Herald on Sunday - - REVIEW -

Dr Ali­son Camp­bell is an as­so­ciate dean and a se­nior lec­turer in bi­o­log­i­cal sci­ences at the Uni­ver­sity of Waikato.

My life as a re­searcher be­fore Google? Well, it be­gan even be­fore the in­ter­net was re­ally a thing.

It saw me spend­ing a lot of time in the ac­tual (as op­posed to vir­tual) Uni­ver­sity Li­brary.

Any­one do­ing re­search way back then needed to ac­cess hard-copy books and jour­nals, and use great, thick vol­umes of cat­a­logues (rather than the won­der­ful on­line data­bases avail­able to us to­day).

Of course, the li­brary didn’t carry ev­ery jour­nal or text that might be rel­e­vant, which meant that we also needed to fill in in­ter­loan re­quests that were posted or faxed off to other in­sti­tu­tions.

And in due course the book or pa­per we were af­ter would turn up — in the post.

In this far-off time at the start of my ca­reer, per­sonal com­put­ers were also not a thing.

So my col­leagues and I would write our notes and ar­ti­cles in long­hand (with a foun­tain pen, in my case!) and get them typed up.

Sim­i­larly, ed­its were in pen(cil) on pa­per — a far cry from to­day’s Of­fice tool­kit and

the joys of on­line edit­ing. And when out in the field, pa­per maps — and the skills to read them — were in­dis­pens­able.

Our abil­ity to­day to use Google maps is a god­send — as much for nav­i­gat­ing the per­ils of the Auck­land rush-hour en route to a meet­ing, as for us­ing GIS to find the pre­cise lo­ca­tion of a sam­ple site.

So, Google and the tech­nolo­gies be­hind it has be­come a use­ful aca­demic tool. For those of us who are also teach­ers, it’s a mixed bless­ing — there is so much con­tent, of hugely vari­able qual­ity and va­lid­ity, and so it’s es­sen­tial to help stu­dents learn how to nav­i­gate that morass of in­for­ma­tion suc­cess­fully. And I do won­der how we’d man­age if Google (and the in­ter­net) were to dis­ap­pear overnight.

Ali­son Camp­bell in a far-off time.

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