The variables representing usage of a system of scholarly communication and research are both effects and causes. Since scholars, the users of the system, are highly intelligent and adaptive, the effect of the system will influence their behavior, establishing a kind of feedback loop. As the diagram in Figure 17.1 shows, there are two key loops. The upper one, shown by the dark arrows, reflects an idealized picture of university administration. In this picture, the features of any system are adjusted so that, when used by faculty and students, they improve institutional effectiveness. This adjustment occurs in the context of continual adaptation on the part of the users of the system, as shown by the lighter colored arrows in the lower feedback loop.
These feedback loops are constrained by the continual change of the environment, which affects the expectations and activities of the users, affects the kind of features that can be built into the system, and affects the very management that is bringing the system into existence. The dotted arrows show this interaction.
Our primary research goal, in relation to users, uses, and impacts, is to understand these relationships, using data gathered by library circulation systems, Internet servers, and surveys and interviews of users themselves.