The Digital Landscape of Scholarly Communication

March 31, 2016

Ni and Song

An Interview with Asst. Prof. Chaoqun Ni and Visiting Scholar Enmei Song

Enmei Song is an Associate Professor at School of Information Management in Wuhan University. Her research focuses on the intersection of information behavior and scholarly communication. She is a Visiting Scholar this spring at SLIS, collaborating with Asst. Prof. Chaoqun Ni on a project researching online scholarly communication. Song and Ni sat down with Infolink and answered some questions about their collaboration. 

Much of your research focuses on the impact of mobile and digital technology and social media on information behavior. In what ways have digital and social media changed scholarly communications in China? Globally?

Digitizing information resources helps scholars access and download the academic material they need quickly and conveniently. We conducted a research study about the citation patterns of digital academic articles in the CNKI database (China National Knowledge Infrastructure) by comparison of two types of articles: the printed-only articles and the articles published on hybrid media (in both printed and digital forms). We found that journal articles published on hybrid media are cited more frequently than printed -only articles, and printed-only articles are reused and recited more in the hybrid environment after their original printed publication. 

Social media-based scholarly communication has been a popular and useful model for scholars of different levels to interact with each other in an informal manner. Scholars use social media for exchanging information, starting new relations, stimulating new research ideas (eg. Chen & Bryer, 2012; Gruzd, Staves, & Wilk, 2012), and developing local and global collaborative opportunities (eg. Gu and Widen-Wulff, 2011; Gruzd, Staves, & Wilk, 2012). 

Besides mainstream social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter, studies have focused on social scholar communication platforms, such as Mendeley, ResearchGate and CiteULike, etc. In China, Blog in科学网博客)is a popular scholarly communication platform drawing scholars and researchers from different disciplines. Meanwhile, a new specialized social platform SoScholar (Social Scholar,天玑学术网) has integrated multiple academic service patterns such as search, socialization, recommendation and analysis. Further empirical research is expected based on these platforms.

Could you talk about your work on Collaborative Information Space at the National Social Science Foundation of China? 

Information Space in this research is defined as a conceptual model based on the information communication S-C-R model (Source-Channel-Recipient model, proposed by Brian C. Vickery and Alina Vickery in their book Information Science in Theory and Practice (3rd edition), K. G. Saur Verlag GmbH, 2004) and the transition and integration of information science paradigms, which consists of three dimensions: organization, transfer, and use.

In order to study the development of information science and information practices in the Web2.0 environment, collaboration culture and collaborative network concepts are introduced into the information space model to probe possible impact of this environment on information-related stakeholders, including information producers, service providers, and users. 

More specifically, UGC (User Generated Content), as a new information-creating pattern, has greatly changed information organization and transfer. A typical example is crowdsourcing. Traditional authoritative information producers need to explore appropriate ways to coordinate with the new information producers. Users are exposed to more various and multiple information, and are thus faced with more decisions. Our project has explored this issue from multiple perspectives, including Wikipedia, social Q&A platforms ( and in China) and film reviews on social media ( and in China). Although not yet complete, our preliminary results indicate collaborative-produced information requires quality control solutions to cope with its inherent disorder and potentially inferior quality. Further efforts will be devoted to this project.

In addition to a long list of publication credits, you have received many awards for your teaching efforts. What are your favorite subjects to teach? Do you have a guiding philosophy or approach to your style of instruction?

I have taught Introduction to Information Management, Information Economics, and Information Communication. I enjoyed teaching all of them. 

Using concrete examples for theoretical concepts is useful for students. I like introducing examples and cases studies from real organizations in the class and encouraging students to discuss and analyze problems based on theories related to my lectures. Additionally, I usually invited practitioners and experts in our field to share their professional experiences in order to help students connect theories with practical applications.

Is this your first visit to Boston? What do you hope to do while you’re here beyond research?

This is my first visit to Boston. Simmons College is well-known and highly ranked in the LIS field, and I definitely want to communicate with faculty members in terms of teaching and research.

Boston is a very attractive city with great resources for culture, art, and education. The universities (Harvard, MIT, etc), museums (MFA, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard Museum of Natural History, etc) and other famous sights and attractions are at the top of my tour list.

While you are here, you and SLIS Instructor Chaoqun Ni also plan to study the hiring network in the library and information science discipline. Can you explain this project a bit and what you hope to uncover? 

For this project, we aim to explore the faculty mobility network in the Library and Information Science field in China. We are most interested in understanding if there is a pattern of faculty hiring among institutions—in terms of identifying institutions who are main exporters of future faculty members—and investigating factors associated with the hiring decisions regarding faculty members.

The results should allow us to better understand the flow of human capital in the Library and Information Science field in China, and quantify the influence of potential factors in academia to shed new light on the academic system.

Photo, from left: Chaoqun Ni and Enmei Song. Photo by Alisa Libby.