Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Are engineers still lazy (about information seeking?)

Is short, yes. Cost and utility are still major drivers of information behavior. Interpersonal sources are still very important as is Google.

Allard et al. (2009). Design engineers and technical professionals at work: observing information usage in the workplace. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60(3): 443-454.
  • Engineers spend 1/4 of time in information work.
  • Less than we used to have perhaps due to better searching technology
  • Choosing internet as primary information source
  • Common themes: internal communication is key; associated cost (ease of access) is also key
  • People still talk to colleagues, suppliers, etc. The do, however, use the Internet for both expertise location and to engage in communication
  • Internet is important as a source of information
  • "Engineers are less likely to feel that they have as much time to spend on information-seeking tasks. This could have huge implications for the innovation process in terms of losing time on projects that might have pertinent research published, but not easily accessible through the engineer's first stop: Google." p. 452
  • Software, web/Google, and documents, etc. are big for information use
  • Email is important
  • Recurring themes: prevalence of internal communication; reliance on peer information; cost of information, particularly ease of access; concerns of quality/trustworthiness.

  • Good literature review
  • Themes:
    1. Organization and retrieval
      1. Memory
      2. Journaling over time
      3. Commenting software for retrieval and reuse
      1. Writing to remember and reporting to retrieve
      2. Specific file organization: Personal Handbooks
      1. Specific file organization: Technology and project files
      2. Seeking information from people: Maintaining a collection of experts
    2. Un-organized aspects
      1. Organized messes
      2. E-mail, the overlooked collection
      3. No bibliographic reference databases
    3. Information keeping and preservation
      1. The nitty gritty is lost
      2. The engineer provides the best preservation
    4. Use of specialized tools
      1. Software, whatever works

  • Keep a personal handbook
  • "Information" by topic; "Records" by date and function
  • Cultivate relationships
  • There are not "pilers" vs. "filers" but always a combination of both
  • Participant: "the day to day scribbley note stuff that you use just to keep the work going -- most of that will get tossed."
  • Blogs -- for Medium-term writing
  • ED: So, is Evernote a handbook?

Du Preez & Fourie (2007). The information behaviour of consulting engineers in South AfricaMousaion 27(1): 137-158.

  • Engineers rely on people, personal files, personal knowledge, Internet, FTP, digital cameras
  • Books, codes of practice, acts, and regulations are all important and used frequently. Often retrieved on the Internet
  • Trade literature for product information
  • Google; document exchange; email; site visit; conferences for developing personal connections
  • Cost and time are factors


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