This paper tests empirically the claim that the successful application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) depends on the social context of their use. There are striking differences in the prevalence of ICT use between researchers in different academic disciplines. Nevertheless it is unclear whether and how they depend on disciplinary differences of the academic communication system. This paper presents several existing and new hypotheses that specify how disciplinary differences in communication systems influence whether researchers make use of so-called internet discussion groups (IDGs). The hypotheses either argue that specific trust problems inhibit IDG subscription or that IDGs fulfil discipline-specific communication needs, which gives incentives for subscription. They are tested with data of a sample of university researchers in the natural and social sciences and the humanities. The trust hypotheses are not confirmed. The idea that IDGs have a distinct orientation function that diminishes deficiencies in the existing communication systems of some disciplines finds support. Scholars who work in research fields that are difficult to overview, that is fields with a high number of journals, have a special incentive to subscribe to IDGs.
- social media
- Science communication