Open Access and Civic Scientific Information LiteracyReport as inadecuate

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Information Research: An International Electronic Journal, v15 n1 Paper 426 Mar 2010

Introduction: We examine how residents and citizens of The Netherlands perceive open access to acquire preliminary insight into the role it might play in cultivating civic scientific literacy. Open access refers to scientific or scholarly research literature available on the Web to scholars and the general public in free online journals and institutional repositories. Method: Four focus group sessions were held at a conference centre near Amsterdam. Participants were between the ages of twenty-one to sixty and grouped on the basis of age and educational background. All were invited to complete a brief digital literacy and information literacy questionnaire, and contribute to a set of ranking and vignette exercises designed to encourage discussion. Results: Participants generally agreed that open access literature could be useful for personal decision making and conveyed an interest in medical treatment research and other research "that has to do with people." Some concern was expressed about the cognitive accessibility of scientific research, but participants were confident that they had the online search skills to find this literature. Science journalists were appreciated for their role as interpreters; however, universities and scholars were considered more credible as information sources, though some participants wondered if scientists and scholars were making their work visible enough to the lay public. Conclusions: Current science policy in The Netherlands is focused on motivating young people to raise their interest in science and technology and engage in science-related careers. We recommend the introduction in schools of strategic e-learning programmes designed to help young citizens develop a greater appreciation for scholarly and scientific research and improve their capacity to make decisions as online information consumers. (Contains 5 tables.)

Descriptors: Electronic Learning, Scientific Research, Focus Groups, Science Interests, Information Sources, Foreign Countries, Scientific Literacy, Information Literacy, Internet, Access to Education, Electronic Journals, Electronic Publishing, Scientific and Technical Information, Questionnaires, Community Attitudes

Thomas D. Wilson. 9 Broomfield Road, Broomhill, Sheffield, S10 2SE, UK. Web site:

Author: Zuccala, Alesia


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