Adam Kolawa has a piece in the 4 April Computerworld on Reading Is Key to IT Innovation, lamenting the fact that researchers are missing current research because the traditional source, print journals, are getting less and less of the new research in IT (and other disciplines). More researchers are publishing new research in online, or the exciting findings get published online first and in print months later.
Parasoft CEO Adam Kolawa warns that many U.S. researchers and scientists are operating in ignorance of their peers' latest work, and this practice is endangering America's global competitiveness in science and technology. Reading up on colleagues' research can prevent the unnecessary reinvention of already available processes and methods, and the subsequent waste of time and resources. Kolawa thinks the root of the problem could be the transition to electronic publishing, which is driving a reduction in the publication of printed journals and magazines and causing a disruption of scientists' routine of reading the latest research on a regular basis. The problem is typical of software engineering, where early adoption of online publishing prevented the establishment of such a routine; but Kolawa is alarmed by the manifestation of this trend in other disciplines and industries. Unless this trend is halted, he writes, the United States research community will inevitably suffer a decline in its ability to innovate. "If we begin to lose the initiative in innovation and research in the material sciences, then we risk losing our position as global intellectual leader in a number of important areas, including medical research, aerospace, astrophysics, geophysics and engineering," Kolawa warns. He notes that online publishing can help solve this problem because it makes the knowledge that scientists are ignoring readily available. But the disciplines and communities that need this knowledge must train themselves to retrieve it frequently.
[abstract via ACM TechNews]
Of course, one solution is to look for ways to integrate web feeds (RSS, Atom) into the publication of online research and then aggregate those sources into one place, either with your feed reader or with an aggregation service. In addition, one can set up feed searches against topics of interest. I continue to encourage the news-y websites and services to consider adding web feeds, so I can keep track of their news more easily.
One of the students in my KM class is doing her project on RSS adoption in her organization, and this question of finding appropriate (but not too much) information has been one of the findings.
Aggregators and web feeds are only a technical solution to this problem. The community needs to learn how to use the tools, and the right feeds need to be available to help the community find the news they need.