Information literacy: perceptions of Brazilian HIV/AIDS researchers

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<ul><li><p>Information literacy: perceptions of Brazilian HIV/AIDS researchersMaria do Carmo Avamilano Alvarez*, Ivan Franca Junior*, Angela Maria Belloni Cuenca*,Francisco I. Bastos,, Helene Mariko Ueno, Claudia Renata Barros*</p><p>&amp; Maria Cristina Soares Guimar~aes</p><p>*School of Public Health, University of S~ao Paulo, S~ao Paulo, Brazil, Institute of Scientific and Technological Communication</p><p>and Information in Health, Fundac~ao Oswaldo Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Imperial College, London, UK, and School ofArts, Sciences and Humanities, University of S~ao Paulo, S~ao Paulo, Brazil</p><p>Abstract</p><p>Background: Information literacy has evolved with changes in lifelong learning. Can Brazilian healthresearchers search for and use updated scientific information?Objectives: To describe researchers information literacy based on their perceptions of their abilities tosearch for and use scientific information and on their interactions with libraries.Methods: Semi-structured interviews and focus group conducted with six Brazilian HIV/AIDS researchers.Analyses comprised the assessment of researchers as disseminators, their interactions with librarians, theiruse of information and communication technology and language.Results: Interviewees believed they were partially qualified to use databases. They used words and phrasesthat indicated their knowledge of technology and terminology. They acted as disseminators for students dur-ing information searches. Researchers abilities to interact with librarians are key skills, especially in arenewed context where libraries have, to a large extent, changed from physical spaces to digital environments.Discussion: Great amounts of information have been made available, and researchers participation in coursesdoes not automatically translate into adequate information literacy. Librarians must help research groups, andas such, librarians information literacy-related responsibilities in Brazil should be redefined and expanded.Conclusions: Students must develop the ability to learn quickly, and librarians should help them in theirefforts. Librarians and researchers can act as gatekeepers for research groups and as information coachesto improve others search abilities.</p><p>Keywords: Information literacy, library and information professionals, lifelong learning, qualitative,research</p><p>Key Messages</p><p> Research groups and librarians can contribute to information literacy by working together. Librarians should increase their awareness of information literacy and strongly support its</p><p>development. Information literacy should be evaluated in a comprehensive manner. It should not be evaluated</p><p>solely based on course participation.</p><p>Introduction</p><p>The Internet, online databases, digital publicationsand other technologies have made the search for</p><p>scientific information more accessible and, simulta-neously, more complex.1 The area of informationscience, as well as other knowledge areas, contin-ues to examine this complex Web of systems tolearn new ways to facilitate practical activities.Questions raised by recent studies include the fol-lowing: What will happen to research libraries as a</p><p>Correspondence: Maria do Carmo Avamilano Alvarez, Faculdade deSaude Publica, Universidade de S~ao Paulo, Av. Dr. Arnaldo, 715, CEP01246-904, S~ao Paulo, SP, Brazil. E-mail: malvarez@usp.br</p><p> 2013 Health Libraries Group of CILIP and John Wiley &amp; Sons Ltd64 Health Information &amp; Libraries Journal, 31, pp. 6474</p><p>DOI: 10.1111/hir.12047</p></li><li><p>result of the development of technological marvelssuch as Google? How we do position ourselves inthe face of so much information?Librarians and researchers are being challenged</p><p>because production, distribution, and consumptionof information continue to grow at a rapid pace.Only a few solutions have been offered. However,a number of initiatives have been instituted to helpscholars develop their abilities to navigate theworld of scientific information more competentlyand effectively.The concept of information literacy emerged</p><p>during the 1970s. It was based on the experiencesof users during training on information searchmethods conducted in libraries. Later trainingaddressed methods to search databases. Currently,the term information literacy describes a set ofskills and knowledge employed to discover rele-vant information, to accurately evaluate retrievedinformation and to apply it correctly.2 This type ofliteracy requires lifelong learning because it relieson psychosocial thinking and development that iseither interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary. In the-ory, a person who is information literate should beable to locate and interpret factual information andtransform it into knowledge. According to theguidelines of the International Federation ofLibrary Associations (IFLA),3 an information lit-erate individual should possess the ability to useinformation to create ideas, develop actions, andact as a disseminator of learning. In academia, thefreshmen students skill development begins whenthey enter universities. They are taught methodsthey can use to search for information so they cansolve problems, assimilate what they have learned,and subsequently, act as disseminators amongpeers and future colleagues in their professions.Many academic institutions include information</p><p>literacy in their official curricula. This fact gener-ates several theoretical questions: Who and/or whatare the objects and the subjects of information liter-acy? Therefore, some studies conducted on infor-mation literacy are now considered research relatedto the area of education. They are no longer solelyconsidered user studies restricted to the field oflibrary sciences.4 Wilson4 hoped to contribute tothe available literature on information searchbehaviour and information literacy. By returning tothe theory of the activity, Wilson examined the</p><p>individuals who served as the subjects of thesestudies: the self-taught student, the teacher or thelibrarian. He also investigated possible objects ofthese studies: Was each skill possessed solely byan individual student? Alternatively, were collec-tive skills possessed by a group?In Brazil, information literacy has not yet been</p><p>added to the official curricula of schools and uni-versities. Some libraries develop their own pro-grammes to guide users. However, these areusually individual efforts.Traditionally, the field of health maintains an</p><p>intensive profile with respect to the consumptionand production of scientific information. This pro-file has been strengthened by the fields increasinguse of information and communication technolo-gies. Researchers serve as authors, referees andconsumers of scientific information. Their abilitiesguide their careful and critical behaviour duringthe search, evaluation and use of information.However, some questions have emerged: Do researchers believe they are informationliterate?</p><p> Do they possess the skills required to discoveraccurate information?</p><p> Do researchers possess sufficient skills toupdate their bibliographies?</p><p> Do researchers serve as disseminators of theseskills?</p><p>Many issues have been raised. Yet, users per-ceptions of information literacy have received onlylimited attention.This current study hopes to describe the infor-</p><p>mation literacy of researchers who work in thefield of health based on their own perceptions oftheir abilities to search for and use academic/scien-tific information. This study also describes theseresearchers interactions with libraries.</p><p>Method</p><p>The current study employed qualitative researchmethods to examine the topic of information literacy.Data were collected from a focus group and fromsemi-structured interviews conducted with a groupof researchers who work in the area of HIV/AIDS.The interviewees in the study consisted of six</p><p>researchers who have worked in the area of AIDSfor more than 10 years, as shown in Table 1.</p><p> 2013 Health Libraries Group of CILIP and John Wiley &amp; Sons LtdHealth Information &amp; Libraries Journal, 31, pp. 6474</p><p>Information literacy: Brazilian researchers, Maria do Carmo Avamilano Alvarez et al. 65</p></li><li><p>These researchers are employed at two centres ofresearch excellence located in Brazil: the Univer-sity of S~ao Paulo (USP), located in S~ao Paulo, andthe Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), located inRio de Janeiro. The majority of scientific produc-tivity in Brazil is concentrated in these two states.In Brazil, 12 research groups focusing on AIDSare linked to the area of public health. Half ofthese groups are located in the states of Rio deJaneiro and S~ao Paulo. The remaining half is dis-tributed throughout the other states in the country.The choice to study researchers working in the</p><p>area of HIV/AIDS was inspired by the characteris-tics of this research field. Research conducted in thisarea requires constant updates. Scientific progress isdetermined by groups of interdisciplinary research-ers who work in areas such as medicine, psychol-ogy, nursing, statistics, biology, education andsociology, among others. The selected researchersare considered senior professionals because theypublish in respected scientific journals, serve as peerreviewers and/or editors of publications and/or areleaders of research groups. They play influentialroles in the education of new researchers. They areconsidered experienced because they have devel-oped skills in the area of scientific informationsearch during their academic careers. With theexception of interviewee A, all remaining selectedresearchers participated in training programsfocused on the use of library-based bibliographicinformation. The selected group exerted great influ-ence within the Brazilian scientific community inthe area of HIV/AIDS. The group was small, but itssize facilitated data collection.</p><p>Interviews</p><p>Semi-structured interviews were conducted with sixselected researchers in 2009. The general structure</p><p>of each interview consisted of three parts, (see theAppendix): (i) an open discussion that exploredeach interviewees career trajectory as a researcherin the field of HIV/AIDS; (ii) questions related tohow interviewers searched for information; and (iii)interviewees were asked to describe retrospectivescenarios, and to describe prospective scenarios(e.g. how they expected to conduct informationsearches 10 years ago and 5 years in the future).The prospective scenario was devised as a methodthat would place interviewees at ease. The goal wasfor interviewees to express themselves freely, with-out having to compromise with administrativestructures already established. Interviewees wereasked to imagine ways they would search for infor-mation in the future. The use of scenarios duringinterviews is a technique that is widely used bypsychologists to analyse behaviour.</p><p>Focus group</p><p>A focus group was conducted in 2010 with the sixsenior researchers who had previously participatedin the interviews conducted in 2009. The focusgroup meeting was filmed. It lasted one hour andwas moderated and observed by two researchers.The participants already knew one another becausethey worked in the same subject area. However,all participants were employed at different institu-tions. These factors did not affect the way thefocus group meeting was conducted. No intimidat-ing or manipulating views were expressed. Thefocus of the meeting was to discover what researchgroups require to successfully manage informationoverload and to compare the opinions expressedduring individual interviews with the collectiveopinions expressed by the group. The analysis wasaimed at the selection of information related toinformation literacy.</p><p>Table 1 Academic and demographic characteristics of Brazilian HIV/AIDS researchers interviewed in 2009</p><p>Interviewee Gender Institution city Age Undergraduate Master Doctorate Researcher since</p><p>A Male Rio De Janeiro 56 Medicine Public Health Public Health 1988</p><p>B Female Rio De Janeiro 60 Mathematics Statistics Public Health 1975</p><p>C Female Rio De Janeiro 44 Psychology Public Health Public Health 1991</p><p>D Male S~ao Paulo 42 Nutrition Public Health Public Health 1992</p><p>E Male S~ao Paulo 48 Medicine Medicine Medicine 1988</p><p>F Female S~ao Paulo 64 Psychology Psychology Psychology 1983</p><p> 2013 Health Libraries Group of CILIP and John Wiley &amp; Sons LtdHealth Information &amp; Libraries Journal, 31, pp. 6474</p><p>Information literacy: Brazilian researchers, Maria do Carmo Avamilano Alvarez et al.66</p></li><li><p>Analytical categories</p><p>Based on a review of the literature related to infor-mation literacy,3 the following analytical categorieswere identified. They were used to classify thecontent of the interviews and the focus group: The researcher as a disseminator: Identifywhether the researcher passes on his/herknowledge related to the search for and use ofinformation to his/her students.</p><p> Interactions with librarians: Does theresearcher require the assistance of librariansto perform his/her research? What types ofinteractions occur between the researcher andlibraries/librarians?</p><p> Use of information and communication tech-nology: Identify whether the researcher isfamiliar with the types of information technol-ogy required to interact with databases andInternet portals and to collaborate withresearch groups.</p><p> Use of language: Because use of a particularlanguage can identify the researchers actualability to use technology, as well as theresearchers familiarity with search methodsused to search databases, the purpose of thiscategory is to identify whether the researcheris familiar with and uses the technical termsemployed in information science, such as con-trolled vocabularies, descriptors, keywordsand database query.</p><p>Ethical considerations</p><p>The study was approved by the ethics committeeof both institutions involved in the research. Thefree and informed consent form was read andsigned by the six senior researchers. To guaranteeanonymity, all interviewees were identified by aletter allocated on a random basis.</p><p>Results</p><p>It was established that although interviewee A hadnot previously participated in any education pro-gramme for library users, he considered himselfinformation literate. He commented that these pro-grammes are not provided regularly in the majority</p><p>of Brazilian libraries. Therefore, he had to learn onhis own: I never took part in any form of trainingor course. I learned along the way. He explainedthat he employs a general approach when search-ing. He filters results empirically. However, whenhe needs to perform a systematic search for biblio-graphic reviews, he employs a more sophisticatedmethod, consulting several databases.Alternatively, interviewee B, who had previ-</p><p>ously participated in training focused on the use ofdatabases in academic libraries, stated that she hadexperienced difficulties with information searches.She stated that she had used PubMed database.However, she acknowledged that she was unfamil-iar with basic search methods, such as Booleansearching and use of a controlled vocabulary. Thiswas confirmed when the author of this paper sug-gested solutions that had already been incorporatedinto PubMed: You are looking for a subje...</p></li></ul>

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