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The writing of this article is a competitive act. It involves the giving, receiving, and interpreting of signals, and the understanding of the rules which determine interaction in a given social environment. The authors, who are practicing academics, wish to send certain signals, both institutional and personal. First, that their institution is active in the CI field (image management, in other words). Second, that they, as individuals, seek association with this field (what might be termed product positioning). In addition, they have linked their work by means of references to others in the field, and they seek to claim priority in the presentation of certain ideas and in the innovative linking of certain literature sets. As academics, both authors wish to add another unit of publication in a recognized journal to their resumes, as this may be used along with other activity indicators as a measure of individual faculty performance. A reader who wishes to analyze the competitive position and strategies of LIS schools in the United States might infer from this publication that the authors' school is staking a claim in the area of CI.
Such signals only have meaning in context. As specialists in a given social environment, both authors must identify and conform to the internal (social norms) and external (environmental constraints) rules which ensure the viability of their social group (see, for example, Becher, 1989). Work must not be plagiarized--e.g., sources and assistance must be acknowledged, copyright and patent legislation must be complied with, and the work should have no implications in terms of product liability. The authors maintain that such understanding of the internal and external environment--Bourdieu's (1991, p. 12) habitus--which emerges from competitive intelligence activities is the key to sustaining social advantage or ensuring viability in any context.
Identifying and operating by the rules is not sufficient, however. Players in a given sector must also be able to interpret the moves of others and the ways in which coplayers are likely to interpret a given situation or milieu. A paper submitted for publication to a journal, for example, has to compete for space; an experienced author will sometimes check the characteristics which determine the quality of a given journal, monitor the composition of the editorial board, and engineer a submission to fit (see, for example, Myers, 1990). Insider knowledge of the editorial calendar may ensure that one submission is more timely than another and so on. A similar knowledge of the rules, and how those rules are interpreted, will determine success or failure in many areas of academic life, such as applications for posts, grant/funding proposals, and the preparation and submission of both curriculum documentation and course syllabi.
The sustaining of competitive advantage in academic and research environments goes well beyond the personal and institutional. Cawkell (1991) has described how the ISI's (Institute for Scientific Information) Science Citation Index can be used for competitive intelligence: This process opens up a means of gathering intelligence for such purposes as estimating the impact of work done by an individual or an organization or noting the growth, diminution, or change in the activities of a science-based company, educational or research establishment, or even an entire country (p. 29). Such tools have been used for more than a decade in the United Kingdom for research evaluation purposes, though the most recent initiative (the Technology Foresight Programme) will use a Delphi technique, copied from Japan, to identify an array of technologies which promise the United Kingdom the most social and economic benefit (Bown, 1993). Output in the form of publication is one of many factors in determining the competitiveness of a given institution. Input, in terms of infrastructural investment, for example, is also important. Campuswide information systems are recognized as an important element in attracting high calibre students, faculty, donors, and investors (Arms, 1988; Cronin, 1989).
Investment in infrastructure is obviously important at the national level. Many of the public statements which support federal investment in the national research and education network (NREN) have stressed its significance to the future industrial competitiveness of the United States. By allowing universal access to key resources, the proposed initiative should have, in theory, a leveraging effect on the general level of education, a variable identified by Porter (1990) as a strategic factor in national competitiveness. Already the Internet offers scope for accelerating technology transfer by bringing researchers and industrialists into closer contact and showcasing prototypes to potentially interested audiences.
THE TRADITIONAL APPROACH
The elements of intelligence work are summarized neatly by Kipling (1912): I keep six honest serving-men/ (They taught me all I knew)/ Their names are What and Why and When/ And How and Where and Who (p. 83). The historic approach to competitive intelligence has focused on sources of information, which allow five of the six men to be identified--the "why," however, relies on analysis of patterns and interpretations of sources. Fuld, writing in 1985, makes similar points, but also emphasizes the importance of "Uncle Sams Library," or public domain information (e.g., federal and state registers, pp. 85-135). A decade later, the L-word is frequently invoked to describe the Internet (the world's largest public library [Tetzeli, 1994!; the postal service, telephone system and research library of the electronic age [Lewis, 1993, F7]), an interesting legitimation which may help to boost librarians' self-esteem (Chitwood, 1992). The role of the Internet in accessing …