PROPOSED SCOPE OF AREA 3
IN THIS AREA, perhaps more than in any other, one finds a great disparity in the scientific information services and facilities that are available in various disciplines. Many of these differences result from basically different characteristics and problems of the various sciences. Others, however, seem to stem from a lack of organization, experience, or perhaps awareness of the feasibility of adequate bibliographic control.1
In some areas of science, reviews are in their infancy. In medicine, however, the volume and importance of reviews have been sufficient to stimulate the preparation of a Bibliography of Medical Reviews. Some reviews are little more than indexed or annotated bibliographies, whereas others provide more detailed treatment of narrow fields, and a few, such as Nutrition Reviews, attempt a highly critical appraisal of recent work, both individually and collectively, with a view to influencing the direction of future research.
In the matter of compendia there is also a marked difference between fields. A brief search of the chemistry collection at the National Bureau of Standards Library revealed approximately 50 compendia. Yet a search of compendia, similarly defined, in physics yielded barely a dozen titles.
Increased research activity has meant not only increased publication but also more activity in establishing specialized centers for the collection, correlation, and dissemination of scientific information. The classic compendia are now out of date and it is doubtful indeed whether their revision, even on a much augmented scale, will meet future or even current needs. The Landolt Börnstein tables are now being revised in approximately the same format, but the Gmelin Institute is undergoing a significant reorganization—away from compendia and toward reference service. Compendia and reviews have played an important part in the conduct of scientific work and will undoubtedly continue to do so. In many specialized areas, nevertheless, more expeditious collection and more prompt and direct dissemination are required. Here specialized centers or organizations have been established. Some examples of such United States centers are:
The Chemical-Biological Coordination Center
The proposed scope of the Conference Area, as shown here, was prepared during the Spring and Summer of 1956 and provided to all potential contributors as a guide to the aims of the Conference.
Snow-Ice and Permafrost Research Establishment
Bio-Sciences Information Exchange
American Petroleum Institute Project 44
Manufacturing Chemists Association Project
Committee on Spectral Absorption Data
Nuclear Data Project
Solid Propellants Information Agency
Liquid Propellants Information Agency
Bibliography Section T.I.D., Library of Congress
Thermophysical Properties Research Center, Purdue University
Human Relations Area File
Historical Records Project, George Washington University
Linguistic Center, Indiana University
Collection of Survey Materials, Columbia University
A number of European centers are interesting in this connection. Some examples are:
Centre de Documentation, CNRS, Paris
Centre de Documentation, IRSID, Saint-Germain
Dokumentation der Molekul-Spektroskopie, Weinheim
All-Union Institute of Scientific and Technical Information, Academy of Sciences, USSR
It is to be expected that such centers will be the first to apply the latest techniques in rapid collection, search, coordination, and dissemination. It is also probable that these centers will expand their services as these new techniques become available. While much of the change may be in the direction of increased and streamlined reference services, a significant increase is to be expected in published abstract bulletins, bibliographies, and technical compendia.
It will be important, therefore, to discuss fully the organizational, economic, and technical characteristics of these specialized information centers with particular reference to the impact of machine technology on the organization and services of such centers.
This working area should be directed to the following problems:
Summary of studies already made of book publication patterns, existing compendia in the major branches of science, and features of existing specialized documentation centers.
Evaluation of the effectiveness of a number of typical specialized services.
Assessment of these services in terms of new and proposed techniques (such as mechanized searching systems) and types of services that might be established.
Suggested Conference Papers
Characteristics and effectiveness of the monographic literature: A review of the role of scholarly monographs in the utilization of scientific information. The paper should include a discussion based on studies of the way scientists in various fields depend on the monographic literature as contrasted with periodicals.
Scientific reviews in the natural sciences: A study and analysis of the development, trends, objectives, and effectiveness of the review literature in the various natural sciences.
Reviews in the medical sciences: See item 2 above. The Bibliography of Medical Reviews should provide a good starting point for the analysis.
Survey and analysis of existing compendia in the physical sciences: The Index of Mathematical Tables by Fletcher, Miller, and Rosenhead and the quarterly Mathematical Tables and Other Aids to Computation which supplements it provide an excellent example of what can be done to keep track of an ever-growing collection of data. The need in the physical sciences has been recognized for some time.
Survey and analysis of existing compendia in the medical and biological sciences.
Papers outlining in considerable detail the objectives, organization, staff, facilities, operation, financing, services, effectiveness, and future plans of various information centers.
A directory and an analytical summary of services provided by specialized information centers in the United States.
A directory and analytical summary of services provided by specialized information centers abroad.