Who Do We Trust?

Trust Panel (L-R) Kent Anderson, Dean Smith, Hazel Woodward, allen Renear

This panel considered issues of trust in scholarly publishing and academic librarianship.  Kent Anderson, publisher of the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery noted that trust is a continuum from not trusting people at all to trusting them implicitly.  He said that people or companies in the publishing chain are said to be trustworthy, but our actions show otherwise.  Brands and processes are trusted more than people are, but since the use of social media has increased, we have been forced to trust people more than previously.  Some brands have been stretched into several products; how much can they be trusted?

Dean Smith, Director of Project MUSE, defined trust as the expectation that arises within a community of regular, honest, and cooperative behavior.   There is an evolving trust dynamic between publishers, vendors, and librarians.  (For example, Project MUSE was founded on trust between a librarian and a publisher.)  Reliability and responsiveness are the most important factors in building and maintaining trust for librarians and publishers.

Hazel Woodward, University Librarian, Cranfield University, said that high quality content is a prerequisite of a trusted journal brand. Academics contribute to the brand trust of journals by writing articles and also contribute to the trusted brand of the library by recommending quality information resources for collections.  They also influence students’ perceptions of trusted information brands.  (See “Researchers of tomorrow” study, 2010, JISC and BL)  Doctoral students are very happy to use new technology but do not equate ease of access with quality of resource.

High quality content is a prerequisite of a trusted journal brand.  Academicscontribute to the brand trust of journals by writing articles.  They also contribute to the trusted brand of the library by recommending quality information resources for collections and influence students’ perceptions of trusted information brands. Students are very happy to use new technology but do not equate ease of access with quality of resource.  Libraries are purchasers of information but not consumers, so they have to trust both publishers and authors.  Trust is the smallest word that makes the biggest difference.

Alan Renear, Associate Dean for Research, Graduate School of LIS, University of Illinois, suggested that trust is not a single attribute that can be measured, and its importance varies.  It is being exploited in “strategic reading”, which is the trend away from searching towards other methods of finding materials such as text mining.  In the process, searchers make judgements of many kinds, almost like they might use in playing a video game.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and Conference Circuit Blog Editor

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