Released today in the UK by JISC and the British Library.
Research students need more face-to-face and informal support tailored to their own subject area to help them embrace open web technologies and social media fully, according to the UK’s largest study of doctoral students commissioned by the technology consortium JISC and the British Library.
The Researchers of Tomorrow project spoke to 17,000 doctoral students over the course of its three year longitudinal study to set a benchmark for the research behaviour of so-called Generation Y students born between 1983-1992.
The final year of the study looked in detail at researchers’ use of social media applications within the research setting, and it found that, over the three-year period, there has been only a gradual increase in use of the social web and social media, which may seem surprising considering our increasingly digitalised culture..
[Emphasis Ours] For example, 23% of all the students have made passive use of online forums, but only 13% have taken an active part in any discussions: 23% followed blogs, but only 9% maintained a blog themselves. Active take-up of institutionally-provided open web resources is also low, with students requesting more information about technologies and applications such as Google Scholar, cloud computing, EndNote and Mendeley.
[Clip]Other findings from the report include a continuing lack of understanding about the nature of open access. Generation Y students felt that putting their own work out openly will bring them no positive benefits, and may even have a negative impact. Equally, doctoral students’ understanding of the intellectual property and copyright environment appears to be a source of confusion, rather than an enabler of innovation. The debate about open access continues to be prominent in the media, and JISC and the British Library will continue to engage with researchers to ascertain how attitudes might be changing.
The study also highlighted a marked dependency on published secondary sources rather than primary sources, such as archival materials and data sets, as the basis of students’ own original research, regardless of discipline. This marks a significant change in the nature of doctoral research from only a decade ago, with potential significant implications for doctoral students’ experience of finding and using primary research sources.
- Access to relevant resources is a major constraint for doctoral students’ progress. Authentication access and licence limitations to subscription-based resources, such as e-journals, are particularly problematic.
- This generation of doctoral students operate in an environment where their research behaviour does not use the full potential of innovative technology.
- Doctoral students are insufficiently trained or informed to be able to fully embrace the latest opportunities in the digital information environment.