Published online by Cambridge University Press: 12 November 2009
Finding a professional connection with a colleague seems like a simple task but can devour hours of time. An anecdote illustrates why this is hard. A researcher whom we will call David got a call with a question about research on interactive toys. David had some experience in that area and immediately recalled several people who did similar work, but who didn't quite fit the bill of this request. He vaguely remembered someone he had heard about who did do that sort of work – the researcher was a Canadian woman who had recently won an award for women in computer science. He thought but wasn't sure that the woman was from western Canada. With these recollections in mind, he set about trying to find her.
First, he tried searching based on the topic. He began with a Web search on the topic area but found far too many results. He tried narrowing his search but had no luck. He tried a number of refinements, including searching on words related to the award, and so on. After spending nearly half an hour, he decided to try a different strategy.
This time, David tried to find the researcher through his social network. He began by asking a co-worker down the hall. A short conversation didn't yield any leads. Continuing down the hall, he asked another colleague. Again, the colleague didn't know the person he was seeking, but this person did suggest another related researcher who might know the mystery woman's identity.