Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Seeking Online Information Sources: Science Faculties in Developing Countries

Muzammil Tahira, University of the Punjab

Document Type Article



Scholarly communication is the essence of all scientific work (Gravey, 1979). With the emergence of digital information resources and internet, the modes of accessing, searching, retrieving and consuming scholarly information have been rapidly changed. This scenario is "effectively transforming science into e-science" (Robert, 2009). The major developments in scientists' world are: globalization, exponential growth of S&T literature, increasing tendency of team research (multidisciplinary & interdisciplinary), collaboration at local, national and international level, and rapid disseminations of research results through sophisticated technologies. The direct access to scholarly communication made their practices more productive and collaborative. This scenario has brought certain challenges along with promising opportunities (Tahira, Muzammil, 2008).

The literature reports that science academicians of higher education are heavy users of e-scholarly communication besides traditional sources (Tenopir, 2002; 2003; Smith, 2003; Hiller and Self, 2002; Tenopir and King, 2004; 2001; Jamali, 2008). All over the world library subscription, online subscribed and unsubscribed sources are playing an important role in meeting their scholarly needs at local, national and international level. Life scientists were found the biggest users and OA repositories featured strongly in the ranked lists of life sciences (Nicholas et al. 2009)* "The scientists have high expectation for being able to access all the information they need in the online format" (Jamali, 2008). While studying the differences in information seeking behaviour of scientists from different subfields of physics and astronomy, he raises question for this community that "What is not available online is not worth reading". Surridge rightly advocates the importance of web 2.0 as an important mode to meet the scientists' needs. He says that in principal, this transition to Web 2.0 is perfectly natural. Scientists of the past or present are habitual of "crowd sourcing" of knowledge through open debate and Web 2.0 fits perfectly with the science works (as cited in Waldrop, 2008, May). The significant increase in the use of electronic modes and systems has a positive influence on the ease of communication without affecting the inherent structure of the process and this initiative is positively debated by faculty members and academic officers at some prestigious institutions by notion "NO" to big deal (Smith, 2007).

The awareness and adoption of e-journals is increasing rapidly while convenience of use has remained the most important concern for users. However, "the capacity to absorb scientific and technical knowledge is often weak in developing countries, leading to low levels of scientific output and further under-development" (Chan, Kirsop, Costa and Arunachalam, 2005, p.3). ProQuest advisory board meeting viewed that permanent access is a big deal, and raised the question to "thoughts on institutional repositories, open access, ILS, and anything else that comes to mind" (Arbor, 2007, May, 7-8). The concept of OA has introduced by Harnad (1999) in a proposal. He suggested to place scholarly pre-prints along with post-prints of peer-reviewed published articles in open archives, and made available for free of cost. "OA is now threatening to overturn the $6 billion scholarly publishing industry and is forcing even the largest publishers against the ropes" (Poyender, 2004, p.5).

Providing speedy and reliable e-access to consumers is a fundamental prerequisite for promoting digital culture in a country. This study has been made at a time when the Government of Pakistan initiated significant, concrete efforts by establishing ICT infrastructure in universities and providing e-sources to university libraries in order to meet the changing needs of academicians, especially in the field of Science and Technology (S&T). The Government, through Higher Education Commission (HEC), is spending huge amount of budget for the subscription of online sources and promotion of national digital library programme. This is a unique example of country level subscription of e-sources in the third world (Said, 2006). Right now, HEC is spending huge amount of money in subscribing more than thirty e-databases and 45000 e-books. And it is also providing lending services from different e-repositories (Punjab University Library, n. d.)

Library and information services available to the Community of PU are:

1. A central library

2. Institutional/departmental library units

3. HEC National Digital Library on Campus Access (subscribed as well as open access digital sources i.e., e-journals, e-books, links to e-repositories etc.)

These e-databases are searchable at PU campus with one window interface through ELIN (Electronic Library Information Navigator). ELIN integrates data from several publishers, databases and e-print open archives (Punjab University Library, n. d.).

The networked academic environment demands that S&T teachers and researchers of Pakistan make effective use of the available resources for competitive teaching and research. They suppose to be able to use effectively the "knowledge @ your [their] fingertips" (Pakistan, HEC, n.d.). At the same time, for LIS professionals it is vital to probe into the pattern and practices of this community regarding seeking and using the digital resources at their disposal.

For the purpose of this study, 'OA' and 'SA' are defined as:

Open Access: An e-mode to access the information that is digitized, free of charge, copyright and licensing restrictions and available through general online-resources (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Scirus etc., e-links and informal e-communication).

Subscribed Access: HEC, IP based free on campus access to its affiliated institution(s).