Processes in scientific workflows for information seeking related to physical sample materials

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Sarah Ramdeen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, United States
The majority of State Geological Surveys have repositories containing cores, cuttings, fossils or other physical sample material. State surveys maintain these collections to support their own research as well as the research conducted by external users from other organizations. This includes organizations such as government agencies (state and federal), academia, industry and the public. The preliminary results presented in this paper will look at the research processes of these external users. In particular: how they discover, access and use digital surrogates, which they use to evaluate and access physical items in these collections.

Data such as physical samples are materials that cannot be completely replaced with digital surrogates. Digital surrogates may be represented as metadata, which enable discovery and ultimately access to these samples. These surrogates may be found in records, databases, publications, etc. But surrogates do not completely prevent the need for access to the physical item as they cannot be subjected to chemical testing and/or other similar analysis.

The goal of this research is to document the various processes external users perform in order to access physical materials. Data for this study will be collected by conducting interviews with these external users. During the interviews, participants will be asked to describe the workflow that lead them to interact with state survey repositories, and what steps they took afterward. High level processes/categories of behavior will be identified. These processes will be used in the development of an information seeking behavior model. This model may be used to facilitate the development of management tools and other aspects of cyberinfrastructure related to physical samples.