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Heather O’Brien Receives Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) Research in Information Science Award 

The Association for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) is pleased to announce that Heather O'Brien, Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia iSchool, is the recipient of the 2022 ASIS&T Research in Information Science Award.  

This award recognizes an individual or team who has made an outstanding contribution to information science research. The award is for a systematic “program of research” in a single area at a level beyond the single study.   

Candidates for the Research in Information Science Award are assessed based on the following four criteria: intellectual merit and quality of the contribution; broader impacts of the contribution to theory, practice and society; the coherence of the contribution; methodological innovation used in research; and the transformation and transcendence of the information field. 

Dr. O’Brien teaches and researches in the areas of human information interaction and research methods.  Dr. O'Brien is best known for her work in the area of user engagement (UE) with technology, which has three main goals: 1) building a sound theoretical foundation for the study of UE, 2) developing, evaluating, and promoting effective methodological tools and techniques for its measurement, and 3) exploring the role of UE as a mediator for learning, quality of life, and knowledge sharing outcomes with digital information and health applications.   

Dr. O’Brien has contributed numerous highly cited, referred journal and conference publications; a co-edited book, “Why Engagement Matters: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives and Innovations on User Engagement with Digital Media” (2016); and the co-authored book, “Measuring User Engagement” (2014).  O’Brien’s User Engagement Scale (UES), a valid and reliable experiential questionnaire designed to evaluate the quality of digitally mediated user experiences, is used internationally and has been translated into multiple languages. Her current research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institute for Health Research. 

In her nomination of Dr. O’Brien, Caroline Haythornthwaite, Professor, School of Information Studies Syracuse University, stated, “[O’Brien] has made great advances in our ability to understand, theorize and measure engagement with technology. While rooted in the information field, her work transcends it by addressing an application wide problem. Dr. O’Brien’s work has created a solid foundation for continued exploration of engagement in information science, as well as in many other fields that address the human-computer, and human-information interface.” 

The 2022 ASIS&T Research in Information Science Award committee cited, “Dr. O'Brien is well-known for the multi-disciplinary research program on user engagement with technology and the development of the User Engagement Scale (UES) in the contexts of interactive information retrieval and human-computer interaction. The methodological innovation of UES lies in the development and validation of this tool in multiple studies, which has been widely adopted in related fields and industrial applications. The research outputs of significant intellectual merit have had a very high and sustained scholarly impact from 2005 through today (e.g., at least 3500 citations to these works). As a jury member commented, ‘her work is unusual in that it brings a strong theoretical foundation to information retrieval scholarship; for that contribution alone, she deserves the award.’ Overall, Dr. O'Brien's research has transformed the field of information science through meticulously researched and widely influential scholarship, as well as research impact on academia and industry.” 

Upon learning of her selection as winner of the 2022 ASIS&T Research in Information Science Award, Dr. O’Brien said, "I am deeply honored to receive this award, and grateful to my colleagues who supported my nomination. I am also extremely grateful to all of my research collaborators, mentors, and students who have taught me so much over the past fifteen years, challenged and encouraged me, and made my work so fulfilling. I am thankful for the love and support of my family.” 

Dr. O’Brien will receive her award at the 2022 ASIS&T Annual Meeting to be held October 29 - November 1, 2021, in Pittsburgh, Pa.