I just finished writing a paper for the Computer Aided Legal Instruction Conference (CALI) in June, called “Research in a Digital World -or- Personal Knowledge Management for Legal Researchers“. From the executive summary:
The increasing volume of digital information with which researchers work is making the task of finding, capturing, organizing and eventually collaborating with digital data more difficult. Electronic information in multiple formats sitting in multiple silos of data present a challenge to researchers who have difficulty finding a specific piece of information in a timely fashion.
The two major benefits that come from effective knowledge management and knowledge sharing are an increase in the speed and quality of the research being performed. Less time is spent looking for information that has already been identified or created, so that more time can be spent in analyzing and associating disparate pieces of information. Modern electronic tools make possible collaboration between colleagues that in the past would have been difficult, expensive, or impossible. Voice and video conferencing over high speed research networks can facilitate real time collaboration at a fraction of the cost in time and money of flying members of a research team to a central location. On line collaboration tools can greatly facilitate group document creation and editing, and when it comes time to polish the final product, real time document editing makes it possible for groups scattered around the world to review a document together and make edits together.
Once researchers have the appropriate software to manage their data and help them collaborate, they need to make sure that they also have the appropriate hardware and infrastructure to take full advantage of the benefits the new software will give them. Access to high speed research networks is a must for video and voice conferencing, as well as real time document editing. An average desktop computer with two monitors, instead of the traditional single monitor, will give researchers a 10% + boost in productivity. Finally a web camera and good quality head phone/microphone rounds out a well equipped research workstation.
Whether they realize it or not, most researchers are struggling with the mountains of digital data that they have accumulated during their careers. If shown the tools available to them to find, capture and collaborate, many, if not most, will start to use some of these knowledge management tools to increase their productivity and effectively manage and collaborate with their data.