A. Ostermaier-Grabow, E. Steinhagen, S.B. Linek

ZBW - Leibiz Information Centre for Economics (GERMANY)
In the past years the development of the so-called Web 2.0 established new possibilities to create a collaborative and participative environment. Web 2.0 not only changes private life but also offers new prospects for scientific exchange. Generally researchers are open and positive towards Web 2.0 and use it very often for their private issues. Contrariwise, Web 2.0 is used only by a minority for their scientific work.

The presented empirical study aimed at a better understanding of researchers’ needs and asked academics for the perceived advantages and disadvantages of conventional communication channels compared to Web 2.0.

We conducted three focus group interviews with twelve German researchers of different academic levels. By means of a semi-structured interview we asked for the intention as well as for types of usage and examples of conventional media and Web 2.0. Subsequently, we have systematically surveyed the participants for the advantages and disadvantages of conventional media versus Web 2.0.

Overall the findings revealed that the participants mainly mentioned conventional media and only a few Web 2.0 services for their daily working routines. Research assistants primarily used Google Scholar and scientific databases. In addition, students had the intention to follow the recommendations of their lecturers for the selection of their information sources in Web 2.0. To stay up to date the participants mentioned conferences and the communication with colleagues or fellow students.

As advantages of Web 1.0 the participants referred to their confidence in the quality, the sufficiency and the establishment of the conventional sources. The main perceived disadvantages of Web 1.0 were the dependence on the mandatory established academic system and the limited participation opportunities for younger researchers. As advantages of Web 2.0 sources they reported about new opportunities of publishing, research exchange and self-presentation. In addition, the participants characterized the services of Web 2.0 as additional opportunities for (heuristic) information search and participation. As disadvantages of Web 2.0 the participants mentioned the limited establishment in the scientific community. Furthermore, the participants were unsure of the quality and the validity of information provided in Web 2.0.

In summary, the new opportunities of Web 2.0 were known and partly used but regarded as incomplete and insufficient because the old established systems were still required. Web 2.0 has the potential to provide faster information, higher actuality and more personalized options. But the lack of confidence in quality and the limited establishment discouraged the participants to use it for everyday work-related purposes. The direct face-to-face interaction (e.g., conferences or exchange with colleagues) seems to be essential for the scientific work and cannot be completely substituted by Web 2.0 so far.

Our results revealed that Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 can profit from each other. The advantages of one mirror often the disadvantages of the other. For the development potential of the Web 2.0 the advantages of the conventional media (e.g. quality) should be considered and integrated.