Doctoral Student Laura Anderson Explores Information Sharing Practices

Laura Anderson, a doctoral student in the San José Gateway PhD program, works at IBM Research – Almaden, the birthplace of the first commercial hard-disk drive and relational databases. Her professional surroundings provide inspiration for her library science PhD dissertation, which will examine information sharing practices for virtual teams.

“A lot of people at IBM work in technically intensive jobs,” Anderson said. “For me, the whole reason we have all of these computing environments and hardware and software tools boils down to the mission of making information available to people.”

Anderson, who is in the pre-research phase of her dissertation, plans to examine information sharing within a geographically distributed software development team. In particular, Anderson hopes to examine how members of the team seek to find the “right information” through both formal and informal channels. “You want the right flows of information, but you don’t want too much,” she said.

Anderson has worked at IBM in Silicon Valley for 28 years and is well-versed in participating in collaborative, geographically distributed teams. She’s worked on projects that include a joint study in the mid-1990s with the Institute for Scientific Information that looked at coupling online bibliographic data with published articles, and on a project to make patent information available online with accompanying metadata. “And now I am lucky to have the opportunity to explore the information questions surrounding massive interconnections of systems, data, and people in IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative,” she noted.

Anderson started working at IBM shortly after she received her MLIS degree from Syracuse University, and she went on to earn a second masters degree, in Computer Science, while working full-time. She decided to pursue a doctoral degree in the San José Gateway PhD Program because she liked the “innovative and unique” international partnership between SLIS and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia, as well as the blending of twice yearly in-person meetings and online collaboration. “There is no other comparable Library and Information Science doctoral program,” she said. “The broad expertise of SLIS and QUT faculty members provides a stimulating research community for doctoral students.”

Anderson intends to use her doctoral research to develop a reputation for expertise in the field of information sharing within IBM, as well as in the professional software development and information science communities and the wider academic community.