scientists derive from them? Method The empirical part used a two-pronged qualitative study, using (1) purposive samples of ~400 blog posts and ~1000 tweets and (2) a purposive sample of 8 geoscientist interviews. Blog posts, tweets, and interviews were coded using the framework, adding new codes as needed. The results were aggregated into 8 geoscientist case studies, and general patterns were derived through cross-case analysis. Results A detailed picture of how geoscientists use blogs and twitter emerged, including a number of new functions not served by traditional channels. Some highlights: Geoscientists use SCTs for communication among themselves as well as with the public. Blogs serve persuasion and personal knowledge management; Twitter often amplifies the signal of traditional communications such as journal articles. Blogs include tutorials for peers, reviews of basic science concepts, and book reviews. Twitter includes links to readings, requests for assistance, and discussions of politics and religion. Twitter at conferences provides live coverage of sessions. Conclusions Both blogs and Twitter are routine parts of scientists' communication toolbox, blogs for in-depth, well-prepared essays, Twitter for faster and broader interactions. Both have important roles in supporting community building, mentoring, and learning and teaching. The Framework of Communication in Science was a useful tool in studying these two SCTs in this domain. The results should encourage science administrators to facilitate SCT use of scientists in their organization and information providers to search SCT documents as an important source of information.