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Rethinking information

International kudos for information management research


By Susan White

A recent PhD graduate from Memorial’s business faculty has received international recognition for his graduate research and the resulting thesis.

Dr. Roman Lukyanenko won the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group on Management Information Systems (SIGMIS) Doctoral Dissertation Award for best dissertation in the global information systems field.

A photo of Dr. Roman Lukanenko, whose PhD research and thesis have won him international awards.
Dr. Roman Lukanenko’s PhD research and thesis have won him international awards.
Photo: Chris Hammond

He also received the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS) Design Science Award for his PhD research. Both honours were bestowed at the International Conference on Information Systems in December.

Dr. Lukyanenko graduated from Memorial’s Faculty of Business Administration in the fall of 2014 with a PhD in management. He is now an assistant professor at Florida International University.

Citizen science

Dr. Lukyanenko’s research used a website called NLNature.com to gather sightings of flora and fauna in the province from ordinary citizens, an approach known as “citizen science.”

He examined the information gathering processes to evaluate current models of information management for user-generated content.

“I used this example of NLNature.com to better understand how information is created [and] what is information quality in this digital age, particularly when information is created outside an organization,” he said. “It looks at the quality of information that is created by ordinary people. So, you post something on Facebook: you might be an expert in what you’re posting but the important thing is what you’re doing may not follow strict organizational protocols and yet, organizations want to use this information for their own purposes.

“My thesis is an attempt at rethinking common assumptions about information and information technology in an attempt to support the ongoing digitization of society.”

‘A new kind of validity’

The two awards recognize the quality of Dr. Lukyanenko’s thesis as well as his use of a tangible real-world technology in biological context to study general ideas in his research.

“It occurred to us in doing this work that we’ve stumbled on a new kind of validity in research,” he said. “Research in sciences have several kinds of validities—the extent to which any kind of scientific study is justified in its conclusion; believable (or) valid, if you will,” he said. “For many decades, research—say, for instance, in business—has relied on notions of validity from social sciences and there has really not been a whole lot of work to discover new ones that are more appropriate to the study of information technologies.”

“Turned out, nobody before has really looked deeply at this issue.” — Dr. Roman Lukyanenko

Dr. Lukyanenko applied a concrete example (NLNature.com) from an unrelated discipline (biology) to explore general ideas about information management and data quality, a process he calls “instantiation validity.”

“Instantiation validity deals with cases where you have something very general and fundamental but in order to study that, you create something real-world specific, like NLnature.com. Turned out, nobody before has really looked deeply at this issue.”

Modern information not produced in a factory

Also novel was Dr. Lukyanenko’s argument that information is not a product.

“Before, information was likened to products produced at a factory. The prevailing idea was they’re designed and used by people to satisfy their specific and well-defined needs. I refined the notion of information and its quality by saying, ‘Look, when information is produced, we often do not understand, unlike factories, the context of production and every possible use for it.’ In other words, you go on Facebook and why you’re writing something, what you’re really meaning by what you type, we may not fully understand.”

This means that the process by which modern information is generated is no longer regimented and the resulting information can be used in ways not intended by the person who generated it.

“The way information should be managed in this new world that we are in is different from the way we currently manage it. When we think about information, we should understand that it can be used in contexts other than the context in which it was produced. And, having this understanding paves the way for better curation and better management of information.”

Real-world applications

Dr. Lukyanenko’s ideas about information have been applied to management of natural resources, for example, and are currently being extended to health care and urban planning in smart cities.

Dr. Lukyanenko worked with and was supervised by Dr. Jeffrey Parsons, University Research Professor at Memorial’s business faculty. Dr. Parsons accepted the awards for Dr. Lukyanenko, who couldn’t attend the conference.

“I was happy to learn that Jeff was able to be there on my behalf,” said Mr. Lukyanenko. “Oftentimes the spotlight goes to the student, but definitely, the amount of effort I put into the dissertation, I would not have done if I had not had Jeff as a supervisor. He saw the promise and therefore I invested a lot of my personal time in the research and I’m glad that I did.”

Memorial partnerships

Dr. Lukyanenko is continuing his research on instantiation validity with Dr. Parsons as well as Dr. Joerg Evermann, associate professor of information systems at the Faculty of Business Administration. He’s also working with Dr. Sherrie Komiak, associate professor of information systems at the business faculty, on ways to better tailor information technology to the variable needs of people.

Dr. Lukyanenko’s study is titled The IQ of the Crowd: Understanding and Improving Information Quality in Structured User-generated Content. Co-authored with Dr. Parsons and Dr. Yolanda Wiersma, associate professor at Memorial’s Department of Biology, the study was published in Information Systems Research.

His study on instantiation validity, Instantiation Validity in IS Design Research, was written with Dr. Parsons and Dr. Evermann and published in Advancing the Impact of Design Science: Moving from Theory to Practice.

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