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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Fall 2015

STS Research Agenda Task Force Report

Science and Technology Section Research Agenda Task Force
Andrea Baruzzi
Princeton University
Princeton, New Jersey

Nestor Osorio
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, Illinois

Members: Roxanne Bogucka, Laura Eiford, Melissa Gold, Karen Stanley Grigg, Nirmala Gunapala, Patricia J. Hartman, Jeanne Hoover, Catherine L. Lantz, Sara Russell Gonzalez, and Kelli Trei


Charge In the fall of 2013, the STS Research Agenda Task Force was formed by request of the STS Council. The primary outcome of the task force was to develop a research agenda by identifying current and upcoming research trends in science and technology librarianship. Additionally, the task force's charge included working with the Emerging Leaders Project Team assigned to STS. The task force used research agenda examples from other ACRL groups, like the Women and Gender Studies Section, to inform the development of the project. While the Emerging Leaders Project Team evaluated collaborative software, the Research Agenda Task Force commenced an extensive literature review and survey in order to capture the current and future research areas.


The rationale for a Research Agenda is to determine which areas are well covered in current publications and to identify gaps in the body of professional knowledge for science and technology librarianship. Publications responding to the research questions raised in this Agenda will guide professional practice as well as shape the curriculum of future library and information science programs.

At ALA Midwinter 2014, the STS Research Agenda Task Force met to decide how best to prepare for creating a research agenda. The need for member feedback was stressed, and the group knew that a survey instrument should be employed to assess STS membership's priorities and desires for a research agenda.

The task force decided to perform a literature review of relevant journals to determine frequently covered research areas currently in STEM library journals. The task force decided to divide into two subgroups. One group would analyze the literature review to determine what research areas are most common. The second group would design and develop a survey, based on the themes that emerged from the literature review. The results of the survey would then be used to inform the development of the research agenda.

During ALA Midwinter 2015, the task force held a forum to provide an update regarding the status of our charge and to elicit additional feedback from members of STS.


The Science and Technology Section's Research Agenda arises from two main sources of information. First, in order to identify emerging topics and research gaps in science librarianship, we conducted a comprehensive literature review. Second, we analyzed these findings by keyword frequency to produce a shortlist of top research areas. Finally, a survey was created and disseminated based upon the research areas highlighted by the literature review and analysis. A link to all the supporting materials can be found in the Appendix.

Literature Review

The literature review included all relevant research articles published between 2004 and 2014 from the science librarianship journals and between 2009 and 2014 from the general library journals. Research articles were defined as having a stated purpose/problem, methodology, and results.

To perform the search, we used Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts (LISTA) to generate lists of articles from selected journals (with the exception of ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings, which is not indexed in LISTA). Committee members examined records of individual articles for relevance to science librarianship and exported the full citation record of the selected articles to a shared library in EndNote Web so all members of the task force would have access to the findings.

The literature review consisted of two parts. First, we exported all research articles in journals specifically related to science librarianship. Journals searched included:

Second, we searched for relevant articles in the tables of contents of journals broader in scope. Titles included:

The search results were forwarded to the analysis subgroup, which was tasked with organizing and analyzing the records generated by the literature search. The review yielded a total of 1,326 articles along with 3,819 accompanying subject terms.

The analysis subgroup output the compiled records as an EndNote subject bibliography, then exported them to an Excel file of subject headings, deleting duplicates and non-essential subjects (i.e., places and proper names). Related subjects were placed into categories (e-book platforms and e-book readers were placed into the general e-book category). The subject terms most frequently occurring comprised the list of research areas from which the survey subgroup worked.


The survey subgroup developed the survey based on the literature review and data analysis. It was modeled after the ACRL Instruction Section's (IS) research agenda survey, particularly the portion related to demographics. The survey consisted of 15 questions. Demographic questions were intended to determine the type of institution, position, and similar framing questions. The rest of the questions focused on what research areas the respondents are interested in, what they are not, and what they see as the future of science and technology librarianship research. We also gave the respondents opportunities to write in additional responses so that they were not limited to the prescribed research areas listed in other questions.

The survey subgroup disseminated the survey through science librarianship-related mailing lists. In addition to the ACRL-STS list, the survey was sent to ACRL STS, the ACRL Health Sciences Interest Group, ASEE-ELDnet, SLA-Sci/tech division, SLA-DBIO, SLA-PAMnet, and SLA-Cheminf. The Medical Library Association (MLA) list was not chosen, as MLA had already created their own research agenda. Qualtrics survey software was used to create and distribute the survey. Qualtrics was also used to analyze responses which required simple or weighted calculations, and for cross-tabulations. Other responses were hand-coded and analyzed based on those codes. The survey was launched on November 10, 2014 and ran until November 21, 2014. There were 258 respondents.


The Survey

Analysis of the respondents' demographics found the following:

The top six research areas that respondents were interested in reading more about are:

It is important to note that, on a scale of 1-4, with one being an area of least interest and five of greatest interest, 50% of the categories scored above a 3.0 and none scored below a 2.0.

When asked what research areas respondents are tired of reading about and what areas will be influential in the next ten years, scholarly communication and data scored the highest in both questions, with social media following close behind on the list of topics the respondents no longer wanted to read about.

Fifty-six percent of the respondents are currently conducting research. The largest of the survey categories for current research is instruction, followed by scholarly communication and metrics/assessment. The smallest of the survey categories are ethics and interlibrary loan.

Using the Qualtrics cross-tabulation feature, we looked for correlations in a variety of areas. First, we compared the ratings given to the areas listed in the question "I would be interested in reading more research about..." to whether or not the respondent's institution required them to do research. Interestingly there was only one category, usability, which showed a significant difference in the rating. Respondents who are required by their institution to conduct research were more likely to state that they were not interested in reading more research about this topic. Other correlations tested did not show any significant difference based on the variables.

The Research Agenda

Given further analysis of the results of the survey, in particular the write-in results of question two -- ("What other areas of research are you interested in learning more about?") and question four ("What are three topics that you believe will influence science and technology librarianship in the next ten years?") -- the Task Force proposes the following areas and topics as the basis for the research agenda.

The Research Areas




Emerging Leaders Project

As a part of the Research Agenda, the Task Force was asked to consider how the Agenda could be shared and utilized most effectively in an online environment. To that end, the Task Force, along with leadership within STS, developed an ALA Emerging Leaders Project investigating options for creating a "digital collaboratory" that would allow interaction with the Research Agenda as well as with other STS members interested in collaborating on research. The team investigated various products that provide desired features such as communication methods (e.g. email, conference call access, message boards), document storage and collaboration space, and calendar/project management tools. Wiggio, Freedcamp, and Producteev offer the desired features, and the team evaluated them further for ease of use, accessibility, and quality of user support. Based upon this evaluation, the team recommended using Wiggio.



All of the following documents can be found at

It is recommended that one download the documents into the appropriate Microsoft-related product (i.e., Word, Excel, Powerpoint).

  1. Bibliography-Literature Review
  2. Survey Tool
  3. Survey Answers-Demographic questions
  4. Survey Answers-Agenda questions
  5. Survey Answers-Correlations
  6. Emerging Leaders Poster
  7. Research Agenda Forum-Powerpoint presentation
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