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The effect of the internet on researcher motivations, behaviour and attitudes

Adrian Mulligan (Elsevier Ltd, Kidlington, UK)
Michael Mabe (Department of Information Studies, University College London, London, UK)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Article publication date: 8 March 2011




The purpose of this paper is to understand how the migration from the print world to the electronic environment has affected the motivations, attitudes and behaviours of researchers in scholarly communication.


The paper takes the form of an investigation that is both quantitative and qualitative. The study was split into three phases: understand the issues affecting researchers (focus groups and interviews); an online survey of 6,344 researchers measuring attitudes and digging deeper into issues: telephone interviews to understand differences between different groups change. Differences in opinions were examined across discipline.


While there has been some change in the behaviour of researchers, there has been little change in their motivations for publication. Researchers want other researchers' data but are less inclined to share their own. Researcher attitudes towards repositories are very mixed. Researchers highly value peer review. The pressure to over‐publish at the expense of quality is exaggerated.

Research limitations/implications

Further research is required to measure the impact on researcher motivations and attitudes of external pressures that were emerging at the time of this study. This includes the growing influence of funding bodies, the economic downturn and its impact on institutional budgets, as well as subsequent advances in the digital revolution.

Practical implications

This research suggests that, while technology may have positively impacted the efficiency of scholarly communication, the drivers behind scholarly information exchange remain relatively unchanged. Moreover, changes to the scholarly information business model will only be successful if they continue to satisfy the underlying motivations and needs of researchers.


This paper fulfils an identified need to measure the motivations of researchers towards the core functions of scholarly communication on a global level.



Mulligan, A. and Mabe, M. (2011), "The effect of the internet on researcher motivations, behaviour and attitudes", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 67 No. 2, pp. 290-311.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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