Information and Discovery in Neuroscience
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
29 April 2003
Carole Palmer, Associate Professor
Melissa Cragin and Tim Hogan, Doctoral research assistants
Information Systems Research Lab, GSLIS, UIUC
NSF, Computer and Information Science and Engineering /
Digital Technologies and Society - Grant No. 0222848
What information conditions are associated with
significant progress and problems during the
course of research?
How does information contribute to:
discoveries, breakthroughs, intellectual advancements
What elements help / hinder the research process?
newness, mobility, scatter, boundaries . . .
Concerns for Information Science
Mix of information and activities supported has
important influence on what new knowledge can
Research communities value and apply information
in different ways.
Interests of researchers need to be represented to
larger community of information system
Focus of research program
Fields that serve as models of information dynamics:
distribution, integration, exchange, heterogeneity
Structures and strategies of information work, barriers
Digital library development
Customization and cross-domain inquiry and collaboration,
Computational project that builds on Don
Swanson’s theoretical work on “disconnected
Papers that discuss potential applications of
Swanson and Smalheiser’s tool
identifying “new” information
mobilizing scattered information
easing information work across boundaries
The Logic of Arrowsmith
Arrowsmith is built on the premise that discoveries might be
made by linking findings from disconnected literatures.
AB “B” BC
Literature B 2 Literature
“A” B3 “C”
A ? C
Links to Arrowsmith project
Invited by Neil Smalheiser to consider using field
testing efforts to continue my studies of the role of
information in advancing research and collaboration.
Arrowsmith proposal Aim 1:
“…test whether Arrowsmith analyses are feasible and useful for assessing
research issues in field tests of neuroscientists working as part of large
multi-disciplinary groups…; have investigators from large multidisciplinary
groups look actively for opportunities to conduct Arrowsmith analyses that
arise naturally from research carried out by their group...”
Key factors for IDN project
Naturalistic test sites in compelling field
extensive and complex knowledge base
high level of informatics activity
Monitoring of information searches
represent ongoing research projects
already established, therefore more awareness
and less intrusive
Proposed Arrowsmith scenarios
1. Finding pieces of the puzzle in different disciplines
(i.e. nutrition and psychiatry)
2. Assessing significance of finding relative to literature
3. Non-expert searching
Do these fit with your lab’s work?
Arrowsmith and scope of IDN project
Range of information activities, tools and resources
literature and data - gathering, using, sharing
points of progress and problems
important contingencies, combinations, functionalities
information from outside core specialization or expertise
modes of collaboration and information sharing
Testing previous results
Modes of research
relationships between information practices and
strategies for building research base
Major boundary work difficulties
searching far afield vocabulary
learning anew core maintenance
- Palmer, Carole L. (2001). Work at the Boundaries of Science: Information
and the Interdisciplinary Research Process. Dordrecht: Kluwer.
- Palmer, Carole L. (1999). "Structures and Strategies of Interdisciplinary
Science." Journal of the American Society for Information Science 50, no.
1) Document when information is needed and used in
daily research activities.
2) Develop profiles or “scenarios” of information-based
advances and problems.
3) Identify effective combinations of information
activities and resources.
4) Analyze boundary-crossing information work.
Human subjects protocols
Data aggregation for reporting
Limited use of verbatim text
We look for conditions that promote progress.
Identify stages / modes of research and
Assess related information sources, channels, activities
- high-impact information
- significant information problems
- effective information combinations
- levels of scatter
- influence of information from subdisciplines
- searching and management techniques, needs
Typology of information activities and key
Articulation of information problems unique to
Profiling of requirements for transfer and
exchange of information between specializations
Refinements and functionalities for Arrowsmith
Recommendations and requirements for new
tools and resources, upgrades for existing
Prioritization for digital library development
federation, meta-data, and interoperability
Mapping and supporting the “fault lines” of
New directions for national libraries and