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Trustworthiness of Scholarly Research Sources Study (Sloan Foundation)

Principal Investigators:

Carol Tenopir
Chancellor’s Professor, Director of Research, Director of CICS
The University of Tennessee
College of Communication and Information
423 Communications Building
Knoxville, TN 37996-0341
Phone: 865.974.7911

David Nicholas
Adjunct Professor, Director of CIBER Research Ltd.
The University of Tennessee
1 Westwood Farmhouse
Newbury, United Kingdom
Phone: 00 44 (0) 1635-42719

Grant or Funding Agency:

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Project Description:

$271, 131

The study began in September 2012 and continues until November 2013.

The broad aim of the research is to examine how emerging digital behaviors are challenging and, perhaps, changing concepts of trust and authority in the scholarly world. The team will study how researchers assign and calibrate authority and trustworthiness to the scholarly sources and channels they choose to use, cite, and publish in. Sources/channels like journals, websites, datasets, and social media. In particular they want to discover how researchers are coping in today’s crowded, dynamic, diverse and dis-intermediated digital scholarly environment where it is ever more difficult to establish the quality, veracity, authorship and authority of information. Also, whether the growth in the use of social media for scholarly purposes impact on conventional practices of establishing the authority and trustworthiness of information sources and channels, such as the practice of journal citation?

The study will be international, but with an emphasis on the USA and UK, and will focus on science and social science. A four stage, incremental data collection strategy will be used. First, evidence of information seeking and use obtained from web logs of scholarly sites and the existing published literature will be gathered to help scope the research and frame the research questions. Second, focus groups with researchers will be used to explore and test what was discovered in the first stage. Third, in-depth, one-to-one interviews, together with observation, will be used to drill down into the data obtained from stage 2. Finally, a large-scale questionnaire will provide an opportunity to take the combined findings of stages 1-3 to a much larger, international audience in order to contextualize the findings and extend the reach of the study.

For more information about the Center for Information and Communications Studies, visit

For more information about CIBER Research, visit

For more information about the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, visit


Suzie Allard 
Associate Professor and Assistant Director
The University of Tennessee
School of Information Sciences
453 Communications Building
1345 Circle Park Dr.
Knoxville, TN 37996-0341
Phone: 865.974.1369

Kenneth J Levine
Associate Professor
The University of Tennessee
286 Communications Building
Phone: 865.974.1136

Secondary Contact:

Rachel Volentine
Research Coordinator
The University of Tennessee
Center for Information and Communication Studies
5A James D Hoskins Library
1400 West Cumberland
Knoxville, TN 37996-0341
Phone: 865.974.7963

UTK Sloan Foundation