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Generation Y researchers, open content and open source

July 22nd, 2010 by Graham Attwell

The UK based Jisc published an interesting report yesterday. The Researchers of Tomorrow study presents emerging findings from the first annual report of a major three-year study into the information seeking behaviour of Generation Y doctoral students. According to Jisc “the research shows that there are striking similarities between students born between 1982 and 1994 and older age groups.” As such it represents yet another blow to Prensky’s idea of Digital Natives.

The first annual report of the longitudinal study includes evidence-gathering from three groups of doctoral students in the UK, including: a cohort of 60 Generation Y doctoral students from 36 universities; responses to a national context-setting survey returned by over 2,000 Generation Y scholars and responses to the same national context-setting survey returned by 3,000 older doctoral students.

Generation Y students and older students concur on a number of areas:

–    Open access and open source – like students of other ages, Generation Y researchers express a desire for an all-embracing, seamless accessible research information network in which restrictions to access do not restrain them.  However, the annual report demonstrates that most Generation Y students do not have a clear understanding of what open access means and this negatively impacts their use of open access resources, so this is an area to be followed up in the next year.

–    Networked research environment – both Generation Y and older students express exasperation regarding restricted access to research resources due to the limitations of institutional licenses.  This is born from a sophisticated knowledge of the networked information environment and students regularly speak favourably about sector-wide shared services and resource sharing.

The research indicates, however, potentially interesting and important divergences between Generation Y and older doctoral students; for example, where students turn for help, advice and support and attitudes to their research environment.

–    Supervisor and librarian support – Generation Y scholars are more likely to turn to their supervisors for research resource recommendations than older doctoral students.  Also, 33% of Generation Y students say they have never used library staff for their support in finding difficult to source material.

–    Using library collections and services – Library collections are used heavily by students in their own institutions, but only 36% of Generation Y students have used inter-library loan services compared to 25% of older students, with 42% of arts and humanities students using these services regularly compared to 13% among science students.

The full report can be downloaded at http://www.researchersoftomorrow.net.

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