ASIS&T 2013 Annual Meeting 
Montréal, Québec, Canada | November 1-5, 2013

Looking for Opportunistic Discovery of Information in Recent Biomedical Research – A Content Analysis

Carla M. Allen, University of Missouri
Sanda Erdelez, University of Missouri
Miroslav Marinov, University of Missouri

Sunday, 3:30pm


From the discovery of penicillin and x-rays to the development of many of today’s chemotherapy agents, serendipitous findings tangential to the researcher’s intended purpose, those “That’s funny…” moments, have greatly impacted the health and well-being of society. As an information behavior, these unexpected findings are an example of the Opportunistic Discovery of Information (ODI). ODI has been described in many contexts, from information behavior in virtual worlds to the impact of information encountering on health behaviors. Yet, little is known about instances of ODI within the context of scientific research. This study uses content analysis to reveal reported instances of ODI in recently published biomedical literature. Our findings propose a taxonomy of term use indicating the presence of serendipity in the research process and reveal the relationship between the authors’ word choice for serendipity and specific types of ODI experiences.