With this issue, Information Research begins its fifteenth year of publication. At the start, we simply had an electronic replacement for the magazine that reported on research carried out in the Department of Information Studies at the University of Sheffield. That magazine was, itself, an extension of CRUS News, the occasional publication of the Centre for Research on User Studies. When the British Library R&D Department withdrew funding for the Centre, we converted CRUS News into Information Research News and out of that emerged Information Research.
I had in mind at the outset that what was essentially a 'house journal' had the possibility of becoming a fully peer-reviewed electronic journal and took it in that direction first by inviting papers from scholars who seemed to have something interesting to say and, thence, into the full panoply of the peer-reviewed journal, with Editorial Board and all the usual trappings. I don't think many of my colleagues thought that the journal would succeed in the wider world and, indeed, one or two were opposed to the whole idea of 'yet another journal' in the field. I did not believe, however, that a free, open-access, solely electronic journal was 'yet another journal', but a very different kind of product, which would enable anyone with Internet access to read the results of research in the field, without paying the ever-increasing subscription charges of the commercial publishers.
A question for me, however, even fifteen years ago was, 'What is the field?' This is a question I still wrestle with, but one thing is certain: the fields of information management, information services, information systems, and everything related are much more tightly interwoven than they were fifteen years ago and, also, continually expanding into new areas. The notion of a 'field' of study seems to have expanded into a universe of study, with the equivalent of the 'big bang' being the introduction of the World Wide Web. Those who opposed the idea of an electronic journal like Information Research had, I think, no idea of the way 'the field' was going to develop and overwhelm the established notions of libraries, information science and information management.
Fifteen years later, Information Research is a top-ranked journal; for example, it has recently been rated in category 'A' by the Australian Research Council, in its review of research outlets. Undoubtedly, it is the open access character of the journal that has helped it to achieve this kind of success, plus, of course, the determination on the part of the editorial team to strive for excellence in what we publish. We get over half-a-million hits on the site every year, most of those driven by search engines and, as far as I can see, that volume is unlikely to decline.
We have no specific celebration of our fifteen years: with no income and entirely voluntary labour, we lack the capability of inviting all our readers to a celebration party, but the very existence of the journal in the face of all the well-funded competition that exists out there in the big world of publishing, is cause for celebration in itself.
So, thank you everyone: editorial board members, copy-editors, referees, associate editors, registered readers, and casual visitors to the site. I hope to be writing another celebratory editorial for the twentieth anniversary!
In this issue
We have fewer papers in this issue than in the previous issue: I think that there is a rush towards the end of the year to get papers published so that they can be counted in the annual returns! This is not a problem, however, because, as an electronic journal, we don't have a specific number of pages to fill - each paper is one page.
The papers we have reflect the diversity of the field referred to above: first, Pamela McKenzie reports on a study of how midwives and women exchange information in building up their relationship. The research employs conversation theory and discourse analysis and finds that 'small or relational talk is... a site both for the negotiation of the social practices of informing and for the enactment of the very relationship that provides the context for such informing'.
Next Javier Guallar and Ernest Abadal explore 'The digital press archives of the leading Spanish online newspapers' and find that fewer than half of them show high, or even medium, levels of development that would meet professional standards.
Lin-Chih Chen researches the keyword suggestion systems used in search engine marketing and writes of the development of a system employing a latent semantic analysis probability model, which is shown to perform better than the existing systems.
Next, Alesia Zuccala explores the implication of open access to the scientific and scholarly literature for the development of civic scientific information literacy; that is, the public understanding of science. From the findings, Zuccala derives a number of policy recommendations, noting that the Netherlands' government has concentrated its efforts on the physical infrastructure of the information society to the neglect of the development of citizens' skills in using the technology.
Finally, Sujin Kim reports on an investigation into the information needs of researchers who use biological samples in their work. These samples come from various sources, including pathology laboratories and bio-repositories. A conceptual framework for information requirements is developed based on work roles, tasks, characteristics of data and biosample needs, factors affecting information seeking outcomes.
Perhaps the economic climate has hit the publishers, because we have a smaller number of book reviews than usual in this issue. However, those reviewed are the usual interesting selection covering a variety of topics from Webometrics to the impact of information technology on the ethics of globalization. I remarked earlier on the complex nature of 'the field' and it seems that the book reviews exemplify this complexity!
Professor Tom Wilson, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief