One size does not fit all for life scientists

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‘One-size-fits-all’ information and data-sharing policies are not achieving scientifically productive and cost-efficient information use in life sciences. This is one of the conclusions from a report by the British Library and the UK’s Research Information Network (RIN).

The report, based on over 11 months of research involving 56 participants, found a significant gap between how researchers behave and the policies and strategies of funders and service providers. This suggests that the attempts to implement such strategies have only had a limited impact.

The report revealed that researchers use informal and trusted sources of advice from colleagues, rather than institutional service teams, to help identify information sources and resources. It also found that the use of social networking tools for scientific research purposes is far more limited than expected. Life scientists share data and information because of needs and perceived benefits, rather than because of  ‘top-down’ policies and strategies and there are noticeable differences in the sharing behaviour of researchers between research groups active in different areas of the life sciences. This suggests that standardised policy approaches should be avoided.

The study was carried out by the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, the UK Digital Curation Centre and the University of Edinburgh’s Information Services.