May 18, 2022

Report: Information Practices in the Physical Science and Impact of Digital Technologies on Research

The following report was recently published by the Research Information Network (UK) and IOP Publishing.


Information Practices in the Physical Science: A Quantitative Study to Evaluate the Impact of Digital Technologies on Research in Physical Science


“Prepared by Research Information Network (UK) and IOP Publishing”



From an IOP News Release With Key Findings:

While cross-border and cross-disciplinary collaborations are breaking down subject siloes across the physical sciences, a culture of traditional and DIY information practices still holds sway among scientists when it comes to the curation, management and publication of formal research findings.

That’s the headline take from a new report that examines how physical scientists find, use, share and disseminate research information – and specifically how their information practices are changing as a result of new digital technologies.

“Our latest findings are based on a survey of nearly 6,000 scientists around the world – a much broader view of scholarly communications in the physical sciences than any previous study,” explains lead author Ellen Collins, a Senior Research Consultant at RIN.

The survey found that 70% of respondents had collaborated formally with researchers outside their own department in the last five years, with a further 16% collaborating informally.


At an individual level, the report identifies a widespread preference among physical scientists for building personal collections of research articles, with 87% of respondents storing the last article they read electronically (and 29% storing a paper copy as well).

“Despite all the money being spent on repositories, and preserving content in the ‘cloud’, researchers are still making personal electronic libraries,” explains Collins. “The most popular storage method, by some way, was storage on a computer or laptop.”


On dissemination, peer-reviewed journals remain the gold standard for sharing formal research outputs in the physical sciences, with 79% of respondents commonly sharing research findings, data or code through traditional journal publication.

“No other platform is as popular for sharing formal research outputs,” says Collins. One-to-one emails were selected by 41% of respondents and personal or institutional websites by 30% of respondents, but it seems likely they were chosen as a way to raise awareness of formal findings published in journals.

Direct to Full Text: Information Practices in the Physical Science: A Quantitative Study to Evaluate the Impact of Digital Technologies on Research in Physical Science (31 pages; PDF)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.