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Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes (1959)

Chapter: Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information

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Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
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Planned and Unplanned Scientific Communication

HERBERT MENZEL

Under a grant from the National Science Foundation of Washington, D.C., the Bureau of Applied Social Research of Columbia University has undertaken to explore ways in which communication research by interview survey methods can contribute to an understanding of the needs and means of scientific information-exchange. On the basis of such an understanding, proposals to improve scientific communication might be generated and evaluated. As a first step, it was decided to study the information-exchanging behavior of the biochemists, chemists, and zoologists on the faculty of a single academic institution—a prominent American university1. This paper reports selected results. A more complete account is on deposit with the National Science Foundation.

The objectives of the research that is ultimately envisaged had been defined as follows:

  1. To distinguish the types of informational needs which scientists have, and to determine in what respects they remain unsatisfied.

  2. To examine the means and occasions of scientific information-exchange,

HERBERT MENZEL Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University, New York.

This paper is Publication A-259 of the Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University. It is based on a pilot study carried out at the Bureau under the supervision of Charles Y.Glock. William A.Glaser and Robert H.Somers collaborated with the author in the execution of the work.

The Bureau operated under a grant from the Office of Scientific Information of the National Science Foundation. The encouragement given this work by Helen L.Brownson and Harry Alpert of the Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. Special thanks are due the biochemists, chemists, and zoologists whose generous contributions of interviewing time and attention made this work possible. Their visible interest in the matters discussed was a source of continuous stimulation.

1  

The 77 scientists whose interviews are analyzed here include all but 8 of the following: teaching faculty in biochemistry; teaching faculty and research associates in chemistry and zoology; provided they were in residence on the campus of the university during the spring of 1957. (Four biochemists, one chemist, and one zoologist refused to be interviewed, or to complete an interrupted interview. Two zoologists were interviewed for background information only.)

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

in order to single out the features which make them more or less able to meet the scientist’s several needs.

  1. To analyze characteristics of the scientist’s specialty, his institution, and his outlook as possible conditions which influence his needs for information, his opportunities for satisfying them, and, hence, his information-gathering habits and felt satisfactions.

The exploratory study was intended to define problems, categories, and procedures for more systematic investigation. Although this report contains numerous frequency counts based on interview responses, they are to be regarded as illustrations of the possible outcome of further work and not as reliable findings. They may not even reliably describe the three academic departments studied, since the interview schedule was continuously modified and developed as the work proceeded.2

A SYSTEMIC VIEW

While the population of the initial study is small, it was decided to cast a broad conceptual net: to consider all the channels through which scientists exchange and gather information, and all the functions which scientific communication facilities are called upon to perform. In fact, the functions which the facilities must serve were made the organizing principle of the study. Rather than to ask, at the outset, “How well does this journal perform? How much does this meeting accomplish? What is wrong with that indexing system?” it was decided to ask as a first set of questions: “What are the functions of the scientific communication system? What mechanisms are now available for performing them? What are the inadequacies in the present performance of each function?”

This decision was founded on the belief that specific topics for investigation can be wisely selected and defined only after the broader context has been scanned. Furthermore, studies of communication processes among non-scientific publics3 had shown that different communication functions are often performed, at their best, through different channels, and that the diverse channels may supplement one another in intricate ways.

Accordingly, we include in our purview not only the scientific literature and

2  

The schedule contained both structured and unstructured questions. A copy of the most recently used version is appended. The average interview took 1.9 hours.

3  

Many such studies are reviewed in Elihu Katz and Paul F.Lazarsfeld’s Personal Influence: The Part Played by People in the Flow of Mass Communication, Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1955, and in Elihu Katz’ The two-step flow of communication, Public Opinion Quarterly, 21, 1957, pp. 61–78.

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

its manifold storing, abstracting, and indexing appendages; not only the formally established meetings and conferences, but also the informal, person-to-person modes of communication like correspondence, visits, and corridor conversations.

Secondly, we conceive of scientific communication as not necessarily limited to simple transactions between an individual scientist and a source of information. Communication includes more complex processes: several different channels of communication may have to interact to complete a transaction; one or more persons may serve as relays between the source of a message and its ultimate consumer; and contacts at each intervening step may be initiated now by the receiver, now by the bringer of the message. For these reasons we shall speak, somewhat loosely, of the “scientific communication system,” meaning the totality of all publications, facilities, occasions, institutional arrangements, and customs which affect the direct or indirect transmission of scientific messages among scientists.

Thirdly, we believe that policies to improve the scientific communication system must be planned in terms of the entire range of its contributions to scientific progress, and not only in terms of the most obviously necessary informational services. At the present time, most plans are quite naturally directed at maximizing the efficiency of the system in the performance of its two most obvious functions: that of bringing scientists the available answers to specific questions, and that of keeping them abreast of current developments in given areas. Yet the policies that recommend themselves for these purposes may not be adequate to assure the fulfillment of other functions of the scientific communication system; and it is just possible that some of these same policies, say the shortening of papers at meetings or the streamlining of periodicals, may be detrimental to the system’s other functions, which are not so obvious, but nevertheless important.

MULTIPLE FUNCTIONS OF THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNICATION SYSTEM

The scientific communication system serves the progress of science not merely through the reference services it performs and through keeping scientists up to date in their chosen areas of attention. It serves in a variety of other ways as well: by enabling scientists to brush up on past work in additional areas; to verify the reliability of one source of information through the testimony of another; to ascertain the current demand for research on given topics; to locate rare materials; and so on. In fact it would be a mistake to think that the functions of scientific communication for the progress of science are limited

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

to satisfying the informational needs of which each scientist is aware; that the only important job of the scientific communication system is, so to speak, to give each scientist what he wants, and knows he wants.

One important function of scientific communication which transcends the informational requirements each scientist can define for himself is that of directing the scientist’s attention to new topics beyond those with which he has “kept up” in the past. Another is to assure the eliciting of suggestions and criticisms from fellow scientists. These and other rarely considered functions of the scientific communication system, and some of the mechanisms by which they are satisfied, are discussed in the report which has been deposited with the National Science Foundation.

Keeping scientists up to date

Yet even the performance of functions of which everyone is well aware requires more than the prompt appearance of information in the official channels (journals, meetings, etc.) and more than painless access to these media. It is, for example, not these formal media alone that keep scientists informed of current developments in their chosen areas of attention, in spite of the prodigious amounts of planned effort devoted to this communication function by individual scientists as well as by the professional organizations and publishers.

In fact, the news which comes to the attention of scientists is not restricted to the information obtained when they intentionally “gather information,” as it is called. Fortunately so! For a good deal of the news which comes to their attention in unplanned and unexpected ways, during activities undertaken and on occasions sought out for quite different purposes, proves to be of considerable significance to them. At least this was a frequent experience among the scientists we interviewed, in spite of the fact that their intentional activities for gathering information about current developments ranged all the way from the assiduous perusal of current periodicals to the button-holing of colleagues who had returned from conferences.

It was thought that it would be instructive to examine instances of significant scientific news coming to the attention of scientists through other ways than those which they systematically employ to “keep up.” This line of investigation was included in our study not only to learn about the operation of communication through informal and personal channels; by implication, it was thought, this approach would also throw light on possible inadequacies in the formally established methods of bringing current news to the scientist. Under an ideally functioning communication system, it was thought, the routinized and regular methods of gathering information would convey to each man all

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

the scientific news that is pertinent to his work. Any pertinent information that actually reaches a man in some extra-routine or accidental way would therefore indicate a service not adequately performed through the routine system. As will be seen below, however, this form of interrogatory also taught some unanticipated lessons which are, perhaps, even more important.

In order to obtain records of instances of useful scientific news obtained during activities not undertaken for this purpose, the following question was asked:

Have there been any instances where some unlooked-for piece of information came your way that turned out to have bearing on your work? (If Yes) Tell me about the last time this happened.

Supplementary questions were asked in order to obtain complete accounts of the experiences. Not all the replies given proved pertinent to the present topic. Excluded from the list finally used were all accounts of information obtained in the course of routinely scanning the literature, attending meetings, or engaging in any other activity which was explicitly designed to find out what is new. Also excluded were episodes of information learned in the course of ordinary intercourse with departmental colleagues. Thirty-five usable accounts were obtained.

UNPLANNED MECHANISMS

The extra-routine mechanisms by which these messages reached the interviewed scientists are of four basic types:

1. The scientist searches the literature for one particular item of information, and in the process stumbles across another which proves useful to him. This, of course, is in addition to the countless times when a scientist comes upon some useful information which he had not anticipated in the course of his routine perusal of journals, or in the course of listening to the program of meetings which he regularly attends. What is meant here is rather a scientist searching the literature in order to find the answer to some specific question, and coming across pertinent information of another sort, information which he would probably not have seen had it not been for the accident of his search for the first topic. Thus a paleontologist reported:4

This morning my assistant wanted information on the geology of Southern Britain at a certain time. The same journal happened to contain information which will be interesting to our formal analysis problem…. (Do you think you would have seen this particular item otherwise?) It is doubtful.

4  

Unless otherwise indicated, matter set in smaller type is quoted from scientists’ statements during the interviews. Matter in brackets [ ] paraphrases or supplements scientists’ statements. Matter in parentheses ( ) quotes what the interviewer said to the scientist.

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

2. The second kind of situation which leads to the unexpected acquisition of information pertinent to one’s work occurs when a scientist, in the course of contact for another purpose, informs a colleague of his current work or of some obstacle which preoccupies him at the moment, and is rewarded with an item of information that becomes important to his progress. A zoologist made an unexpected find in this way:

I learned in this way the whole technique for solving the problem of the recording technique for…. This had baffled scientists for twenty years. I went to a man at… Institute to buy some wire—Dr…., in the…Laboratory. He is an able and imaginative fellow. In conversation, we talked about my research and problems, and he dropped the hint which enabled me to solve the problem of the recording technique.

3. Sometimes a scientist hears about new developments from a colleague who volunteers the information while they are thrown together for another purpose. (We exclude here information gleaned during corridor conversations at scientific meetings, or on any other occasion attended for the explicit purpose of gathering news.) This may happen frequently during informal visits by one scientist to the laboratory of another. For example:

I went to the…Institute two months ago to give a talk. I stopped to see Dr. A. He is working in a different field. He found that a certain substance crystallized under certain conditions. We are interested in finding many different kinds of crystals. We will try using his experimental methods here. What Dr. A. found may not ever be published by him—it was a side effect, as far as he was concerned.

4. There is a fourth manner in which information of immediate relevance comes to the attention of scientists by what appears to be accidental routes. Frequently a colleague will deliberately seek out a scientist whom he knows to be interested in the matter, in order to convey to him some information that he happens to have heard. Thus, for example, a biochemist:

started a new project because I heard that someone in Germany had positive results in a related field. He published it one-half year later…. (How did you hear about the German scientist?) He had sent his unpublished results to another man in America who knew my interests and told me.

And a chemist gives a very detailed and instructive account of such an incident:

One of the problems in our work is to do a certain chemical separation. Recently a friend of mine had been in Europe. He met a young German who was developing a new technique. So we now try to apply this to our problems. Neither my friend nor I knew about the existence of this procedure before the encounter. The young German had invented this. My friend had not been looking for it—he was going through Europe, visiting labs and drinking beer with the people at the various labs. This technique was of no particular interest to my friend, but he knew it would interest me, and told me when he got back.

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

Table 1 shows how many accounts of experiences of each of these four kinds were reported by the interviewed scientists. It also shows that about half of the messages transmitted in these personal ways were actually in print at the time.

TABLE 1. Useful information obtained “accidentally”:a how obtained

Manner in which message reached the interviewed scientist

Number of messages

Total

Published

Not published

Found in the literature while searching for another topic

4

4

Contributed by a fellow scientist upon being informed of colleague’s current work

13

8

5

Spontaneously mentioned by a colleague while together for another purpose

4

4

Specifically addressed to the interviewed scientist by a colleague

9

2

7

Other, or not specified

5

2

3

Total

35

16

19

a Exclusive of information learned during ordinary intercourse with departmental colleagues, while scanning the literature, while attending meetings, or while engaging in any other activity explicitly designed to find out what is new.

CONTENT OF INFORMATION OBTAINED

What was the content of these messages which reached their consumers in such unexpected ways? Ten of the messages informed the scientist of new findings or principles (a biological mutant described, an archaeological find reported, a chemical reaction performed, etc.); eight informed him of the existence of new techniques, procedures, or apparatus; four furnished him details on the performance or adaptation of a technique; five told him who was doing work on a given topic or from whom a particular material could be obtained (Table 2).

TABLE 2. Useful information obtained “accidentally”:a content

 

Number of messages

Content of message

Total

Published

Not published

New findings or principles

10

6

4

New procedure or apparatus

8

3

5

Details on procedure

4

2

2

Who does what; where to obtain material

5

1

4

Not indicated

8

4

4

Total

35

16

19

a Exclusive of information learned through ordinary intercourse with departmental colleagues, while scanning the literature, while attending meetings, or while engaging in any other activity explicitly designed to find out what is new.

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

The figures in Tables 1 and 2, as most of the figures throughout this report, are to be regarded as no more than suggestive and illustrative of possible findings of more systematic studies, as mentioned earlier. What they do suggest is that the apparently accidental obtaining of pertinent information plays a large role in the work of the interviewed researchers. Examples of it come up again and again in our interview protocols.

INDIVIDUAL ACCIDENT—AGGREGATE REGULARITY?

Why should this manner of learning of new developments be so prevalent? Part of the reason must be sought in the nature of specialization among basic researchers at the top level. They not only specialize to a high degree, but they also delineate their specialties in highly individual and original ways; often no more than a small handful will be specializing in precisely the same area. All the possible ways of classifying content cannot possibly be taken into account in the organization of journals, in the indexing and abstracting services, or even in the selection of titles for papers. Any given researcher is likely to find that the way of classifying reports which would be most relevant for his purposes has not been used. Within the confines of a narrow field, he attempts to scan everything that comes out; but beyond that he must depend largely on friends who work in the adjoining specialties, yet know what is of interest to him, to flag the pertinent material for him.

You see what happens around here [says a biochemist]. Everyone knows what problems you’re working on. Whenever you come across something which might be of interest to another you make a note of it. This way the individual is able to be acquainted with a lot more than he would be if he didn’t have the others on the look-out too.

If this is true, it becomes imperative to consider the information network as a system, and not merely as an aggregate of information-dispensing or information-consuming individuals. What is little better than an accident from the point of view of the individual may well emerge as an expected occurrence from a larger point of view. For while there is only a small likelihood that any accidentally obtained piece of information will be of use to the individual scientist who obtained it, the likelihood that it will be of interest to at least one of his departmental colleagues is much larger. And if enough members of a given department or research group are plugged into branches of the professional grapevine through consultantships, secondary appointments at other institutions, committee services, and personal correspondence and visits, they may collectively be able to assure each of them a good share of the news about work in progress that interests him.

The formal and organized means of communication—especially the periodi-

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

cal literature, including its voluminous abstracting services and review publications—serve the scientist most efficiently when he knows precisely what he is looking for, when he needs the answer to a specific question. When it comes to bringing scientists together with information the significance of which to their own work they have not anticipated; when it comes to pushing out the frontiers, it may be that the system of informal and “accidental” means of communication, inefficient though it may be, is as reliable a mechanism as one can get. In fact, the very frequency of the “chance” occurrences of information transmittal, which was illustrated in the preceding pages, suggests that they may not be altogether accidental; perhaps, if knowledge of a particular item hadn’t come to the researcher one way, it would have come through another, although a little later.

One chemist told us of an experience which seems to bear this out rather dramatically. He had done some experimental work in 1955 and had published a report without fully realizing the relevance of his work to the chemical theory of a certain reaction mechanism. Between 1955 and 1957, he was led to earlier literature which suggested this significance of his experiment to him. During the same period, this fact was also brought home to him through three contacts with other scientists which had ensued from his work in three quite independent ways. To what extent one can depend on these apparently fortuitous mechanisms of communication to bring the right combination of scientist and information together is, of course, not known. It is, however, worthwhile to consider the totality of information exchanges among scientists as a system, to accept what appears as “accidental” communication as part of the system, and to examine the ways in which the system, including its unorganized components, may be made to operate more efficiently and more reliably.

Furnishing answers to specific questions

These pages make it fairly clear that the functions of the scientific communication system extend beyond the bounds of enabling the scientist to get the information which he knows he wants. Yet even to get the scientist the information which he knowingly seeks takes more than the means officially established for this purpose. This can be seen when one examines the ways in which scientists secure the available answers to specific questions. Yet no other function of the scientific communication system has received more solicitous care through formal arrangements than this “reference function.” Copious amounts of planned effort and many specially designed devices—indexes, abstracts, card files, compendia, handbooks, loose-leaf services, and what not—are employed

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

in its service. Analysts study the completeness of coverage of these facilities, the time lags involved in their preparation, the suitability and logical structure of the categories they employ. Scientists and engineers streamline the existing facilities and devise new ones—microfilm libraries, new cataloguing systems, mechanical retrieval systems. These are also the topics which occupy the largest single portion of the program of the present International Conference.

SEARCHES OUTSIDE THE LITERATURE

Here, once again, our exploratory study sought to gain insight by examining the reverse side of the coin. Instances when scientists secured answers to specific questions in other ways than those deliberately designed for this purpose were recorded. As before, it was hoped that this procedure would, on the one hand, illumine the operation of the informal avenues of communication, and that it would, on the other hand, point up the services which the formal reference facilities fail to perform. Eventually, such knowledge may suggest ways of having the formal facilities do more adequately the job they presently fail to do. Or, depending on the circumstances, it might be found more practicable to improve the operation of informal avenues of communication. More of this later.

The following question was included in the interview:

…Can you tell me about the last time you used another channel than just the literature to find the answer to some question that arose in connection with your work?

CONTENT OF INFORMATION SOUGHT

In examining the replies to this question, it is striking how intimately the content of the information sought is tied up with the reason for seeking it outside of the regular channels of the literature search. For in two-thirds of the reported cases, the nature of the information sought either made it improbable that it would appear in the literature at all, or made it seem very difficult to track down, even if published. Most of these searches were for practical details to supplement basic knowledge which was already at hand: unpublished minor details of already published findings; information about the use of techniques and the adaptation of apparatus; quests for the fruits of experience and know-how. For example:

I have two former Ph.D.’s at…Institute. We have some equipment that was developed there, and I called them up for questions about it not long ago.

Or:

Last week there was a conference…in the city…. There were specific questions that were troubling me, about modifications in our instruments. I made it my

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

business to have lunch with some people who were working at other laboratories in the country, and found out if…they had any experience with specific devices that are mentioned in the literature. E.g.,…I asked someone, “Have you used this? Does it work as well as the article reports?”

In the remaining one-third of the episodes, the information was secured through personal channels although the nature of its content would not seem to have barred it from appearing in print, or from being traced if published. But in half of these cases, the information sought had not, in fact, appeared in print at the time it was secured by the interviewed scientists. For example,

I now intend to write someone in Chicago and he will answer me…. A number of things are not available to me [otherwise], and they have it in Chicago…[It is on] the purely theoretical calculations of electronic structure of molecules.

In the other instances the information is known to have been available in print at the time it was secured. Personal channels were used in the following ways: obtaining citations from students; having a friend at a pharmaceutical company arrange for the searching, excerpting, and collating of literature; securing in conversation with a local fellow zoologist the published background information about an organism.

Table 3 summarizes the types of specific information which the interviewed scientists reported having secured through informal channels rather than through a literature search.

TABLE 3. Answers to specific questions sought through personal channels: nature of the information sought

 

Number of episodes related by:

Nature of the information sought

Total

Biochemists

Chemists

Zoologists

Publication or indexing unlikely

 

Facts to be newly established

2

1

1

Practical details on:

 

Materials

2

1

1

Apparatus

2

2

Techniques

10

1

2

7

Findings

2

2

Publication, indexing not unlikely

 

Techniques

5

2

1

2

Findings

5

2

2

1

Total

28

6

10

12

PERSONS CONSULTED AS SOURCES

Given that information was sought through personal channels, how did these scientists know to whom to address their questions? How did they decide whom to ask, when more than one possible source existed? Did they address inquiries “cold,” or did they tend to seek out colleagues with whom they had

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

already established some sort of relationship? Answers to these questions may shed light on the importance which various forms of access to personal communication hold for scientists. They may also give some insight into what is, perhaps, lacking in the communication picture of scientists in less favored positions, where opportunities of access to experts are not so ample.

Nearly half the inquiries here recorded were addressed to scientists who were easily identified as the ones most qualified to answer the particular question: they were the authors of publications on which clarification was sought, the developers of instruments or techniques regarding which counsel was needed, or the recognized leaders in a specialty.

A few of the inquiries were addressed to individuals uniquely qualified to answer them, although their expertise in the matter was not generally known at the time. How, then, did the inquiring scientists know that it was these particular colleagues who could answer their questions? In each case, it was a more or less fortuitous circumstance which established the contact. One illustrative case is that of a chemist:

I wrote to Professor X, of the physics department at…University, for some information on…about four months ago. It was factual information. I knew the answer was not in the usual literature, but to salve my conscience, I looked in the most recent Physical Review. I did know that Professor X had done an experiment which would have given him this information as a by-product…. (How had you known that Professor X had done this experiment?) Because he had done it at… [summer laboratory] two summers ago, when he had lived next door to me.

Perhaps the most extreme example of the fortuity in learning who has vital information is the following odyssey of a zoologist.

We had begun using a new technique for measuring the amount of…in the blood, a technique we had first heard of through the literature. But we had problems with it, so we wrote to the man who had developed it—and even called him on the [long distance] telephone.

Up to this point, information about a procedure was sought from its publicly known author. But this attempt to gain the desired knowledge proved unsuccessful, and the report continues:

But that didn’t really help, and we heard that he was having trouble with it, too. It’s a notorious technique in that it is very difficult to get consistent results. We might have been able to solve the problem if we had kept working on it. But then I went to a meeting in…[a European city], and saw from the meeting abstracts that a man was there to present a paper who had also used this technique. It turned out that he hadn’t done the work [himself], but that he had used a modification which had been devised by a biochemist at NYU. So he gave me this man’s name at NYU and when I got back we got in touch with him and solved the problem.

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

It is to be hoped that most searches for information lead to their goal less circuitously, at least when the goal is so close at hand. It is worth noting that the informal source of information, once located, proved very effective. This episode indicates that much would be gained if finding the right personal source of information could be made more efficient. It may well be possible to make better formal arrangements for locating such informal sources of information, even where it would not be practical or economical to have the actual information carried in the formal media.

A third and final category of the inquiries was addressed to scientists who, although qualified to answer, were not the outstanding experts on the subject. They were, however, previously known to the inquiring scientists, and it was, apparently, this accessibility which determined their choice. Thus questions were, variously, addressed to men “who had worked with me here for a year,” “who were known to me from previous conferences,” “who had been my fellow-students,” “with whom I had worked in the same lab previously,” and the like.

The various personal sources of information which were used by the interviewed scientists to secure the answers to specific questions are summarized in Table 4.

TABLE 4. Answers to specific questions sought through personal channels: source used

 

Number of episodes related by:

Source to whom inquiry was addressed

Total

Biochemists

Chemists

Zoologists

Publicly known top experts

12

3

4

5

Privately known top experts

3

2

1

Accessible, not top experts

14

3

4

7

Total

29

6

10

13a

a One zoologist counted twice because he used both a publicly and a privately known top expert in pursuit of the same question.

Some questions for future research

The reader has already been warned that he must not regard the figures in this table, or elsewhere in this paper, as reliably representing the communication behavior among some defined population of scientists, not even that of the 77 biochemists, chemists, and zoologists who were interviewed at one American university. The purpose of this exploration was to formulate problems and procedures for further investigation; a large part of the schedule of questions was developed and modified as the interviewing progressed, rather than uniformly applied; and even as finally used, some of the questions are not regarded as satisfactory.

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

But even if there were no question of the reliability and representativeness of what is reported here, it is quite obvious that only a scant beginning of an understanding of some problems and potentialities of scientific communication has been achieved. Even the fuller report deposited with the National Science Foundation does no more than to set the stage for more systematic investigation, as, indeed, was the purpose of this exploration.

What are the next questions calling for investigation? A more extensive and systematic survey will first have to correct the shortcomings inherent in any first pilot study. This means the more systematic collection of data in order to confirm or refute what has been suggested above and in our fuller report. It means the observation of the variations in these forms of communication which may accompany differences in the attributes of scientists, their disciplines, and their positions. It means the examination of the prevalence of various communication processes in diverse settings, including especially those where the opportunities for personal communication with top experts are more limited. Only then will it be possible to draw inferences from the multiple cross-classification and statistical analysis of observations in the traditional manner of survey analysis.

A more detailed illustration follows of some of the questions that must, in our opinion, be answered in order to have a sound basis to guide scientific communications policy. Not all the questions listed below can be answered by interview survey methods; some could, it is hoped, be answered by the judgment of appropriate experts on the basis of materials which an interview survey can provide. The paragraph headings which follow denote the issue of communications policy to which the research questions listed are pertinent.

Detailed questions on the furnishings of answers to specific questions

The following paragraphs refer to the communication function last discussed: enabling scientists to find the available answers to specific questions.

1. Is any action indicated?

In the preceding pages have been reviewed some instances where scientists had need for information on a specific point and obtained it through informal and personal channels rather than through the formal and established means of a literature search. Various courses of action are conceivable which would either make feasible the securing of information of this type through the formal channels, or else would make the informal channels more effective and more generally accessible for this purpose. Any such action, however, will recommend

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

itself only insofar as the kind of information now secured outside the formal channels is really essential, and is not now adequately accessible to all who seek it.

If any doubts exist as to these points, some empirical tools are available for resolving them. To examine how essential the information in question is, it may be useful to collect, more systematically and extensively than here, a sample of items of information secured outside of the formal machinery of literature searches. This could then be submitted to a panel of experts for judgment as to the importance of the messages. In those cases where the information was to appear in print later, the experts may judge whether the time saved by using personal contacts was essential.

To examine empirically how adequately the information in question is now available to those who seek it, it would be useful to ascertain what is done by scientists who lack access to personal sources of information when they have call for information comparable to that obtained through personal contact by the scientists interviewed here. One would also want to know how often a need for information was felt by a scientist but remained unfulfilled because he knew of no personal way of pursuing it.

2. Should more varieties of information be made securable through the literature, or should informal channels be made more widely usable?

The selection of additional questions for research must be a function of the possible courses of action among which a choice is to be made. The possible courses of action fall into two classes: (a) those designed to make the printed media carry more messages of a given kind in such a way that they can be located on demand; (b) those designed to make useful personal communication more widely accessible.

If the number of potential users of each of the items of information in question is very large, the printed media will have to be emphasized as much as possible, since personal communication imposes an additional cost in terms of source’s time for each additional consumer of a message. If, on the other hand, the number of potential users of any one of these messages is moderate, then one may wish to put more emphasis on enhancing the effectiveness of personal communication. The latter is the only course for those types of information which cannot be economically handled in print. (Cf. Item 6 below.)

To form a judgment of the number of potential users of a message goes beyond the scope of survey research. A survey can, however, give a more accurate picture of the kind of messages that are under present conditions diffused through personal channels, and on the basis of this picture it may be possible for experts in the sciences to make some judgment of the potential number of their users.

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

3. Should informal channels be made more widely usable by enhancing their general accessibility, or by making the likely sources of particular information easier to identify?

Policies which may enhance the effectiveness of personal contacts as channels for securing the answers to specific questions again are of two kinds.

(a) All the many steps which might be taken to encourage the free and frequent give-and-take among scientists, or, perhaps, among specific kinds of scientists, are relevant here. The possible steps are very diverse and include, for example, exhortations to make mail inquiries, the encouragement of inter-institutional visits, the scheduling of teaching duties so as to leave some days open for travel, the arrangement of small conferences on limited topics, and also such long-range policies as the geographic location of research centers in such a way as to enhance opportunities for personal meetings among scientists from different institutions.

(b) An entirely different approach is to enhance the effectiveness of existing personal contacts by enabling scientists to find out speedily to whom best to address a given question. One possible step in this direction might be the regular publication, in a newsletter or in a column in existing periodicals, of very brief announcements of work in progress. (Compare the Mouse Newsletter or the News Bulletin of the Society for Vertebrate Paleontology.)

As a guide to the emphasis to give to these two approaches, future research should ascertain to what extent the effectiveness of personal communication for reference purposes is now blocked by ignorance of the right source, or by its inaccessibility. This means seeking out the instances where personal communication at present fails to perform this function, in order to see to what such failure is due; and if it is due to inaccessibility, what are the main existing blocks.

4. Should more information be made securable through the literature by having more of it printed, or by making that which is printed easier to find?

One can make the printed media more fully perform the reference functions which are now performed by personal communication by (a) getting more of the pertinent information into print or (b) making such information, once in print, “findable” when it is needed. Research should therefore ascertain to what extent failures to secure information of certain types through the literature are due to its not being published, or to the difficulty of locating it at will even when published.

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

5. What makes published information hard to locate?

If the material is indeed hard to locate on demand even when it is published, then further research should examine the reasons for this. Earlier pages have shown that, within the limits of this pilot study, the information which is most frequently secured through informal means concerns practical details on the use of techniques and apparatus. Can such items, even when they are published, be located on demand? They would ordinarily appear as incidental entries in the course of research reports which are titled and placed according to their subject matter and not according to procedures used. Do indexing and abstracting services catalog procedural items which appear incidentally in the course of reports on research findings? Do, in fact, suitable and generally familiar categories for cataloguing such information exist?

Survey research can answer only some of these questions. It can also provide materials which may help other experts answer further questions.

6. Why is information of certain types seldom published?

If it is the case that certain classes of essential information are customarily not published at all, the reasons for this should be ascertained. Perhaps these reasons can be inferred from the nature of the information that remains unpublished, once this has been determined. If not, it may be necessary to interrogate the originators of items of information about the reasons for their failure to publish them. Some possible reasons are:

(a) The information is felt difficult to verbalize economically. This might be due to the absence of an adequate, standardized, and generally recognized vocabulary. There might then be a task for semanticists. Survey research could tell the semanticists what type of information is at present felt to be ineffable in this sense. No doubt some information would still remain hard to convey without mutual discussion, or without “being shown.” Where that is the case, making the personal channels of communication more widely usable is the only recourse.

(b) Standards of publication make communicating information of certain kinds through the printed word unduly lengthy and laborious. It is possible that standards of publication which are necessary in the reporting of scientific findings are not appropriate to the reporting of ancillary matter. This again could not be judged by survey methods, but may be judged by experts on the basis of material collected through a survey.

(c) Authors or editors believe that few scientists would utilize the information. If a

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

representative survey should show that the kind of information in question is actually in heavy demand, this fact might persuade authors or editors to change their policy accordingly. More importantly, if steps can be taken actually to increase the utility of such information in published form, for example, by making it easier to locate once published (cf. Item 5 above), the incentives for publishing such information would increase correspondingly.

(d) The information is felt to be “trivial” in some inherent, almost esthetic sense, regardless of its utility. Perhaps it is felt that publishing some kinds of information is lacking in dignity. A possible solution for this problem would be the creation of a special facility for the exclusive publication of information of the kind in question, e.g., information on details of techniques, procedures, and materials. For it is very likely that information that appears trivial when juxtaposed with items of greater theoretical significance in a regular scientific periodical, would lose its felt triviality when published in a special medium. It would then be read by scientists when they are in search of precisely this kind of information; it would no longer constitute an unwelcome interruption of reports on more fundamental topics. A special medium for this purpose could be a special journal, or a special section of existing journals.

Detailed questions on keeping scientists up to date

The following paragraphs refer to the ways in which scientists are kept abreast of current developments in the research areas which are relevant to their own work in one way or another. Some of the issues that seem to face scientific communication policy in this regard and some of the pertinent questions for further investigation will be outlined. Three main problems appear: (1) to assure that news will reach the scientists it should reach; (2) to reduce the labor and time scientists must invest in keeping up; (3) to increase the promptness with which scientists will hear of current developments.

The problem of promptness will not be separately treated here, but many of the problems which it poses for behavior research are identical with questions listed below in other contexts.

A. RESEARCH QUESTIONS CONCERNING THE WIDER DISSEMINATION OF SCIENTIFIC NEWS

In principle, there are three types of strategy for assuring wider dissemination of scientific news: (1) to have more scientific news covered by the literature and other formal information-disseminating facilities; (2) to make the information which is covered in these media reach more scientists; (3) to make the networks of person-to-person dissemination of information about current

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

developments reach more widely. Consequently, the following questions are posed for future research:

1. Does any significant part of information about current scientific developments fail to appear in the literature?

Information which scientists found relevant to their work after obtaining it through personal contacts should be examined to see whether it had been published, or was shortly to be published. If not, steps to make the scientific literature cover additional items of news about current developments may be indicated. What these steps would be cannot be stated without knowledge of the type of information that may now be slighted by the literature and the reasons for its failure to appear in print. The pertinent research questions would be the same as those indicated for an analogous situation in Item 6 above. (No doubt the judgment will be reached that certain types of scientific news cannot be incorporated into the periodical literature, at least not without obstructing its other functions. This is one reason for the continued importance of informal and personal channels of communication.)

2. Why were specific published items of scientific news missed by scientists?

If information about current scientific developments which scientists obtained “too late” or through personal channels was in print at the time, it should be examined further to see why it had not come to the scientists’ attention through the literature. Three kinds of reasons may be suggested:

(a) The item fell outside of the scientist’s area of attention5as he had defined it. Where this is frequent, one obvious recommendation is for scientists to define their areas of attention more adequately. This offers little room for action on the part of scientific organizations. They may be able to offer some guidance to scientists if there should be a systematic tendency for the workers in a given field to slight certain types of information.

On the other hand, no scientist will ever be able to define his attention-area so that all relevant information will be within its compass. The total area within which news of relevance to him may occur is too vast. Besides, some information becomes “relevant” only in the process of being acquired: a scientist’s interests must be molded to a certain extent by what information comes his way. For these reasons, it is not enough to improve scientists’ de-

5  

In the report from which this paper is excerpted, a scientist’s “area of attention” refers to the fields of research with the current developments of which he intends to keep abreast. His “primary fields of attention” are those where he tries to keep up with current developments in detail. His “secondary fields of attention” are those with which he “also needs to keep up to some extent, but not as much.”

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

liberate “gathering” of information; the likelihood that additional information will reach them “accidentally” must be maximized.

(b) The item appeared in publications not regularly scanned by the scientist. Such an item of information will be missed by the scientist even though its topic falls squarely within his pre-defined attention area.

Once again, one possible remedy is for the scientist to adjust his information-gathering practices: he needs to scan additional journals or secondary source material. It is possible that certain portions of the literature are rather generally slighted in this way by one category of scientists or another.

But, as before, no scientist can be expected to scan all the possible primary sources of news that may be relevant for him. If scientists frequently miss news items that appeared in journals which they do not scan, it may be more practical to improve their coverage in secondary media—indices, abstracts, reading lists—than to adjust the scientists’ reading habits, especially with regard to journals that only intermittently carry news of relevance to the scientists concerned.

It would be important to know whether any substantial number of scientists misses the same items of information due to their appearance in journals which they do not scan because they carry news of interest to them too infrequently. Such a situation might call for new secondary media which would list, excerpt, or reprint selected material from these journals for the benefit of workers in certain specialties.

(c) The item was concealed in the context of an article on another topic. Such an item could be missed even when it does fall within the scientist’s pre-defined attention area and appears in a journal which he regularly covers.

Where that is the case, the proper remedial action would seem to lie in the provision of better titles, subtitles, prefatory abstracts, or whatever other cues scientists may use to select papers for reading. It would again be important to know whether there is some general tendency for certain types of information to be frequently missed in this fashion. This would make possible the formulation of concrete recommendations for the more appropriate titling of papers; and if the tendency is of great prevalence, there might even be call for reprinting the relevant portions of these papers in places where they would be more conspicuous.

3. In what fields is published information most likely to be missed in the course of scanning?

Generally speaking, any steps that will lighten the burden and shorten the time required for the scanning of a given portion of the scientific literature will

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

free scientists to scan additional portions. Possible action toward this end is discussed below.

More specific action may be feasible if it is possible to delineate particular areas of knowledge as the likely loci of “missed” information. Scanning is probably least thorough where it is least efficient: with respect to fields of research which only occasionally give rise to information of interest to a given scientist. It is in a scientist’s secondary fields of attention that he is most likely to miss some relevant information as he scans the current output. Perhaps publications could be created which would selectively reprint, excerpt, abstract, or index those aspects of a given area of research which would be of interest to specialists in another area. This calls for ascertaining what aspects of the information produced in a given field are of relevance to the workers in other specialties.

4. What are the forms of personal communication which bring relevant scientific news to those who have access to them?

For a variety of reasons inherent in the nature of basic research work, personal communication will, no doubt, have to continue to supply much of the important news to scientists. (In part, it does this by calling published information to their attention.) In order to foster the operation of personal networks of communication with the requisite discrimination, it is necessary to know what sort of personal communication would most profitably link scientists in given specialties and positions.6

It is necessary to recognize the most fruitful occasions for person-to-person exchanges (conferences, corridor conversations, visits, etc.); the positions whose incumbents can become nodal points of information-exchange (consultantships, service on award committees, editorial duties, etc.); and the nature of relays through which information may be usefully passed on and shared (through friends at other institutions, through contact with “good correspondents and readers,” through departmental colleagues who return from conferences and visits, etc.). Because the usefulness of personal communication differs from discipline to discipline, and possibly from specialty to specialty, the factors which determine its differential utility must be taken into account.

5. What is the present opportunity for scientists in varying positions to have access to the fruitful forms of personal communications?

The scientists among whom this study was carried out probably have easier access to useful personal communication with other scientists than their col-

6  

Some possible steps to promote personal interchanges among scientists are discussed in the report submitted to the Foundation.

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

leagues in most other institutions. It is important to know how much access to such communication scientists in various institutions, professional positions, and geographic locations now have, if plans are to be made to have more of them “hooked up” in useful ways with the network of informal information flow.

B. RESEARCH QUESTIONS CONCERNING REDUCTIONS IN THE TIME AND LABOR OF SURVEYING CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS

Great amounts of time and effort are required of scientists who wish to keep abreast with current developments. Three features are chiefly responsible for this situation: (1) the number of different publications which must be surveyed to achieve satisfactory coverage is very large. (2) the screening of papers to read is time-consuming, if one does not wish to risk missing too many useful items of information. (3) The assimilation of the content of many papers demands considerable additional time and application.

Any reduction in the difficulty of screening papers must come from editorial policy which would provide appropriate clues in the titles or other features of published articles. The most useful clues are probably those which are present in the papers which scientists find easiest to screen. This leads to the following empirical question.

6. What clues are lacking from articles which must be examined closely before their pertinence can be determined?

As scientists scan the contents of a journal, they decide to skip some articles on the basis of easily visible clues, and they examine others more closely. Are there many in this latter group which are eventually found not to have been worth reading? If so, what are the clues which are lacking? This may suggest improvements in the provision of titles, subtitles, prefatory abstracts, or other clues, as a matter of editorial policy.

There are several possible strategies for reducing the number of journals a scientist must scan. One is the greater utilization of secondary source publications for scanning purposes. In order to be useful for this purpose, such publications would have to follow original publication much more promptly than the standard abstracting services are able to do. Special abstracts, lists of titles, or even reproductions of the tables of contents of journals may be considered. Most services of this sort which now exist attempt either to cover the entire output in a given line of work, or to report on its most important segments. It might be more practical to have them report to the workers in a given specialty only that part of the output which appears in journals which they find least worth scanning directly.

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

A second possible way to reduce the number of different journals a scientist must cover would be the creation of new journals which would publish, reprint, or excerpt articles on topics which cut across the classification of topics according to which journals presently specialize.

A third way would be to institute more sharing of the burden of scanning among colleagues. Basic researchers, at least those interviewed, seem not inclined to entrust to anyone but themselves the actual reading of articles; in this they differ from professionals in certain applied fields, e.g., medical doctors. These researchers may, however, be willing to entrust to each other the scanning of journals, even if not the actual reading of the papers selected. Some of those interviewed do this now.

The choice among these strategies and the further specification of any one of them calls for answers to the following questions:

7. At what level of efficiency is the scanning of each journal or other medium performed?

How many articles or pages must a scientist scan in a journal for each one that he eventually reads? or for each one that he eventually finds to have been worth reading? This, it should be noted, is not simply a question about each journal, but rather about the relationship of each journal to each specialty. For a journal which is read from cover to cover by the scientists in one field may contain only one useful article in ten for those working in another.

For any one group of scientists, it would be useful to classify the journals which they scan according to the proportion of their content that is eventually found worth reading. One may then concentrate on those journals which scientists in a given specialty scan with the least efficiency. The information they secure in this inefficient way may be capable of being made available to them in a more efficient manner. This will require answering still another question:

8. What is the nature of the information which scientists secure in the media scanned with least efficiency?

Perhaps this information can be identified by its content; for example, it might be information about the handling of materials or organisms. Or, it may have to be identified in terms relative to the specialty pursued by the reading scientists. In either event, the nature of the information which is secured in the media scanned with low efficiency may suggest utilizing one of the specialized media which were mentioned in Item 6. The number of scientists who share identical difficulties will have to determine the proper course of action.

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
C. RESEARCH QUESTIONS REGARDING SCIENTISTS MOTIVATION TO BE INFORMED

Nothing has been said so far of a topic to which behavior research has been fruitfully applied in other communication situations: that of motivating the individual to keep himself informed. This is, for example, a serious problem in the case of medical practitioners, who can devote time to following the news only by resisting strong competing pressures from other professional obligations and from private interests as well. With basic researchers like those with whom we dealt here, no such problem seems to exist: being well informed is recognized as one of their chief responsibilities both by themselves and by their institutions. It remains to be seen whether this is true, for example, for scientists engaged in applied work in industry and elsewhere. It is also possible that a problem of motivating the scientists to keep up with certain types of information exists, even though there is no general problem. For example, if it should be felt that some scientists do not take interest in a sufficiently broad span of current developments, the wise assignment to them of certain duties may provide a remedy. Many of the scientists interviewed asserted that their teaching duties caused them to keep up with a much broader range of developments than they otherwise would, and that this had important consequences for their research work. Others related how their interests and attention areas had been broadened by editorial duties, by the writing of books, and so forth. This makes the relation between the breadth of a scientist’s attention area and his positions and activities a potentially useful question for research.

The preceding pages have enumerated some questions for further research and have indicated some possible lines of action for improving scientific communication that might recommend themselves, depending on the answers obtained. These examples of possible action are not, of course, to be regarded as recommendations at this point. Additional research questions are listed in the report submitted by the Bureau of Applied Social Research to the National Science Foundation.

APPENDIX. Interview schedule

As explained earlier, the interview schedule of questions was continuously modified and developed as the pilot study proceeded. What follows is the text of the most recently duplicated version. Even this is not recommended as an instrument for future work. Aside from certain needed improvements, the schedule was designed for a first exploration. Many of the questions were left open-ended and flexible,

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

and the interviewing was entrusted to members of the Bureau’s professional research staff. Two matters require special explanation:

(1) The space provided after each question is not proportionate to the length of the answers that were expected and obtained. Two different methods of recording answers were used. In the case of structured and short-answer questions, lines or boxes for entering the answers are provided on the schedule form. In the case of all other questions, the symbol ### directed the interviewer to record the answer verbatim on separate note paper. These answers, actually constituting the bulk of the interview protocol, were then transcribed onto notched cards.

(2) Interviewers were instructed to ask supplementary questions as needed to round out responses to the questions provided on the schedule. In particular, whenever a question called for the retelling of an actual episode of information transmittal, the word RECONSTRUCT, printed on the schedule form, instructed the interviewer to follow a detailed prepared list of questions in order to obtain a complete account.

NO.___________________

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

BUREAU OF APPLIED SOCIAL RESEARCH

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
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Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×
Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

CHART 2

Q. 4.12 Which of these are most important in calling to your attention the current developments in certain fields?

  1. listening to papers at meetings and conferences

  2. scanning abstracts of meetings

  3. periodical abstracts

  4. reports from your students or assistants

  5. own scanning of journal content

  6. review articles and volumes, general science journals, books

  7. conversations with colleagues here

  8. conversations with scientists elsewhere

  9. correspondence, pre- or reprints, abstracts directly from authors

  10. references in reading on other subjects

  11. presentations in seminars, etc.

CHART 3

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
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CHART 4

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
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CHART 5 (BIOCHEMISTRY)

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

CHART 5 (CHEMISTRY)

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
×

CHART 5 (ZOOLOGY)

Suggested Citation:"Planned and Unplanned Scientific Information." National Research Council. 1959. Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information: Two Volumes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10866.
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The launch of Sputnik caused a flurry of governmental activity in science information. The 1958 International Conference on Scientific Information (ICSI) was held in Washington from Nov.16-21 1958 and sponsored by NSF, NAS, and American Documentation Institute, the predecessor to the American Society for Information Science. In 1959, 20,000 copies of the two volume proceedings were published by NAS and included 75 papers (1600 pages) by dozens of pioneers from seven areas such as:

  • Literature and reference needs of scientists
  • Function and effectiveness of A & I services
  • Effectiveness of Monographs, Compendia, and Specialized Centers
  • Organization of information for storage and search: comparative characteristics of existing systems
  • Organization of information for storage and retrospective search: intellectual problems and equipment considerations
  • Organization of information for storage and retrospective search: possibility for a general theory
  • Responsibilities of Government, Societies, Universities, and industry for improved information services and research.

It is now an out of print classic in the field of science information studies.

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