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A domain-specific interactants profile

The characteristics and wishes that the interactants in the process of scientific communication are assumed to have are modelled in an `interactants profile'. We have introduced in section 2.2.2 a general profile of the interactants in the process of scientific communication via articles, in which we have made explicit their demands for effective and efficient communication. Here, we specify that profile for the domain of experimental molecular dynamics, in particular for the authors and readers of the articles in the corpus, and we formulate the domain-specific requirements.

The majority of the authors of the publications in the corpus were Ph.D. students at the FOM-Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in Amsterdam (AMOLF) and their supervisors, in particular the senior author and leader of the research project addressed in the corpus. They studied different aspects of the larger subject of the research project as a whole: the dynamics of ion pair formation, from the angle of molecular scattering. Because they collaborated, they were able to exchange results and share general information that plays a role in each author's work. Because of the scale of the project, the general subject remained the focal point over a prolonged period of time, so that this general information also remained relevant to various publications.

In our modular model, we assume that the authors wish to take advantage of a common presentation of general information in their subsequent articles, once that has been created, rather than rewrite such a presentation for every single article. In this domain, we find multiple usage of information pertaining to the experimental methods and the theoretical model that is under scrutiny in the research project as a whole, and of a general introduction to the main subject and the background of the research project.

The set-up in a scattering experiment is rather elaborate. It consists typically of several components: a source of the primary beam, selection of the state of the particles in that beam, the interaction of the beam particles with their collision partners, the analysis distinguishing between the different reaction products and the detection of these products. Crucial parts of the set-up are custom-made at the laboratory workshop. Therefore, the experimental set-up takes an important place in the articles. The presentation of either the set-up as a whole, or elements of it are eligible for multiple use in various publications on different sub-projects.

A description of the salient points of the theory of scattering also plays a role in the interpretation of the experimental results in more than one publication. The `theoretical toolbox' that the authors of the corpus-publications had at their disposal contained the harpoon model, the Landau-Zener model and the simplified surface hopping trajectory model. Every author attempted to apply these theories and models, with or without modification, to a particular problem.

The target audience varied with the journal in which the article was published. The articles in the corpus have been published in the following journals: twenty in Chemical Physics, seven in Physica, which all belong to the first part of the corpus, and one in Journal of Chemical Physics. In these journals the following explicit `aim and scope' are stated, indicating a target audience:  

The first set of articles was published in a journal that was supposed to cover a large part of physics. The main reason for choosing Physica was that it was considered one of the leading journals for the physics community in The Netherlands.5.5 Later articles were published in journals aimed explicitly at a more specialised audience engaged in experimental or theoretical research in chemical physics: the Journal of Chemical Physics and Chemical Physics have the same target audience, but the former is an American journal and the latter European.

In the domain-specific interactants profile, the reader is assumed to be a researcher working in the area of chemical physics. The domain of chemical physics is large enough to allow for a number of specialisms, so that not every member of the target audience is necessarily equally aware of the backgrounds of the subject of a particular publication. So, the target audience includes `less informed readers' and `more informed readers' as defined in section 2.2.2.

In the interactants profile, we assume, as did the authors of the corpus articles, that all readers are aware of the basics of the harpoon model, the Landau-Zener model and the simplified surface hopping trajectory model. These were available before the research project started. Nevertheless, the target audience is not assumed to be aware of all relevant details. Therefore, a description of the relevant theories and models, including their restrictions (i.e. their assumptions and approximations), has to be made available to the reader. This also applies to the theory of scattering. The basics are common knowledge, but only the more informed part of the target audience is assumed to be sufficiently aware of the more advanced aspects that are relevant to the subject.

The reader is also assumed to be aware of the general lay out and techniques of a molecular beam scattering experiment. The details of the construction of custom made components, however, are not common knowledge, nor are the specifications of the settings that differ for each experiment. An account of the restrictions of the apparatus (such as its energy range and precision) is also required in the article. The article must contain sufficient information, or refer to sufficient information, for the `averagely informed reader', the prototypical member of the target audience, to perform the same or a similar experiment.5.6

Although some readers read the article as a whole, others are assumed to be interested in specific issues only. The authors of the corpus articles themselves regularly cite and use specific details from other articles. In particular, they refer to components of the set-up, expressions and parameters for the potential, and the results and interpretations of other measurements of cross sections. Both readers with a theoretical interest and those who are thoroughly familiar with the subject may find the full details of an experimental set-up of less interest. Experimentalists may on the contrary look for a description of the apparatus and a discussion of its applications and restrictions, for example, when they are involved in the construction of the same type of set-up themselves.

The research has an experimental and a theoretical component. Therefore, purely experimental articles, that report on measurements without interpreting them with respect to a theory, are rare. We assume that some readers are most interested in the interpretation of the results, whereas others want to consult the results of an article separately. The cross sections measured in a scattering experiment can for instance be used by the reader without the subsequent interpretation in terms of molecular dynamics. Parameters of a system, such as the potential parameters, are also useful as separate results. Firstly, the reader may wish to evaluate them directly, in which case the results must be represented in a comprehensive way, typically graphically for large amounts and tabular for small amounts of data. Secondly, he may wish to use them as input in his own research, to interpret the data using a different, updated theory or to compare them to his own results.

For the reader, it is important to know what methods have been used to generate the results. In order to enable the reader to understand how reliable the results are and to use them correctly, their error margins also have to be available; these error margins are related to the restrictions of the methods.

  We assume that the reader wants to be able to locate information in a directed or semi-directed search, firstly by searching for the author names, journal names, periods in time, the group in which the author worked, or some unique identification for direct retrieval. Secondly, the reader also searches for physics terms. We assume that in this domain the reaction that is studied, the experimental method, including the sample and the energy range, and the theoretical model must be available for searching.


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Table of Contents
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Next: Introduction to the examples Up: Applying the model to Previous: The corpus of articles