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The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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1.1 The current state

There have been a number of recent studies examining researchers’ use of new technologies, and the conclusion one can draw from these is of cautious experimentation. Perhaps, more than any other of the scholarly functions, the use of new technology in research is the most conservative, maybe because research is the practice still most highly valued. This chapter will look at some of the current evaluation research and then look at some of the potential uses.

If technology uptake is examined first of all, most studies indicate that researchers tend to use a variety of tools, some of which are provided by their institution and others they have selected themselves (Kroll and Forsman, 2010). In terms of Web 2.0 technologies, there is tentative take-up; for example, Procter, Williams and Stewart (2010) in the United Kingdom found that a majority of researchers are making at least occasional use of one or more web 2.0 tools or services for purposes related to their research: for communicating their work; for developing and sustaining networks and collaborations; or for finding out about what others are doing. But frequent or intensive use is rare, and some researchers regard blogs, wikis and other novel forms of communication as a waste of time or even dangerous.

There is little evidence to suggest that age is a factor in the use of new technologies, as Carpenter, Wetheridge and Smith (2010) claim:

There are no marked differences between Generation Y doctoral students and those in older age groups. Nor are there marked differences in these behaviours between doctoral students of any age in different years of their study. The most significant differences revealed in the data are between subject disciplines of study irrespective of age or year of study.

There is a general suspicion around using social networks to share findings, although many researchers use them for personal and professional networking (James 2009, Carpenter et al. 2010). Carpenter et al. describe researchers as ‘risk averse’ and ‘behind the curve in using digital technology’. Similarly Harley et al. (2010) state that ‘we found no evidence to suggest that “tech-savvy” young graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, or assistant professors are bucking traditional publishing practices’.