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THE LIFE SCIENCES welfare of the life sciences the National Science Foundation, the Depart- ment of Health, Education, and Welfare, and the Department of Agricul- ture mount significant programs of financial assistance to this network of libraries. We have not ascertained the appropriate level of such funding, but the needs are acute, and their solutions expensive; at least $25 million per year will be required if these libraries are to continue to serve their various clienteles adequately. LOOKING FORWARD A national information network with interlocking federal and private components is slowly evolving. The emerging patterns for physical and chemical sciences rely heavily on the existence of single coordinating or- ganizations, viz., the American Institute of Physics and the American Chemical Society. For the biological sciences, three generalized informa- tion services now function as central reference points for the three major subsets of the community: the National Agricultural Library, the National Library of Medicine, and the BioSciences Information Service of Biological Abstracts. This seems to be a viable pattern. The diversity of the biologi- cal sciences, both in organizational structure and in subject matter, is paralleled by that of the federal system. No single all-embracing informa- tion system exists; if it did, it probably could not serve the needs of the community. Although a national plan for information-handling in biology must be conceived and developed, it is best founded on existing institutions; it must involve both public and private sectors and must be based upon the coop- eration of several organizations small specialized services as well as the three central institutions listed above. Those three institutions will play essential roles as intersects in the information network and as switching points within and between systems, and thus must accept responsibility for serving the scientist, practitioner, policy-maker, and citizen, because no specialized center could give the broad view these information users need. The overall system should be monitored and planned by a continuing group representing the "umbrella" societies and the three major federal foci for biological information. If the system is to be developed adequately, the biological community must accept its responsibilities and coordinate its efforts. Each biologist must consider his needs, demand action of his society or institution, and, when called upon, contribute to the design of an ultimate functioning system.
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