Working in the field of research analysis, a person must literally wade through thousands of pieces of information in order to determine the proper courses of action that should be undertaken under various circumstances. All research analysts work in either the government or in the private sector, most often in fields such as marketing wherein they acquire data based on consumers and consumption. From that data, they must determine what trends influence consumerism and how to best provide for their clients way that would induce consumers to purchase or utilize various goods and/or services (Roberts 2010). The governments of the world have always been responsible for accumulating and exposing information to the populations under their control. In the United States, there are laws which ensure that information is made available to any persons who demand it. Although, there is still information which is under the strict control of the government and which the massive amount of the population is not permitted to witness. The reason that information is withheld usually has to do with public safety and national security. In the military, personnel are privy to the kinds of top secret information that the average citizen will never be able to see. A person in a supervisory position in the United States government, or some other venue where information is a form of currency, may question the importance of free information and question the pertinence of information to their lives and to the lives of those in the general public. Some people who are allowed to view these documents do not understand why it is that some information is denied the general public and others don't understand why people who are responsible for topics such as military intelligence must be made aware of all the information.
One argument against research analysis and the influx of large amounts of information is that people have been acquiring data forever and there is more than enough information to analyze and make decisions (McKellar 2011). Simply, the reason that information must be continuously collected and analyzed is that there are always new technologies and new modes of existence. Data that has been collected in one year about certain populations will almost certainly not hold true in the same population at another time. People and cultures are in a constant state of flux. As they change, so too data changes and these alterations must be recorded and analyzed within their cultural context.
When an individual works as a research analyst, then information is the means by which they perform their occupation. Throughout childhood, human beings have been indoctrinated in the belief that knowledge is equated with power and the more knowledge that a person has, the more power that they can possess (Pulver 2009,-page 4). Additionally, the more information that a person has about a subject, the more educated their understanding and thus the greater chance that they have for succeeding when they choose a path of conduct. If knowledge is a form of currency and the amount of intelligence that a person has makes for more appropriate and, arguable, better decision-making, then can there ever be such a thing as possessing too much information? In the scenario stated above, a person in a position of authority has explained their position that the abundance of information that can be made available to people can be overrated. Under what circumstances could intelligence be overrated?
According to a document entitled "Role and Importance of Information," published by Penn State (2008), information is the only way to make appropriate decisions and thus to progress in any enterprise. Accumulation of information is necessary to make the best decision possible for the given situation, whether that be a situation involving a financial, emotional, or national difficulty. The author of this piece states:
Every job, project, and/or task involves decision making. Decision making is the process of identifying, selecting, and implementing alternatives. The right information, in the right form, at the right time is needed to make correct decisions (Role 2008).
A research analyst's job is, by definition, to examine information and make decisions regarding everything from military strategy to efficient spending practices. Even though the amount of information that must be gone through may be extremely overwhelming, it is the responsibility of accurate research analysis to process and be informed of all positions and science of a particular subject.
The ability to research everything that is available to a person is most likely impossible, especially if that person has a high level of security clearance. This would mean they are privy to even more information than their colleagues, all of which must be read and investigated. In order to view certain secret documentation, a person must have a degree of security clearance with the national government. When people hear the term "security clearance," many may automatically think of the government of their country and the high station a person must hold in order to know certain information (Merle 2006). However, clearance can also be in an issue in large businesses wherein the hierarchy of executives will directly correspond to the amount of information they are allowed to know about the company, its operations, and its interests. Logically, it makes sense that the higher the level of security clearance that a person has, the more information that they are able to see and thus analyze.
There are ways in which information can be eliminated from research investigation; such as if the data is irrelevant to the question being researched or if the data that has been collected cannot be verified or substantiated. In these types of situations, information can be considered redundant and unnecessary, although the term underrated still does not adequately apply. Perhaps, rather than eliminating research and restricting the amount of information that is given to people, the best course of action is to create levels of analysis wherein those who must examine the most data do so in a cursory manner, rather than performing intense criticism or analysis.
It is interesting that in the modern moment, people question whether or not more information must be collected when just a short while ago, people fought for the right to information that was classified and unavailable to the general population. The Freedom of Information Act came as a result of the American citizens growing suspicions and distrust of the American government and the politicians who ran it. After the act passed, many pieces of formerly classified information where reevaluated and made available to the rest of the "unsecured" population. The rule that applies to information is that all data and information gathered by the government must be made available to the American citizenry unless "the public interest in withholding the information is greater than the public interest in disclosing it" (Freedom 2011).
These two things then seem to be incongruous. Why are Americans demanding information be given to them by their governments if there is too much information available to people already? The only way to answer that question is to understand that there are two types of information. There is information of quantity, wherein there is so much information to be understood that no one can every read it all. This information is often not researched and undocumented, making them useless pieces of data. The other type of information is quality data wherein sources are documented and assertions can be backed up with evidentiary documentation.
The only time when information can be at all classified as "overrated" is when the information is not used appropriately. If information is received, but then the individual who has acquired it does nothing with their data, the information is not useful, and thus irrelevant. According to Seth Baker (2011), the information that a person learns has value only if it meets the following criteria: "helps you make a better decision, improves your skills (useful or otherwise), entertains or enlightens, can be shared with or made useful for someone else, promotes social change…, [or] can be synthesized and applied to previous knowledge" (page 1). In terms of research analysis, the same standards apply. Information is only overrated if it is knowledge that is not further utilized.
Unfortunately, the only way to determine what information is useful and what is unnecessary is to look at everything that one possibly can. Necessity and relevance are both subjective terms which can be interpreted a number of ways. Often the assessment of whether data and information are useful or needed falls to the supervisors of the field in which the person is researching. If these people, like in the hypothetical situation mentioned above with the supervisor who feels that sharing of both classified and unclassified information is overrated, then their determinations will more than likely limit the amount of information that their subordinates are permitted to examine. This is dangerous in that information that can be mislabeled as unnecessary when it is in fact very important to the progress of a field and into…