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Weak Information Work and "Doable Problems" in Interdisciplinary Science

Carole L. Palmer

ASIS&T Annual Meeting - 2006 (ASIS&T 2006)
Austin, Texas, November 3-9, 2006


Drawing on results from two studies of interdisciplinary science, this paper develops the concept of weak information work (WIW) in relation to previous conceptions of problem solving in the research process. We demonstrate how the characteristics of WIW parallel those of weak methods in science, as discussed by Simon, Langley & Bradshaw (1981). WIW is further explained in relation to two analytical frameworks for understanding research problems, one that focuses on the coordination of different levels of work and one that details dimensions of research problems. Scenarios from neuroinformatics case studies are presented to show how WIW is impacting contemporary big science. We conclude by arguing that interdisciplinary research could benefit from information systems and services devoted to supporting some lines of WIW and by transforming others into strong information work.

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