The impact of computer usage on scholarly communication among academic social scientists
The study aims to see whether there are differences in the nature and patterns of computer usage for communicating research between disciplines in the social sciences in Brazil and, if so, whether they can be related to factors which can affect the process of communication. The theory embedded in the research model states that pressures that accompany the introduction of information technologies into a university environment are significant factors in the use of such technologies. These pressures produce differences in the communication process itself. Furthermore, there may also be a relationship between individual factors and the use of IT for communication. The research data were collected via a survey using two instruments. Firstly, mailed questionnaires were sent to 760 academic researchers in sociology and economics in Brazil, working in post-graduate programmes. A response rate of 64.1 percent was achieved. Secondly, 36 interviews were carried out with a sample of the most productive researchers in the two subjects studied. The interview sample included both respondents and non-respondents to the questionnaire. A small sample of 1I British academic researchers was included in the interview survey, in order to allow comparisons and see whether Brazilian academics lag behind IT front-runners. Data collected revealed that there is an impact of computer usage on the scholarly communication process, especially in terms of informal communication. Such an impact can be related to changes in the social interactions that underlie knowledge creation among researchers, and also relates to differences in patterns and processes of computer usage between the chosen disciplines. Formal communication has experienced a gradually growing impact by electronic media on the well-established print environment, with the likely co-existence of the two media for some time to come. The results obtained showed that Brazilian researchers do not lag behind the British ones. Not many differences, but most similarities were found between economists and sociologists in both Brazil and the UK.