My central research interest is the investigation of phenomena around the confluence of information, systems (digital or not), individuals, groups, organizations, standards, and processes.

Using a social informatics approach, I have examined information practices in multiple settings including a community of botanists / herbarium curators, a digital library used by university science and engineering faculty, researchers and students; software development organizations; and a data communications network provider. These projects have allowed me to combine research with my skills in R&D project initiation and coordination. Other interests include design and development of digital libraries, digital library evaluation, information architecture and content management.

I've begun to synthesize the results of my research experiences by thinking about the information practices that individuals, groups, communities, and organizations employ as they try to do the things that are important to them. People engage in many kinds of activities including manufacturing objects, working in offices, conducting experiments, building computer systems, learning more about their health conditions, participating in their community, raising their children, etc. Sometimes these are individual information practices but they are more typically performed using collective information practices in a social context where the participants may be co-located or distributed. Information practices identified to date include evaluating information; compounding information from multiple sources into new information objects; linking information objects together; and applying information and systems in support of planning future activity.

Contexts, Processes, and Social Order of Biological Cyberinfrastructure (2006-)

Cyberinfrastructure does more than support different ways of conducting scientific activity; it also holds promise for enabling the emergence of new collaborative scientific practices. This project address how large, distributed, and collaborative projects marshal information, standards, people, and technology to create cyberinfrastructure. The object of study is SERNEC (SouthEast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections), an NSF-funded research coordination network that seeks to make the "resources of nearly 150 regional herbaria of the Southeast aavilable online, in concurrance with developing global standards, so that all available data can then be studied regionally or globally as one virtual, researchable collection."

Selected Publications

Sandusky, R. J. (2007). Herbaria collections in the southeastern United States: Characteristics of emerging cyberinfrastructure. Presented at the Symposium on the Status of the Herbarium Cyberinfrastructure in the Southeast, Association of Southeastern Biologists Annual Meeting, Columbia, SC, April 18-21, 2007. (Invited).

Community Building / Community Informatics (2005-)

Beginning with participation on the Latino Task Force of East Tennessee (LTF), a series of participatory action research projects aimed at identifying community problems, developing solutions to those problems, building community capacity, and identifying and mentoring community leaders.

Selected Publications and Projects

Deep Indexing (2006-2007, funded by CSA)

CSA, a worldwide information company that specializes in publishing and distributing bibliographic and full-text databases and journals in the natural sciences, arts and humanities, and technology, has contracted with the Center for Information Studies for a project totaling $75,000. A UT research team will work with scientists in several universities and research institutions in the United States and Europe to study the scientists' use of electronic retrieval tools. The UT team includes Dr. Carol Tenopir, Margaret Casado of UT's Hodges Library, and Alison Connor and Kelli Williams, graduate assistants.

Selected Publications

Sandusky, R.J. & Tenopir, C. (2007). DRAFT: Finding and Using Journal Article Components: Impacts of Disaggregation on Teaching and Research Practice. Draft document is available here.

Software Quality Assurance (2002-2005, funded by NSF)

This project's goal is the development of a new, integrative theory of situated information practices and knowledge management in large, distributed organizations. This project examines the management of software problems and related phenomena in particular socio-technical contexts.

Significant findings include the role of dynamic bug report networks in the co-constitution of information, social order, and activity and the role of negotiation in shaping activity, information, and social order.

My work examines how free / libre / open source software (FLOSS) development communities manage software problems by identifying and analyzing the phenomena found in FLOSS bug report repositories. Bug report repositories are fundamental and complex systems that support the continuous distributed F/OSS development process. These repositories share important features with digital libraries in their structure, complexity and relationships to work practices. Bug reports are the tangible representations of problematic system behavior discovered by the F/OSS community during testing, normal system use and the continuous (re)design process. The phenomena found in the content of bug reports from one F/OSS repository include work activities, processes, contexts, and social order. The analysis takes a qualitative, social informatics approach, placing the social aspects of knowledge structures and processes, as well as the uses and impacts of the bug report repository, in the foreground. I examine the mutually constitutive effects between these phenomena and process, context, and social order.

Results from the qualitative analysis are also being applied to the design of computational tools for software problem management research and practice.

The team consisted of Les Gasser, Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Walt Scacchi, Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Software Research, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, UC-Irvine; and Gabriel Ripoche, GSLIS-UIUC.

Grant: National Science Foundation ITR (Digital Society and Technologies) Program, Grant No. 0205346; Leslie G. Gasser, Principal Investigator.

Selected Publications

Sandusky, R. J., & L. Gasser. (2005). Negotiation and the coordination of information and activity in distributed software problem management. GROUP '05: ACM 2005 International Conference on Supporting Group Work. Sanibel Island, Florida, November 6 - 9, 2005 (Refereed). Available at Accessed 26 April, 2007.

Sandusky, R. J. (2005). Software problem management as information management in a F/OSS development community. OSS 2005: The First International Conference on Open Source Systems. Genova, Italy, July 11 - 15, 2005 (Refereed). Available at Accessed 26 April, 2007.

Gasser, L., G. Ripoche, B. Sandusky, & W. Scacchi. (2005). A global research infrastructure for multidisciplinary empirical science of Free/Open Source Software: A position paper. Working Paper LG-2005-05 (Version 1h). Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, April, 2005. Revised version of Gasser, Ripoche & Sandusky (2004), below. Available at: Accessed: 26 April 2007.

Gasser, L., Ripoche, G., Sandusky, R., Sansonnet, J., Turner, W. (2004). Distributed representations and collective agreement. Society for Social Studies of Science and The European Association for the Study of Science and Technology Meeting, Paris, August 25-28, 2004 (Refereed).

Sandusky, R. J., L. Gasser, & G. Ripoche (2004). Information practices as an object of DCP research. Distributed Collective Practice: Building New Directions for Infrastructural Studies. Workshop of the CSCW 2004 Conference. (Chicago, IL, US, November 6, 2004) (Refereed). Available at: Accessed: 11 December 2006.

Sandusky, R. J., L. Gasser, & G. Ripoche (2004). Bug report networks: Varieties, strategies, and impacts in a F/OSS development community. MSR 2004: International Workshop on Mining Software Repositories, ICSE 2004, IEEE International Conference on Software Engineering, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, May 25, 2004 (Refereed). Available at: Accessed: 26 April 2007.

Gasser, L., G. Ripoche, & R. J. Sandusky (2004). Research infrastructure for empirical science of F/OSS. MSR 2004: International Workshop on Mining Software Repositories, ICSE 2004, IEEE International Conference on Software Engineering, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, May 25, 2004 (Refereed). Available at: Accessed: 26 April 2007.

Paths through Information Spaces / The Interspace (1997-2000, funded by DARPA)

Designed and built portions of a path recording, path indexing, and path matching system for an advanced information retrieval system called the Interspace. The Interspace is a prototype environment for semantic indexing of multimedia information in a test bed of real collections, using statistical clustering of concepts and categories. The design allows users to navigate and search using the statistically generated clusters instead of term-based searches and manually constructed taxonomies. My research goal was to examine the effectiveness of making persistent representations of the activities of users (path data) available to later users and determine the effects on information retrieval effectiveness in a semantic, concept-based information retrieval system when users do and do not have access to path data.

Grant: DARPA Information Management Program, contract N66001-97-C-8535; Bruce R. Schatz, Principal Investigator.

Selected Publications

Sandusky, R. J. (2006). Shared, persistent user search paths: Social navigation as social classification. Poster presented at 17th Annual SIG/CR Classification Research Workshop: Social Classification: Panacea or Pandora? ASIST Annual Meeting, Austin, Texas, November 4, 2006 (Refereed).

Sandusky, R. J., K. Powell, & A. Feng. (1998). Design for collaboration in networked information retrieval. In B. M. Wildemuth, K. Liberman, and D. H. Sonnenwald (Eds.), Collaboration Across Boundaries: Theories, Strategies and Technology, Proceedings of the 1998 ASIS Mid-year Meeting, Orlando, FL, May 16-20, 1998. Medford, NJ: Information Today. Available at:; accessed November 7, 2001.

Digital Libraries Initiative - I (1995-1998, funded by NSF/NASA/DARPA)

Member of the Social Science team comprised of two faculty members (Ann Peterson Bishop and Susan Leigh Star) and four graduate assistants (Emily Ignacio, Laura Neumann, Cecelia Merkel, and Robert J. Sandusky). Team goals included documenting and analyzing extent and nature of system use and non-use; contributing to theoretical understanding of the changing information infrastructure and how it is transforming engineering and library work, communication, and learning practices; developing new methods for conducting user-based digital library research; and contributing to understanding of how large-scale information system design work is conceived and carried out. The team designed an integrated research program that combined broad study of use with deep study of social phenomena. Contributed to all aspects of the team's research agenda. Particular foci included designing, building and maintaining registration and authentication system for the U of I Digital Library test bed; directing computerized data collection efforts; analyzing collected data; conducting interface and system usability tests, in situ observations and interviews. Contributed to team's internal and external publications.

Grant: NSF/NASA/DARPA Digital Libraries Initiative under cooperative agreement NSF IRI 94-11318COOP; Bruce R. Schatz, William Mischo and Ann Peterson Bishop, Principal Investigators.

Selected Publications

Sandusky, R. J. (2002). Digital library attribute taxonomy: Understanding usability research and results, presented at Workshop Usability for Digital Libraries, Joint Conference on Digital Libraries 2002, Portland, Oregon, July 14-18, 2002 (Refereed).

Sandusky, R. J. (2002). Digital library attributes: Framing research and results, Fourth DELOS Workshop on Evaluation of Digital Libraries: Testbeds, Measurements, and Metrics, Budapest, Hungary, June 6-7, 2002 (Refereed).

Bishop, A. P., L. J. Neumann, S. L. Star, C. Merkel, E. Ignacio, & R. J. Sandusky (2000). Digital libraries: Situating use in changing information infrastructure. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 51(4), 394-413.

Sandusky, R. J. (1997). Retrieving the user: Surveillance in digital libraries, presented at the 1997 ASIS Mid-year Meeting, Scottsdale, AZ, May 16-20, 1998.

Sandusky, R. J., & Buttenfield, B. (1996). Digital library management issues, presented at Allerton 1996: Libraries, People, and Change: A Research Forum on Digital Libraries, the 38th Allerton Institute 1996, October 27-29, 1996, Allerton Park and Conference Center, Monticello, Illinois.

Sandusky, R. J. (1996). Outcome measures for the emerging virtual library, presented as part of a panel at the LITA/LAMA National Conference, held October 13-16, 1996 in Pittsburgh, PA.

Bishop, A. P., S. L. Star, L. Neumann, E. Ignacio, R. J. Sandusky, & B. R. Schatz (1996). Building a university digital library: The need for a user-centered approach. In Higher Education and the NII: From Vision to Reality. Proceedings of the Monterey Conference, Sept. 26-29, 1995. Washington, DC: Educom. Available at: Accessed 26 April, 2007.

Current Projects

Community Building

Past Projects

Deep Indexing
Software Quality Assurance
User Paths
Digital Libraries


School of Information Sciences
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
451 Communications Building
1345 Circle Park Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-0341

e-mail: sandusky at utk dot edu
phone: +1 865.974.2785
fax: +1 865.974.4967