ESRA 2019 Programme at a Glance


Information Acquisition in the 21st Century: Implications for Survey Research

Session Organisers Dr Jon Miller (University of Michigan, USA)
Dr Belen Laspra (University of Oviedo, Spain (visiting fellow at U. of Michigan this year))
TimeThursday 18th July, 16:00 - 17:30
Room D23

The ways that humans acquire information are undergoing fundamental changes. We are moving into a just-in-time model facilitated by the internet and associated electronic technologies (which we will refer to as the Internet Era). This change is as profound as the development of writing, Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type leading to the printing press, or the emergence of broadcast systems. It will have profound implications for survey research and this session proposal will seek papers that discuss changing patterns of information acquisition and the implications for survey measurement.

For most of human history, we have operated in a warehouse system in which knowledgeable people tell less-knowledgeable people things they ought to know and expect them to retain and store this information in their mental warehouse. If they need the information at some time in the future, the individual would be expected to take the information from his or her mental warehouse and use it. Warehouse systems are dying worldwide in commerce and in information distribution.

In the Internet Era, individuals decide what kind of information they want or need and then seek it from sources they can access. Traditionally, this involved a heavy reliance on friends, neighbors, and other community members. Today, it more often involves the internet and associated technologies. In a just-in-time system, there are no central sources of messages and agendas are set by each individual.

The just-in-time system has grown most rapidly in the dissemination of health information. In the United States and other industrial societies, most individuals seek health information online both before and after consulting a physician. Many physicians provide printed materials with correct spellings so that patients can search for information about a disease or condition or about a prescription or therapy.

Professor Jon Miller has worked on documenting the operation of the just-in-time system in health and its extension into the acquisition of science news and information. He has conducted national surveys in the U.S. for more than 30 years and is currently conducted a series of multi-wave national surveys each year with support from NASA. Professor Laspra is a member of the faculty at the University of Oviedo (Spain) and is a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan this year.

The proposed session should provide important insights for individuals who survey information acquisition or communication in any field.

Keywords: information acquisition, internet era,

The Emergence of a Just-in-Time Information Acquisition System

Professor Jon Miller (Univ of Michigan) - Presenting Author
Dr Belen Laspra (Univ of Michigan)

The ways that adults seek and acquire information is undergoing a profound change, comparable to Gutenberg’s invention of movable type and the printing press or the emergence of broadcast communication in the second half of the 20th century. This process has been accelerated by the growth of the Internet and related electronic information technologies.

For most of human history, information dissemination has reflected a warehouse system in which knowledgeable individuals told other adults what they should learn and retain and this information was to be stored in each individual’s mental warehouse. In the emerging just-in-time system, adults define the areas in which they need or want to obtain information and actively seek that information from a variety of sources, relying heavily on the Internet and electronic versions of traditional information sources (books, newspapers, magazines). In the new system, adults individually determine their own information seeking agenda and decide what information is worth retaining. Inter-personal vetting and communication continue to be important components of the process and work in the same manner that Katz and Lazarsfeld (1966) described in the broadcast era.

Using data from national surveys of U.S. adults, this paper will outline the dimensions of this change and the characteristics of the emerging just-in-time system. In the U.S., the information system is most developed in regard to the acquisition of health information and this paper will present a general model for health information acquisition by adults. This general model is useful in thinking about information acquisition in other domains.


Science Information Acquisition in Just-In-Time system

Dr Belen Laspra (University of Michigan) - Presenting Author

Since the beginning of the 21 Century, we are witnessing the emergence of a different communication environment, which becomes particularly noticeable in post-industrial societies. The popularization of the information and communication technologies has reshape the way in which humans store, retrieve and share information; and has left obsolete theories that conceived communication as a merely one-way linear process, going from an expert source of information to a passive audience. A promising alternative focuses attention not on the supply of information but on demand, understanding that individuals seek for information when they need it, regardless of the interests of the information sources. The Internet provides users with a large amount of information, from different sources and with different degrees of sophistication, all the time and from any place; becoming the main source of information over more traditional information sources.

To explore the emergence of this just-in-time information system where individuals acquire information when they need it, a national sample of American adults where interviewed about their information acquisition patterns in science and technology issues. Data were collected in several waves during 2017. Using several statistical tools, a structural equation techniques was used to develop a path model of information acquisition on issues on science and technology. Data shows that in just-in-time system, individuals that perceive the issue as a salient issue, have better navigation skills, and a level of scientific literacy have more active profiles of information acquisition on their salient-issue. In a second step, a subsequent path model on information acquisition about the 2017 total solar eclipse was done. Data shows that in short term events, the role of salience is even more remarkable.


Directionality of the Relationship between Interest and Knowledge as Key Determinants of the Image of Science

Dr Ana Muñoz van den Eynde (Research Unit on Scientific Culture - CIEMAT) - Presenting Author

Among other issues, scientific culture research analyzes the relationship of society with science with the aim of fostering that society counts on science in the management of citezens' daily life. In the Research Unit on Scientific Culture (UICC, for its acronym in Spanish) of CIEMAT we consider that it is also necessary to act from the other side, contributing to science counting on society. For doing this, as some reputed voices in the field of social studies of science have said, it is necessary to increase our scientific knowledge of the society that interacts with science. Whit this purpose, in the UICC we have proposed the PIKA model about the image of science. This model defines the section of the image of science shaped by the interaction of the factors Perception, Interest, Knowledge and Actions related to science. In order of testing the model we are developing the PIKA questionnaire, a methodological tool designed for tackling some of the difficulties that have hampered in the past the research on the relationship of society with science. In this contribution we present the results obtained after distributing the online link to the second version of the PIKA questionnaire to a sample of people interested in, and knowledgeable about science. We used the data from the 2016 edition of the Survey of Social Perception of Science in Spain to also test the PIKA model in a representative sample of the population. We found evidence in favour of the hypothesis that knowledge about science directly influences perception and interest. We also found evidence that knowledge about science is a prerequisite for interest in both samples. Our results do not advocate for the deficit model, but lean on the fact that knowledge strengthens and enriches the image of science.