Professor Ian Ruthven

Computer and Information Sciences


Personal statement

I am a Professor of Information Seeking and Retrieval in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. My research is focussed on the human experience of interacting with information, particularly on how people find information. This involves understanding how people seek information, designing appropriate interactive search systems, and developing human-focussed approaches for evaluating information systems. I have conducted this research in various contexts including health, migration, and cultural heritage. I am the author of, Dealing With Change Through Information Sculpting, a new book that uncovers how people respond informationally to major life transitions by examining our information behaviours – how we provide, seek, assess, share, use, deny, avoid, and create information – during times of personal change and explains the role of these behaviours in reconstructing ourselves following a life event. Working across hundreds of research studies, Dealing With Change Through Information Sculpting proposes the theory of Information Sculpting to describe how we respond to change and the information behaviours we use to create this response, explaining how we construct solutions to life transitions by a series of information behaviours that are used to gain a sense of coherence, purpose, and value in life. I am the chair of the Scottish Library and Information Council, the independent advisory body to the Scottish Government on library and information related matters. SLIC supports Scottish library and information services through service innovation, funding provision, leadership development, advocacy, and informative research. I also chair the Steering Committee of the Information Seeking in Context conference series, the academic home of Information Behaviour research.

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Area of Expertise

  • information seeking theory
  • interface design for information access
  • user studies

Prize And Awards

Tony Kent Strix Memorial Award
IJIDI Outstanding paper award
Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA)
JASIST Best Paper Award 2019

More prizes and awards

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Information shaping
Ruthven Ian
Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology Vol 75, pp. 469-482 (2024)
Information sculpting
Ruthven Ian
Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology Vol 75, pp. 483-495 (2024)
Are older people battling with digital financial services?
Thomas Dain, Chowdhury Gobinda, Ruthven Ian
iConference 2024 (2024)
Genre recognition : a model of behaviour
Clark Malcolm, Ruthven Ian
Wisdom, Well-Being, Win-Win Lecture Notes in Computer Science Vol 14596 (2024)
God’s intermediaries : a study into chaplains' information behaviour
Robson Kieran, Ruthven Ian, Innocenti Perla
Information Seeking in Context 2024 (ISIC2024) (2024)
Uncharted territory : understanding exploratory search behaviours in literature reviews
Soufan Ayah, Ruthven Ian, Azzopardi Leif
2024 ACM SIGIR Conference on Human Information Interaction and
Retrieval, pp. 1-21 (2024)

More publications

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  • information retrieval
  • information seeking
  • qualitative and quantitative research methods
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Professional Activities

University of Pretoria
Visiting researcher
Scottish Library and Information Council (External organisation)
ISIC : The Information Behaviour Conference
Keynote/plenary speaker
Information Seeking in Context Conference Series (External organisation)
Information Processing and Management (Journal)
To be assigned

More professional activities


Developing a theory of information resilience with constituency case workers
Nicol, Emma (Principal Investigator) Ruthven, Ian (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2023 - 30-Jan-2026
Downloading a new normal - privacy, exclusion, and information behaviour in public library digital services use during COVID
McMenemy, David (Principal Investigator) Ruthven, Ian (Co-investigator)
18-Jan-2020 - 17-Jan-2022
DoSSIER: Domain Specific Systems for Information, Extraction and Retrieval (H2020 MSCA)
Azzopardi, Leif (Principal Investigator) Halvey, Martin (Co-investigator) Ruthven, Ian (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2019 - 31-Jan-2023
Understanding the Information Needs of Young First Time Mothers from Areas of Multiple Deprivation
Buchanan, Steven (Principal Investigator) Ruthven, Ian (Co-investigator)
"Information informs, guides, and empowers; but persistent barriers to access and use are societally divisive and as yet not fully understood, particularly amongst marginalised groups. Addressing enduring issues of information poverty, this project seeks to better understand the information needs of young first time mothers (YFTM) aged 21 or under from deprived areas, and associated barriers, by identifying and better understanding the: everyday information needs, seeking preferences, and challenges of YFTM; and the +/- factors influencing YFTM engagement with supportive services, and the appropriate assistive intervention points and methods.
The UK has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe, with associated conception rates correlated to multiple deprivation indexes. At risk groups are disadvantaged and disengaged, with significant health and wellbeing issues reported for both mother and child. Intervention programmes focus on early parenting needs with on-going holistic educational support considered key to long-term social inclusion/reintegration; however, there is evidence that mainstream services are failing to provide such support with significant unmet YFTM information needs reported, and overarching concerns raised regarding equity of access to information in both the physical and digital space.
A significant challenge in addressing holistic YFTM information needs relates to our limited understanding of young peoples' everyday information needs, preferences and seeking behavior generally, and more specifically, in impoverished and/or marginalized circumstances (limiting effective tailored service design and delivery considered key to access and use). There are complex and as yet not fully understood access barriers and internalised behavioural barriers to consider, the former influenced by digital divide and information literacy issues, the latter by social structures and norms; barriers that we believe put YFTM, and in turn their children, at greater risk of becoming impoverished information outsiders, living a stratified and disengaged existence. This project, recognising the importance of information access to economic and social mobility, and health and wellbeing; will comprehensively identify and investigate YFTM information needs, seeking preferences and challenges, and advance our understanding of the +/- factors influencing engagement of marginalised groups in both the physical and digital space, including appropriate assistive intervention points and strategies to not only meet immediate needs, but to foster independent lifelong learning and on-going social inclusion. Output will guide both policy (what to provide and from whom) and process (how to provide) of public information service providers (including collaborative aspects).
This project, which will bring together theories of social capital and social networks with theories and models of information behaviour to address issues of information poverty in both the physical and digital space; aligns with ESRC strategic priority influencing behaviour and informing interventions, and associated questions: how to understand behaviour and risks at multiple levels and a variety of contexts; how and why do behaviours change; and how does the interplay of child, family, community and wider society influence inequalities in wellbeing?"
01-Jan-2015 - 30-Jan-2017
Scottish Network on Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation (ScotDigiCH)
Ruthven, Ian (Principal Investigator) Damala, Areti (Principal Investigator)
The network brings together academics from different disciplines and professionals from Scotland's key cultural organisations in order to investigate how cultural digital resources are used by diverse user groups, how to record their impact on learning, research and community engagement and how to maximize their potential.
15-Jan-2015 - 30-Jan-2016
Re-design of interactive exhibits using low cost technology for proof of concept prototypes
Ruthven, Ian (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2014 - 30-Jan-2015

More projects

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Professor Ian Ruthven
Computer and Information Sciences

Tel: 548 3704