Sunday, 3:30pm


Addressing Missed Information Opportunities in the Fight Against Sexual Human Trafficking

Jo Lynn Westbrook
University of Texas, United States of America


In the United States’ battle against sexual human trafficking, the nascent integration of criminal justice and social service agency work is severely hampered by an array of information problems, which are amenable to mitigation from Information Studies scholars. Naïve information organization and infrastructure design undermine many of these integrated projects. More critical however, is their general focus on process with little reference to supporting victims’ personal agency through their required mastery of information resources. Using a systematic analysis of current scholarly research articles on sexual human trafficking, this study identified 31 research and application projects developed in reference to concrete support for government and social service agencies. For each study, analysis examines the nature of the victims’ personal information agency, as well as the primary actors in each information situation. Disciplinary distinctions regarding the human rights approach to prostitution, underpin many of Information Studies’ missed opportunities for contributing to agency effectiveness.

Examining the Role of Information in the Civic Engagement of Youth

Alieda Blandford, Dominique Taylor, Michael Smit
Dalhousie University, Canada


Despite the decline in youth participation in traditional politics over time, engagement in alternative forms of civic engagement is increasing. Existing research focuses on disenfranchised youth; in this paper, we describe an initial exploration of the role of information in initial and ongoing civic engagement. In this pilot study, we conducted a focus group with six teenagers (15-17 years old) recognized by their teachers and peers for being highly engaged in their schools and/or communities, in order to understand the self-described motivations, influences, and information behaviors of an important demographic which has not been widely studied in existing literature: youth who are highly engaged, but not yet eligible to vote in democratic elections. The participants were from six different provinces in Canada, and included a mix of rural, suburban, and urban youth. Participant responses suggested that their information environment, including the availability of information about civic affairs and opportunities to become directly involved, played a role in their socialization as engaged citizens. Moreover, they indicated that the effect of their information environment on their own civic engagement was cumulative over time: the more an issue appeared, the more likely they were to engage with it. Based on this focus group discussion, we suggest a set of interpretations that describe the role of information environments, the cumulative impact of civic information, and the levels of information consumption used by youth. While these theories will require additional data to confirm or reject, we expect that our observations will help inform efforts to engage youth in civic society.

Bracing for Impact: The Role of Information Science in Supporting Societal Research Impact

Lisa M. Given, Wade Kelly, Rebekah Willson
Charles Sturt University, Australia


Academics are increasingly being asked to demonstrate the impact of their research beyond the walls of the academy. Societal impact measures were introduced as part of the Research Excellence Framework exercise in the UK in 2014 with a number of other countries, including Australia, considering similar assessments. As societal impact measures continue to proliferate there will be significant implications for academics, institutions, and academic libraries to document and support these activities. Information science is well-placed not only to guide practical supports within our institutions, but also to develop metrics and qualitative approaches to assess this type of research impact. This exploratory qualitative study — situated in a constructivist grounded theory methodology — investigated academics’ experiences and perceptions of the concept of societal research impact and the supports needed to facilitate this work. The definition of impact varied greatly among participants, but regardless of the participant’s conception, interviewees felt that they were not prepared, trained, or had access to the needed supports to adequately document non-academic types of impact. The data point to a number of emergent themes including a lack of relevant methodologies for tracking societal impact, the shortcomings of metrics approaches to document impact outside of academe, and the need for academic libraries to extend current reference and training supports to provide researchers with the tools and skills needed in this new impact landscape. Implications for research and development in information science related to scholarly communication, researchers’ information behaviors, and impact measures are also explored.