On the Functioning of the All-Union Institute for Scientific and Technical Information of the USSR Academy of Sciences
Rapid progress of science and technology is only possible today with a well-organized information service. The advancement of scientific and technical thought has resulted in the division of knowledge into an infinite number of fields. It is virtually impossible for an individual specialist or even a group of scientists to peruse the output of publications pertaining to their particular sphere.
As the well-known British scientist Prof. John Bernal pointed out: “The situation has indeed been reached in many fields where it is easier to find out a new fact or build up a new theory than to ascertain whether these have been discovered or deduced before.”1
At the present-day level of scientific development one and the same problem is often studied by a number of institutions in several countries simultaneously. Hence many problems of science and technology may be solved in less time with the help of an all-encompassing systematic information service.
This need has caused the widespread appearance of numerous informational publications, such as abstracts journals giving a compact concentration of the problems dealt with in specialized literature. Abstracts journals have become a vital tool in scientific research, created by progress of world culture. The need for abstracting scientific literature was recognized in Russia as far back as the middle of the 18th century and expressed by one of her eminent scientists Mikhail Lomonosov.
According to Lomonosov, scientific abstracting is hard and complicated
A.I.MIKHAILOV Director, All-Union Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, Academy of Sciences, USSR.
work the purpose of which is not merely to convey known facts and general truths, but to display know-how in grasping new and essential facts appearing in works sometimes conceived by geniuses.2
In the latter half of the 18th century a number of Russian periodicals regularly published abstracts of scientific works. However, special information periodicals—in the sense this term is used today—appeared in Russia only at the opening of the 19th century. In pre-Revolutionary Russia from 1800 to 1917 there appeared at different times some 50 publications which were, in whole or in part, devoted to information.
Considerable attention was paid to scientific and technical information already in the very first years following the Revolution. The publication of an abstracts journal—“Reports on Scientific and Technical Works in the Republic”—was started as early as January 1920, i.e. during the Civil War. For those days it had a comparatively large circulation of 2,000 copies.
These “Reports” printed brief summaries of scientific and technical projects—completed, still underway and those just launched. The “Reports” had the following sections: Physics, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Geology, Agriculture, Bacteriology, Applied Mechanics, Mechanical Technology, Metallurgy and Engineering.
Later a number of publications appeared in the USSR carrying information on Soviet as well as foreign scientific and technical literature. These were prepared by publishing houses, libraries and branch information centres. As in most countries, there was still no centralized information service in the USSR.
However, only a centralized system for issuing abstracts journals is capable of ensuring a more or less total (rather than relative) coverage of information, for only such a system affords the means for collecting, systematizing and generalizing all the facts dispersed throughout the multitude of sources. On the other hand such a set up offers the advantage of avoiding duplication thereby saving on effort and means.
In 1952 the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences—proceeding from national and international experience in the field of scientific information—organized within the Academy framework a special Institute for Scientific Information. Later it was re-organized into the All-Union Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (VINITI).
The All-Union Institute for Scientific and Technical Information is a specialized scientific research establishment whose object is to provide scientists and
technicians with exhaustive information on all the achievements in science and technology throughout the world.
Starting with October 1953 the Institute launched the publication of an Abstracts Journal—exhaustive information reference hand-book. As distinguished from most countries where independent abstracts journals mark the prevailing trend, the USSR issues a systematic Abstracts Journal in several series, which comprises a universal encyclopedic reference manual covering all the latest achievements in science and technology.
The Abstracts Journal series constitute only the primary stage in the processing of the entire mass of scientific information. The classified facts already entered in the Abstracts Journal can further be grouped under numerous headings. This procedure sometimes helps to discover some still unformed trend in scientific development.
Various indexes—authors’, subject, systematic, formulary, etc.—enter the Abstracts Journal series as component parts considerably extending the uses of these publications. The Abstracts Journal series also provide a basis for the preparation of all sorts of reference hand-books on problems of vital interest—both broad and narrow in scope.
In 1953 the Institute started publishing the Abstracts Journal in four series: “Chemistry,” “Mechanics,” “Mathematics,” and “Astronomy and Geodesy.”
In 1954 three additional series appeared: “Physics,” “Biology,” “Geology and Geography.”
In 1955 the Abstracts Journal was issued in eight series: “Mechanics,” “Mathematics,” “Physics,” “Biology,” “Astronomy and Geodesy,” “Chemistry,” “Biological Chemistry,” and “Geology and Geography.”
In 1956 the Abstracts Journal started to come out in 12 series: “Astronomy and Geodesy,” “Biology,” “Geography,” “Geology,” “Mathematics,” “Engineering,” “Metallurgy,” “Mechanics,” “Physics,” “Chemistry,” “Biological Chemistry” and “Electrotechnics.”
In 1957 the Abstracts Journal was published in 13 series encompassing natural, exact and technological sciences: “Astronomy and Geodesy,” “Biology,” “Biological Chemistry,” “Geography,” “Geology,” “Geophysics,” “Mathematics,” “Engineering,” “Metallurgy,” “Mechanics,” “Physics,” “Chemistry” and “Electrotechnics.”
In 1953–1954 the Abstracts Journal series had 107,890 entries, 209,967—in 1955; 391,481—in 1956 and 455,000 in 1957.
The overall volume of the complete edition of the Abstracts Journal in 13 series comprised over 12,000 author’s quires3 which is equal in size to 100 volumes of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
As of January 1, 1958, 1,064,338 entries appeared in the Abstracts Journal series.
In 1958 the Abstracts Journal continued to come out in 13 series:
“Astronomy and Geodesy,” monthly edition. Each issue normally carries 700 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions of magazine articles, dissertations, books, patents, etc. The annual subscription price is 115 roubles 20 kopeks.
“Biological Chemistry,” fortnightly edition. Each issue normally carries about 1,300 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 216 roubles.
“Biology,” fortnightly edition. Each issue normally carries about 4,500 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 691 roubles 20 kopeks.
“Geography,” monthly edition. Each issue normally carries about 2,500 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 288 roubles.
“Geology,” monthly edition. Each issue normally carries about 1,500 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 288 roubles.
“Geophysics,” monthly edition. Each issue normally carries about 850 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 115 roubles 20 kopeks.
“Mathematics,” monthly edition. Each issue normally carries 800–900 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 172 roubles 80 kopeks.
“Engineering,” fortnightly edition. Each issue normally carries 3,500–4,000 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 734 roubles 40 kopeks.
“Metallurgy,” monthly edition. Each issue normally carries over 2,000 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 504 roubles.
“Mechanics,” monthly edition. Each issue normally carries 1,300–1,400 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 172 roubles 80 kopeks.
“Physics,” monthly edition. Each issue normally carries about 2,500 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 360 roubles.
“Chemistry,” fortnightly edition. Each issue normally carries about 3,500 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 756 roubles.
“Electrotechnics,” fortnightly edition. Each issue normally carries 2,100–2,300 abstracts, annotations and bibliographical descriptions. The annual subscription price is 480 roubles.
Starting with 1958 a number of the Abstracts Journal series—“Biology,” “Geography,” “Engineering,” “Metallurgy” and “Chemistry”—apart from the complete editions are also being issued in separate reprints in booklet form covering individual sections of the former. These booklets are intended for those readers who do not need the complete editions. For instance, the “Engineering” series comes out in five booklets: “General Problems of Engineering and Machine Designing,” “Technology of Machine Building, Metrology, Measuring and Control Apparatus,” “Technology and Equipment for Casting,” “Transport, Traction and Hoisting Equipment and Engines,” and finally, “Branch Machine Building.”
The “Metallurgy” series, apart from the complete edition comes out in two booklets: “Metallurgy of Iron and Steel” and “Welding.”
Besides publishing the Abstracts Journal the Institute prepares selective information on various subjects. The Institute publishes “Express Information” bulletins containing information on the more vital scientific and technological problems. The bulletins are issued in a number of series, such as “Automatic Control of Production Processes,” “Automobile Construction and Motor Transport,” “Computers,” “Public Health and Medicine,” and “Forging.”
The periodicity of the “Express Information” bulletins is 48 issues per year.
On the basis of the Abstracts Journal series the Institute has launched a series of monographic reviews under the general heading “Advances in Science.” These reviews cover the major problems of Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Geology, Geography, Biology and Technology. Their intention is to systematize and generalize the achievements made in the scientific branches over a definite period of time. The reviews are issued for the benefit of scientists and specialists working in industry and agriculture. In 1957 the first two issues appeared: “Problems of Theory of Non-Linear Systems of Automatic Adjustment and Control” and “Biological Action of Ionizing Radiations.”
In 1957 the Bibliographical Reference Manual on Iron Ores (edited by Academician Bardin) appeared. It was prepared jointly by VINITI with the cooperation of the Baikov Institute of Metallurgy. This is a capital bibliographic reference work comprising 120 author’s quires. It covers over 10,000 titles of Soviet and foreign sources with annotations revealing the subject-matter of the material.
The Institute has been conducting work in the fields of terminology and lexicography. In 1955 two—English-Russian and Russian-English—Diction-
aries on Nuclear Physics and Engineering were put out by the Institute for the Atoms-For-Peace Conference held in Geneva that year.
Another important facility enjoyed by our scientists, engineers and technicians is the Institute’s photo and microfilm copying service which supplies the former with copies of any original article covered by the Abstracts Journal. In 1957, for instance, the Institute sent out some 400,000 photocopies.
At present about 30 countries subscribe to VINITI publications. The Institute peruses literature in 50 languages arriving from 88 countries. In 1957 in addition to the full list of Soviet literature (pertaining to its particular field) the Institute received 12,250 titles of foreign periodicals.
VINITI exchanges scientific publications with 580 organizations of 46 countries (including Britain, the USA, Canada, France, Italy, Greece, Morocco, India and Japan). The Institute is a member of the International Federation of Documentation and participates in the activities of the ISCU Abstracting Board.
The informational materials are prepared by a large number of highly skilled specialists. Apart from its large permanent staff the Institute recruits the services of numerous supernumerary workers, including full members and corresponding members of the USSR Academy of Sciences, as well as doctors and candidates of sciences.
Prominent scientists exercise direct supervision over the Abstracts Journal series: Academician L.I.Sedov is the editor-in-chief of the “Mechanics” series; N.V.Agheyev—corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences—is the editor-in-chief of the “Metallurgy” series; Academician Artobolevsky is on the editorial board of the “Engineering” series; Academicians L.A.Orbeli and N.V.Tsitsin are on the editorial board of “Biology”; Academicians P.S. Alexandrov and A.N.Kolmogorov are on the editorial board of the “Mathematics” series; and Academician A.F.Ioffe is on the editorial board of the “Physics” series.
Organizationally the Institute consists of editorial offices, scientific departments and research laboratories.
The Institute has eleven editorial offices covering in their Abstracts Journal series the respective sciences (however, the Editorial Office for “Chemistry” also handles the “Biological Chemistry” series and that of “Physics”—the “Geophysics” series). The editorial offices are also responsible for the preparation and issue of the “Advances in Science” reviews in their respective spheres.
The “Express Information” bulletins are prepared by the Department for Scientific and Technical Information.
Among the scientific departments there are also the Acquisition Department and Department for Systematization.
The Acquisition Department has as its province of study the entire world literature on science and technology. It is the responsibility of this department to acquire through subscription and exchange the publications required.
All publications arriving at the Institute are registered and then forwarded to the Department for Systematization.
Here the publications are distributed to the groups organized on the language principle (languages of the USSR and People’s Democracies, English, Romanic, German and Scandinavian, and the Oriental languages). The language groups mark the materials for subsequent transfer to the respective editorial offices. For this purpose each article is stamped with the letter index of the editorial office the material is addressed to and the personal number of marker. It is not infrequent that one and the same article is brought to the attention of more than one editorial office. All patents, however, irrespective of the language of origin, are handled by a special Patents Group which deals with them in similar fashion.
The materials are then forwarded to the Transcription Group which transcribes the names of the authors and firms in letters of the Russian alphabet.
Further the sources are passed on to the Bibliographical Group which prepares bibliographical descriptions. A bibliographical card is filled out for each marked article and the latter is also furnished with a special operational number. Thence the materials are transferred to the Control Group to be checked for factual and spelling errors that may have been made in the bibliographical description.
The publications are next taken to the Technical Processing Group. Here the articles are either photo-reproduced—if the source is available in one copy only—or clipped out—if it is available in two or more copies (one copy of each publication is always reserved intact). Simultaneously, the rotorprinting of the bibliographical cards takes place.
Each article thus processed is provided with a bibliographical card which is attached to it. At the same time cards for the authors’ and general catalogues are duplicated. The articles (or photo-copies) are next distributed to the pertinent editorial offices, and the processed periodicals are placed in the custody of the Storage Department.
At the editorial office the articles are delivered to the office bibliographical group which classifies them according to the sections of the particular Abstracts Journal series. The materials are then handed over to the section editor who is in charge of a group of specialist editors organized into a sector. It is the responsibility of the section editor to distribute the materials to the specialists (VINITI’S supernumerary abstractors) and to supervise the editing of the abstracts prepared by them. After the abstracts have been edited they are passed
on to the Editorial and Publishing Department which handles the issue of the Abstracts Journal.
It takes from four to six months from the moment the source arrives at the Institute to the time it is reflected in the Abstracts Journal series.
According to their subjects the more important scientific and technical magazines are distributed among the editorial offices on a priority basis and are handled by the scientific departments as soon as they arrive. Each of these magazines shall be regarded as a top-priority objective only by the editorial office concerned. It is the duty of that editorial office to rush the abstracting of all the articles contained in these magazines and to supply the other editorial offices with copies of the abstracts.
The editorial offices may take for their series any article appearing in any such magazine. However, such an article may be re-abstracted only after the abstract received from the priority office has been found unsuitable for the specific purposes of the other editorial offices. Each office decides whether to publish the abstract in its original form, to revise it, or to order a new abstract of the earmarked article.
The Abstracts Journal uses three forms of publications: the abstract, annotation and bibliographical description.
The abstract is the principal form for original works.
The annotation is used for reviews—whether books or articles—and popular science works the subject-matter of which is not fully revealed in their titles, for monographs or reviews either stating new points of view or collating original studies.
The bibliographical description is used for books, reference manuals, textbooks, collections, reviews and popular science articles, non-original articles on materials published earlier and certain articles on adjacent branches of science.
The size of the abstract is determined by the value of the article. An average abstract shall not exceed one double-spaced typewritten page. Should the work contain information of considerable value the size of the abstract may be increased to one and a half pages or, in exceptional cases, to two or even three pages.
The abstract invariably gives the object, method, the principal theoretical prerequisites, results of the work, numerical data of scientific-or technological interest, as well as the author’s view on the possibilities for applying the results of the work to science and technology. Concrete (numerical) data shall not be substituted by generalities. As a rule the history of the investigated problem is not given.
All non-metric measurements appearing in the article are converted to the metric system when quoted in the abstract.
The size of the annotation is determined by the value of the material. Normally it shall not exceed one third of a double-spaced typewritten page. The annotation states as briefly as possible the problems dealt with in the material annotated.
The bibliographical description
The guiding element in the description is the title (not the author) of the work covered because it makes it easier for the reader to look for the publications that may be of interest to him.
If the article is in Russian, the bibliographical description consists of the title, the author’s family name, first name (or initials) as well as the account of the source.
If the article is in a foreign language, the bibliographical description consists of, firstly, the Russian translation of the title, and the author’s family name in the Russian transcription. Neither the author’s first name nor his initials are given in the Russian transcription because (unless the full name is known) it is often impossible to find adequate equivalents for the initials. The title of the article, the author’s family name (and his initials) in the original language follow in parentheses. The name of the source (periodical) is abbreviated in accordance with the Institute’s list of abbreviations. Then come the publication particulars: year of issue, number of volume (if the volume number is omitted, only the year of issue is given), edition number and language of the original.
In case of pamphlets or books the bibliographical description basically consists of the same elements: title, sub-title, number of volume or part and, if available, its heading, edition number, name of author, place of publication, name of publishing house, year of issue and circulation figures. As to foreign publications all information is given in the language of the original in parentheses; only the name of the book is given in the Russian, and the author’s name in the Russian transcription.
In case of authors’ abstracts of dissertations the bibliographical description reveals the subject of the dissertation, the author’s name, the degree he is seeking, place where the dissertation is to be defended, place and year of publication of the author’s abstract.
In case of reviews the bibliographical description consists of two parts: one—account of the work under review giving all its publication particulars in the above manner, and two—specification of the source carrying the review in
question. The family name of the author of the review and the name of the source carrying the review are enclosed in square brackets. The title of the review is not quoted.
A patent description includes: the name of the invention, the name of the inventor, the owner of the patent (name of individual, firm or government office), country of origin, classification index, patent number and date of publication.
These elements are given in the following order: name of the invention in the Russian, family name of the inventor in the Russian transcription; then in parentheses in the original language—the name of the invention, family name of the inventor, his first name or initials; separately in square brackets (also in the original language) the name of the owner of the patent (if the owner is not the same man). Further comes the abbreviation “Pat.” followed by the country of origin, classification index, patent number, date of publication and source containing information on the patent (unless the source is an official patent journal).
The title of the article is given in full as in the source. If the title is given in several languages the description uses the language of the article.
Today an information agency is unable to operate efficiently unless it enjoys the advantages of electronic computers and other modern machines. The value of information is not only in its completeness but also in its expediency.
VINITI has two laboratories working on problems aimed at mechanizing the information service.
The Laboratory for Mechanization of Information Work has arrived at a stage when it is able to launch an experimental search for information in the field of mechanics. Apart from that machines have been used for compiling an experimental copy of an authors’ index for the “Electrotechnics” series.
The Electric Modelling Laboratory has been assigned the following tasks: elaboration of the theory and principles for the designing of information machines; development of the theory of new methods of electric modelling; creation of new technical means for modelling and design of information machines. In 1957 an experimental machine consisting of magnetic elements, ferrite and capacity memory units was developed in the main. The machine is programmatically controlled.
To sum up: This account is intended as an insight into the operational mechanics of the All-Union Institute for Scientific and Technical Information. In our opinion, the approach to the problem of total information adopted by the Presidium of the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1952, has been fully warranted by the Institute’s experience of five and a half years. It has confirmed that only
a centralized information service is capable of yielding exhaustive information on the advance of world scientific and technological thought.
A task which may be insurmountable for an individual specialist can be coped with successfully by a highly-skilled multifarious scientific body. As we see it, our object is to make the Abstracts Journal into a sort of a scientific forum for intellectual exchange between the scientists of all countries.
Naturally, we have not yet solved all the problems confronting us. Vast fields of science and technology—medicine, agriculture, construction and transport—have yet to be covered by the Abstracts Journal. We have our shortcomings. The gravest in our view is the considerable delay in the issue of indexes.
We hope that our paper will evoke helpful comment and criticism aimed at improving our work, promoting friendly relations and mutual understanding.