Paul Matthews, University of the West of England, United Kingdom (

Background. Social media often adds a layer of intermediation between sources and information consumer, with users outsourcing some of the information work to others. Social media “synthesists” have been identified as a group of volunteer information providers fulfilling this role.
Approach. Through a review of evidence from philosophy, information science and knowledge management, this paper explores the implications of cognitive outsourcing, presents quality standards for synthesis and asks how well synthesists meet these. In the process, the role of intermediary is discussed, along with the non-specialist status of the synthesist.
Results. Findings show that social media synthesists fulfil a useful role and that their importance in terms of knowledge translation is clear. While their synthesis quality may fall far short of LIS standards, there are a number of ways that some quality issues can be addressed, including the involvement of the information profession itself on the same social platforms.
Contribution. Through a comparison of synthesis best practice with current informal information behaviour on social media, the paper draws attention to quality issues and new opportunities to address them. This represents an attempt to identify ways to bridge formal and emerging, informal information markets.

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Cite: Matthews, P. (2014). Search delegation, synthesists and expertise on social media. LIBRES, 24(2), 97-107.