A ‘Tipping Point’ in the Evolution of Research

If you think search engines have disrupted the research process, wait until you see what’s coming in the next decade.

That’s one of the subplots running through the March-April 2020 issue of Information Outlook, the theme of which is “The Evolution of Research.” Adrian Mulligan, research director for customer insights at Elsevier, highlights some of the coming changes in his article, “Key Drivers for Researchers of the Future”:

“Whatever happens, ‘business as usual’ will no longer be possible for any of us working in the research ecosystem,” he writes. “We have reached a tipping point: In the decade ahead, new funding models will emerge, new methods of collaboration will develop, and new ways of conceptualizing research and measuring its impact will materialize, driven by advances in technology and the ideas of a new generation.”

Stephen Phillips, an information management consultant in London, also foresees gradual yet radical changes in the research environment:

“As we look forward to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will see the continued proliferation of data and content,” he writes in his article, “From Information to Intelligence.” “The Internet of Things is accelerating the speed at which we all create data. New vendors will strive to monetize data by creating new platforms and services, shifting their focus from physical to digital assets. Information-handling skills will become mainstream, with tools and products to leverage this expertise. Content-rich products will proliferate, along with technologies to make their data accessible and free flowing. Natural language processing will deal with unstructured content. Robotic process automation will streamline repetitive tasks and some bespoke work.”

How will special librarians fare in such an environment? Ann Cullen, Simon Burton, Anne Barker, Karen Reczek, and other authors in this issue note certain traits—innate curiosity, the ability to focus, a thirst for knowledge, and an instinctive “feel” for finding, curating, and presenting information and data—that have helped special librarians adapt not only to the rise of search engines but to the dissolution of physical libraries and the replacement of “hard” collections with online resources. These traits are sure to be invaluable to special librarians as they navigate the ever-evolving information and research climate of tomorrow.

Want to get a head start on preparing for the research ecosystem of tomorrow? Join SLA and read Information Outlook!

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