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Center for Information and Communication Studies

The Center for Information and Communication Studies (CICS) focuses the talent of faculty and research staff in the College of Communication and Information, across disciplines at UT and beyond, to address research problems related to information and communication systems and services, broadly defined.


  • To identify research problems involving the intersection of information technology, knowledge-based systems and services, communication, and user behavior.
  • To build interdisciplinary research teams from within the college, across the university, and outside the UT community.
  • To identify funding sources and developing proposals for projects that will further knowledge in information and communication issues.
  • To conduct research projects in a timely and cost-effective manner.
  • To disseminate the results of its research in a manner that assures effective knowledge transfer.

Faculty and Staff

  • Carol Tenopir, Ph.D., Director
  • Bobbie Suttles, M.S., Assistant Director
  • Ashley Howdeshell, B.S., Accounting Coordinator I
  • Claire Van Riper, M.L.S., Administrative Coordinator I
  • Beth Meko, M.S., Research Specialist I (grant writer)

The Center for Information and Communication Studies (CICS) in the College of Communication and Information is devoted primarily to research. CICS facilitates and administers applied research in the areas of information systems and database design/evaluation, cyber security, information usage, bioinformatics, effective communication, scientific communication, science publishing, and information management. CICS works with private and public organizations, governmental agencies, and corporations to provide technical solutions, educational materials, and research expertise in information- and communication-related projects. The work of CICS has involved dozens of researchers from across disciplines and across agency borders.

Established in 1989 by faculty in the School of Information Sciences, CICS expanded its mission in 2004 to become the primary research branch of the College of Communication and Information. It assists with all externally funded research initiatives in communication and information.

The center employs technical research staff (some with government clearances) to work on a variety of projects, supports college faculty research, and employs UT graduate and undergraduate students. Student positions—providing real-world experience in competitive and global information technology-rich environments—sometimes lead to jobs, but more importantly, deepen students’ appreciation and understanding of their coursework. Although research is the focus, we attempt to integrate the CICS research mission with the college’s teaching mission by involving college faculty members and students in CICS-initiated projects.

Research Capabilities

User studies: studies of how scientists, engineers, and others communicate and use information; usability testing of information systems.

Science Communication — web design and technical writing; communicating science to selected audiences.

Database Design — effective information retrieval design; database design for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive hazards; global reactor security.

Digital Libraries — design, usage data, collection development, preservation of text, data, and other content.


CICS administrative staff offices are in Suite 420 of the Communications Building at 1345 Circle Park Drive. CICS also maintains project offices on campus to accommodate contract employees who work on projects requiring on-campus office space. Laboratory facilities of the College of Communication and Information are available for center projects, including computer labs, a user experience lab, video production labs, and a video conference lab. CICS staff also work on site at contractors’ facilities.

The College of Communication and Information’s User Experience Laboratory is composed of two participant user workstation rooms, a researcher’s observation room, and a reception room. Researchers have access to usability equipment that allows researchers to observe and record usability sessions without distracting participants. Another researcher resource available is eye tracking; eye trackers are tools used to see what users see when they interact with computer systems and websites. The lab has two different eye tracking systems available for use.

State-of-the-art hardware and software, provided by Oak Ridge National Laboratory includes cameras, computers, printers, software, and a researcher/controller station enabling the collection, analysis, and presentation of observational data. The software will record and interleave the keystrokes, interactions with the systems, postures, gestures, and eye movements of subjects. A project can be analyzed at once or the results can be exported to other data analysis software packages.

Contact Information

Carol Tenopir, Director
Suite 420, 1345 Circle Park Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996-0341
Phone: (865) 974-7911


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