Report from the Information Overload and Underload Workgroup


  • Bryan Alexander Publishing Consultant and Futurist
  • Kim Barrett Dean of the Graduate Division, University of California San Diego (UCSD)
  • Sioux Cumming Program Manager, Online Journals, International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP)
  • Patrick Herron Senior Research Scientist, Information Science + Studies, Duke University
  • Claudia Holland Head, Copyright and Scholarly Communications, George Mason University
  • Kathleen Keane Director, Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Joyce Ogburn Dean of Libraries, Appalachian State University
  • Jake Orlowitz Head of The Wikipedia Library, Wikipedia
  • Mary Augusta Thomas Assistant Director, Smithsonian Institution Libraries
  • Jeff Tsao Distinguished Member of Technical Staff, Sandia National Laboratories



The duality of information overload and underload is a defining issue of our age. Scholarly information is abundant but not universally accessible to all scholars and learners, thereby hindering or prohibiting equitable engagement in ongoing scholarly conversations. Access is a core aspect of the issue of overload and underloadââ¬âboth access to research materials and access to venues where one can contribute to the scholarly corpusââ¬âbut it is not the only aspect. Our group agreed that the problem of overload is preferable to that of underload; however, the dual nature of the issue makes that conclusion more nuanced, dynamic, and situational. In this report we explore the many factors and causes of information overload and underload and also develop ideas for solutions. A summary of the issues is provided.

OSI2016 Workgroup Question

Information underload occurs when we donââ¬â¢t have access to the information we need (for a variety of reasons, including cost)ââ¬âresearchers based at smaller institutions and in the global peíriphery, policymakers, and the general public, particularly with regard to medical research. Overload occurs when we can access everything but are simply overwhelmed by the torrent of information available (not all of which is equally valuable). Are these issues two sides of the same coin? In both cases, how can we work together to figure out how to get people the information they need? Can we? How widespread are these issues? What are the economic and research consequences of information underload and overload?