Collaborative Information Behavior (CIB): Current Challenges and Future Research Directions

GROUP 2009 Workshop
May 10th, 2009
Sanibel Island, Florida


People frequently engage in collaborative information seeking tasks in their professional and personal lives. For instance, family members might collaboratively search the Web for information when buying a new car [1] or healthcare providers in a hospital might collaboratively find and use information needed to diagnose and treat patients [2]. In recent years, researchers from a diverse range of disciplines, including information science, CSCW, HCI, and information retrieval, have begun to examine collaborative information behavior (CIB). CIB can be defined as "activities that a group or team of people undertakes to identify and resolve a shared information need" [3]. CIB encompasses a range of activities such as information seeking, sharing, retrieval, sensemaking, and use. It can occur on different scales, ranging from small groups in organizations and classrooms to social search and sensemaking on the Internet [4].

Researchers have been laying the conceptual foundations of collaborative information behavior through fieldwork [2] and user-studies [5] aimed at understanding how people find, share, understand, and use information collaboratively. They have also been developing frameworks [6] of CIB and exploring CIB through the development and evaluation of collaborative information retrieval tools [7, 8].

CIB, both conceptually and technically, is a new and emerging field [9]. Consequently, there are a large number of challenges [10] that still need to be addressed. These include fieldwork challenges of studying collaborative information seeking and use “in the wild”, finding appropriate methods for studying CIB, the dearth of CIB models, and challenges with developing and evaluating collaborative information retrieval tools. In this workshop, we are interested in bringing together researchers working on the wide range of conceptual and technical issues in the area of collaborative information behavior to address these challenges.
                                                                                                  (back to top)


We envision CIB to include collaborative information seeking, search, retrieval, and sensemaking. The workshop will focus on three themes in the area of CIB:

Current research in CIB
  • Settings and tasks in which collaborative information behavior takes place
  • Levels of CIB - from small groups to social search and sensemaking on the Internet
  • Fieldwork findngs about how and why people collaborate to find, share, and make sense of information
  • Methodologies for conducting research to examine CIB
  • Models of CIB
  • New UIs, tools, and algorithmic techniques to support collaborative search and information retrieval
  • Evaluation techniques for collaborative information retrieval tools
Challenges in fieldwork, model development, system design and evaluation
  • Approriate methods for examining CIB in the field
  • Development of surveys to examine CIB
  • Development of CIB models
Research agenda for the field of CIB
  • Important research questions which remain to be answered
  • Effective research methodologies for studying CIB
  • Trends in CIB research and where research will be headed in the near future                                                                                                                (back to top)

Important Dates

Mar 25th, 2009: Position papers due
Mar 28th, 2009: Notification of acceptance
Apr 5th, 2009: Early registration deadline for GROUP 2009
May 10th, 2009: Workshop
                                                                                                    (back to top)


We are seeking participants from academia and industry who are conducting research in CIB. This includes conceptual and technical research on collaborative information seeking, search, retrieval, and sensemaking.

Workshop position papers should be two to four pages long in ACM format. Please email .pdf or .doc versions to Sharoda Paul by 5:00pm PST on Mar 25th, 2009.

Participants whose papers are accepted will need to prepare a 10-minute presentation. The presentation should include important research questions that remain unanswered, where they see the research headed in the next few years, and their personal research agenda in this area.                                                                                                                                                                                                    (back to top)

Workshop Report

This was a full-day workshop (11:00am – 5:00pm) with the following agenda:

11:00am – 12:30pm Introductions and presentations by participants (papers here)
12:30pm – 1:30pm Lunch
1:30pm – 5:00pm Discussion about research questions and research agenda
Optional post-workshop dinner
Participants were urged to read the workshop papers before-hand. During presentations, participants talked for 8-10 minutes about their research interests in CIB, key issues they thought were important to address in CIB research, and their vision for where they saw CIB research headed in the near future. Presentations were without slides and we thought this worked out great!

After presentations (and a delicious lunch!), all participants and organizers engaged in a discussion in which we addressed four important issue in CIB research: conceptual frameworks/models, research methodology, scale of CIB, and design of tools.

Detailed workshop notes are available here.                                                                                                                                                                 (back to top)


Dr. Madhu Reddy is an assistant professor in the College of IST at Penn State University. He has been conducting research into collaborative information behavior for the last eight years. He is particularly interested in understanding how people work together to find needed information through field research as well as technical prototypes.

Sharoda A. Paul is a final year Ph.D. candidate at the College of IST at Penn State University. She has studied how groups use technology for collaborative information seeking, search, and sensemaking in two domains - healthcare and collaborative Web search. Her research spans CSCW, HCI, and medical informatics.

Dr. Bernard J. Jansen (Jim Jansen) is an assistant professor in the College of IST at Penn State University. Jim has more than 150 publications in the area of information technology and systems, with articles appearing in a multi-disciplinary range of journals and conferences. He is co-author of the book, Web Search: Public Searching of the Web and co-editor of the book Handbook of Weblog Analysis. Jim is a member of the editorial boards of seven international journals.

Dr. Jonathan Foster is lecturer in information management at the University of Sheffield, UK and is currently editing a book on collaborative information behavior. He is particularly interested in applications of collaborative information behavior in educational settings.

Dr. Michael Twidale is an associate professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is particularly interesting in the learning aspects of collaborative information seeking, and how to develop new representations of process information including search histories to support discussion of not only what has been done, but how and why.
                                                                                                    (back to top)


[1] Morris, M.R., A survey of collaborative Web search practices. In Proc. CHI 2008, ACM Press (2008), 1657-1660
[2] Reddy, M. and Dourish, P. A finger on the pulse: Temporal rhythms and information seeking in medical care. In Proc. CSCW 2002, ACM Press (2002), 3444-353.
[3] Poltrock, S., Dumais, S. Fidel, R. Bruce, H. and Pejtersen, A.M. Information sharing in design teams. In Proc.GROUP2003, ACM Press (2003), 239-247.
[4] Evans, B. M. and Chi, E. Towards a model of understanding social search. In Proc. CSCW 2008, ACM Press (2008), 485-494.
[5] Paul, S.A. and Morris, M.R. CoSense: Enhancing sensemaking for collaborative Web search. To appear in Proc CHI 2009.
[6] Reddy, M. and Jansen, J. A model for understanding collaborative information behavior in context: A study of two healthcare teams. Information Processing and Management, 44, (2008), 256-273.
[7] Morris, M.R. and Horvitz. E. SearchTogether: An interface for collaborative Web search. In Proc. UIST 2008, ACM Press (2008), 3-12.
[8] Pickens, J. Golovchinsky, G., Shah, C. Qvarfordt, P., and Back, M. Algorithmic mediation for collaborative exploratory search. In Proc SIGIR 2008, ACM Press (2008), 315-322.
[9] Foster, J, ed. (2010). Collaborative Information Behavior: User Engagement and Communication Sharing. IGI Global. [Forthcoming].
[10] Golovchinsky, G., and Pickens, J. Collaborative Information Seeking in Electronic Environments. Information Seeking Support Systems Workshop. An Invitational Workshop Sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Available online at, (2008).

Copyright © 2006 Designed by Free CSS Templates


Madhu Reddy
Sharoda A. Paul
Jim Jansen
Jonathan Foster
Michael Twidale

Accepted Papers

Accepted papers can be found here.