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Working with changing patterns

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Researchers have the same core content needs as they had in the past but the way they use content is changing, says Mary Sauer-Games, senior vice president, market development at ProQuest

What changes have you seen in information for research?

The core content needs of researchers today have not significantly changed over time. Researchers still need access to high-quality scholarly journal articles, A&I databases and books, as well as primary sources like data sets, historic newspapers and documents. There is an expansion of the definition of core content in some disciplines, to include new content formats like multimedia and interactive models.

However, what has really changed is the way that researchers need to find, access and use content. Researchers expect that content will be delivered to them electronically, when they want it, where they want it and in a format they can use. As new electronic platforms like mobile devices and e-readers emerge, publishers need to adapt our content for these devices. Also, as the amount of available electronic content increases, researchers need to be assured that they have located everything that is relevant to their research.

How do researchers use information resources today?

Users are much more confident in their abilities to find and use information. For that reason ProQuest is pioneering technologies that make library resources as simple to navigate as open web searching. For example, technologies like the Summon web-scale discovery service from our Serials Solutions business make the library simpler to use and navigate, enabling users to get more return on one of their greatest investments – the library collections. It also allows libraries to show off their greatest asset – content that’s superior to the open web.

We have seen that researchers are beginning to adopt the same search habits that they are using on consumer sites like Amazon, Google and Facebook. They tend to enter fewer search terms and expect to be able to narrow their results after the search.

Researchers also expect to be able to do more with content once they find it. Sharing content is becoming more prominent. Rather than simply emailing an article link to a colleague they might post the link on a personal classroom page or Facebook page. They also want to personalise content by tagging it with more relevant subject terms or adding their comments. And with video content they want to create and save specific clips for later use.

How has ProQuest’s strategy evolved?

We try to look at what researchers really want to do, see where the pain points are and create solutions to meet their particular problems. We are also trying to bring together more content that researchers need. For example, we are creating transcripts for video clips so that users can search them and find where things are within a video. In digitising the whole run of Vogue we are working with editors to do deep indexing of designers, models, types of clothing, types of material and adverts.

ProQuest has also developed a new platform that will allow researchers to search across all of ProQuest content in a single framework. We are already looking to build on this so that the platform will include ProQuest Extended Search, a Serials Solutions technology that will enable libraries to connect to other non-ProQuest databases as well.

What are the big information challenges for researchers today?

One big challenge is navigating the sheer volume of material that is available to researchers. They can never be assured that they have found all of relevant material for their research needs. We have also heard frustration from researchers who know that an article is available because they found it a few days, weeks or months ago, but were unable to find it again to support their research argument. It’s essential that we help searchers overcome barriers like this by creating interfaces that allow them to organise content in ways that help them make sense of what they have found and to recreate their search paths.

What do you predict for the future?

I think information resources will become more personalised for researchers’ needs. I can envision tools that will push content of interest to researchers based upon the content that they have searched in the past or articles that they have looked at and rated highly. There will be more opportunities for researchers to network and share content with their self-defined group of peers. I can see information resources that provide spaces for collaboration and interaction with fellow researchers. We are experimenting with new technologies and creating test sites for social interaction such as AtmosPeer and EEBO Interactions for early English books. Experiments like these should help ProQuest to create successful social networking experiences on our platform.

Interview by Siân Harris