The communication and exchange of information between state and stakeholders.
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This thesis presents a critical review of the candidate’s Portfolio of Public Output, which is based on research conducted in the period November 2000 to date, and which consists of 21 peer-reviewed, publicly available papers published since 2001. The subject area which forms the basis of the thesis is the communication and exchange of information between ‘the state’ (i.e. parliaments and governments at the local, devolved, national and European levels, as well as those who aspire to become part of the state during parliamentary elections) and its ‘stakeholders’ (i.e. citizens, businesses, interest groups, etc.). Within this overarching theme, the thesis focuses on three distinct but interrelated sub-themes: 1) the provision and communication of information by, and within, parliaments; 2) the use of the Internet for information provision and exchange by political parties and candidates during parliamentary election campaigns; and 3) the exchange of information between government and stakeholders during formal public consultation processes. Within all three sub-themes, the thesis demonstrates the candidate’s contribution to the advancement of knowledge in two key and closely linked areas: the investigation of users’ information needs and informationseeking behaviour; and the critical evaluation of information service provision. The thesis begins by placing the Portfolio of Public Output in an historical, political context, by discussing the various parliamentary and government openness, transparency and consultative agendas that have influenced or driven the research on which the 21 papers are based. It continues by describing some of the candidate’s earlier research work, to illustrate his long-standing interest in state-stakeholder information provision and exchange, before outlining the various research projects from which the Portfolio outputs have emerged. In the core part of the thesis the 21 Portfolio outputs are synthesised and considered as part of a narrative whole, which reflects critically on their contents and which illustrates the candidate’s empirical, methodological and theoretical contribution to the field of library and information science (LIS). Here, the candidate argues that he has contributed significantly towards developing a better understanding of the information behaviour of stakeholders when engaging with the state, and a greater awareness of the ways in which government and parliamentary information systems and services might be more responsive to their stakeholders’ information needs, thus theoretically enabling a more informed, engaged and participatory body politic. In terms of the candidate’s empirical contribution, the thesis demonstrates that his papers have largely been unique, relevant and timely additions to the literature, written in a conscious effort to address gaps in our knowledge of: parliamentary information services and the ways in which citizens, elected members and officials engage with parliamentary information; the nature and the extent of online information provision and exchange by political actors during parliamentary election campaigns, as well as the online behaviour of voters when attempting to determine their democratic choice; and the accessibility and communication of information during government consultative processes. With regard to the candidate’s methodological contribution, the thesis records his key role in the design of innovative and effective data collection and analytical techniques, including: a series of protocol analysis codes to record citizens’ use of parliamentary websites; frameworks and schemata for the content analyses of political actors’ election campaign websites and social media sites; the use of covert research to measure politicians’ responsiveness online; and, perhaps most significantly, the interactive, electronicallyassisted interview in a roadshow setting. In terms of his theoretical contribution, the thesis discusses the candidate’s part in the development of the theory of Information Interchange, which considers the roles and aims of both the information provider and the information user in assessing the effectiveness of the information communication process, and which is built upon the dichotomy that appears to exist between the two perspectives. The theory recognises the significance of the different agendas and objectives of the actors involved in information interchange, in what can be a complex interaction between two or more parties with potentially conflicting conceptions of the purpose of the interchange process. Throughout the thesis, the candidate considers the actual and potential impact of his work on the LIS academic and practitioner communities. His 21 Portfolio outputs have created considerable academic interest internationally, and have been discussed and critiqued in numerous text books, journal articles, conference papers, research reports and doctoral theses; although there is only minimal evidence of others adopting, or adapting, his data collection and analytical techniques. While interest has been most significant amongst those in the LIS field, the multidisciplinary relevance of the candidate’s work has resulted in it being cited by authors from a wide range of other disciplines, from business administration to computing, and from engineering to public relations. In terms of the more practical impact of the candidate’s research work, on government and parliamentary information services and practices, the picture has been mixed. Research commissioned by the European Parliament has had the clearest and most significant impact, on its Library’s marketing and service strategies. In some cases, although a number of the candidate’s recommendations — relating to parliamentary public information services in the UK, and Scottish Government website deficiencies — have subsequently been addressed by these bodies, no direct causal relationship can be established. In other cases — particularly in relation to Scottish Government consultative processes, and the online electioneering of parliamentary candidates in Scotland — his recommendations have been ignored completely, and information practices have remained idiosyncratic, inconsistent and flawed. The thesis concludes by considering some of the candidate’s future research plans and opportunities in the specific field of state-stakeholder information provision and exchange.