SUMMARY OF DISCUSSION
At the outset Dr. Alexander King noted that of five papers in Area 3 dealing with the subject of monographs, compendia, and specialized centers, two papers were on review publications and three dealt with various national arrangements. There were no papers on monographs, compendia, or on specialized information services. He reported the agreement of the Panel, however, to try to retain a trend of continuity by discussing the subject areas proposed and by relying on submitted papers as a point of departure.
In the matter of reviews it was agreed by members of the Panel that there is a rising demand for quality reviews and great difficulty in getting qualified scientists to write them. The decline of the critical review was noted, but it was the consensus that review literature is going to play an ever-increasing part in the dissemination of the results of research. Dr. King concluded that in a period of intensity of specialization the review article is one of the real methods of securing cross-fertilization, of permitting browsing in related fields, and of stimulating work in interesting directions on which creativity depends.
The review article and the review journal attempt to satisfy information needs by accumulating, digesting, and correlating the current literature in particular fields and giving an indication of the direction which future research might take.
Mr. Dale Baker listed the criteria most quoted as qualities of a good review as: expert writers; critical approach; comprehensiveness; clarity and balance; good bibliography; synopses; and use of tables where suitable. It is important that a writer of reviews decides whether the review is to be a critical approach or simply a summary of current advances.
It was brought out by Mr. Baker that there is a marked difference between fields with respect to the need and use of reviews. As a rule, reviews are in their infancy in new areas of science and only a small portion of the literature is included in them. In well-established fields, for example, in medicine, the volume and importance of reviews have been sufficient to stimulate compilation of bibliographies of reviews. It was suggested that more reviews would be very useful also in the chemical fields.
Mr. Baker stated, “It is becoming more and more essential that reviews should be organized rationally and should be closely geared to the needs of scientists. Some reviews are little more than indexes or annotated bibliographies, whereas others provide more detailed treatment of narrow fields, and attempt a highly critical appraisal of recent work, both individually and collectively with a view to influencing the direction of future research.”
The need for a graded set of reviews was stressed. It was pointed out that there should be several levels of reviews based on differing needs relating to scope of coverage and detail. In some fields it is desirable to have frequent summary reviews of current advances and less frequent comprehensive critical reviews. Chemists, for example, engaged entirely in research need comprehensive reviews on specialized topics, supplemented with full and complete bibliographies. Whereas those concerned mainly with lecturing and teaching, ask for broadly based reviews with key references.
Mr. Baker further stated, “Industrial chemists use review material to a considerable extent. Good review material is to be found in private or semi-private house journals of industrial organizations, while in general industrial chemists are less enthusiastic about the annual reviews.” He observed that an overwhelming majority of chemists are in favor of confining reviews to review journals, and against having journals publish original work interspersed with review articles.
Dr. Brygoo brought out that in general reviews may be classed according to three forms. In one case the review is effected by the arrangement of abstracts according to a systematic plan. By this method there is obtained an intermediary result between the ordinary form of informative abstract journals and the periodical review which picks up where an annotated bibliography leaves off. A second form is the occasional review which is rarely published with consideration for the actual and present needs of the users but very often as an opportunity for the editor or the writer. Many of these reviews appear to be the result of “scissors and paste” work on the part of a student or a secondary effort on the part of the author.
The third class of reviews (research reviews) is important in several areas of science. In particular, Dr. Brygoo observed that the presentation of statistical data or of concepts included in the enormous amount of original work published each year in biology could be very useful for research workers if such material could be collected and scanned completely and quickly and then adequately presented in reviews.
One of the main difficulties in obtaining good reviews is simply that not enough qualified people are prepared or are able to give the time necessary to produce them. Scientists who have specialized in library and information work
are comparatively unknown. This is less true in the industrial field but in the more rarefied field of academic research the library chemist does not have the status nor is he thought to be so essential as the laboratory chemist. Panel members agreed this attitude is one which if it prevails, might well cause a breakdown in the whole system of information storage and retrieval, for it is essential, if the most efficient methods of organizing scientific literature in a scientific way are to be utilized, that a proportion of first-class scientists be encouraged to specialize in documentation and library information techniques.
It was further stated that the best review is written by a specialist in the field and not by a special kind of scientist. During discussion of the difficulty of getting competent people to write reviews it was suggested that younger research workers might be utilized for this purpose and be forced, as it were, to learn their own subject by reading the literature and producing for one or two years the basic material for reviews. In answer to the criticism that the young research worker does not possess the necessary background to be adequately critical, it was proposed that reviews should be written by teams which would include the young worker and a specialist in the field.
There was consideration as to whether a central documentation service with specialists and computing machines tied in with telecommunication equipment could alleviate the need for literature reviews. There was general agreement, however, that the development of machine documentation and central information services would not stem the increasing demand for review articles.
In introducing the discussion on monograph publication, on which no papers were submitted, Dr. King pointed out that prompt publication of original papers by present day scientific journals in most countries has reduced the need for monographs. But the monograph has great advantages in that it often includes a number of pertinent papers and it is a useful vehicle sometimes for the longer papers which cannot be easily published in a journal.
Several definitions of a monograph were presented. Dr. Pietsch and Dr. Urquhart observed that in European minds the historic monograph is a form of publication which brings together all pertinent things about one question. It was agreed that this type of monograph has deteriorated in importance but that this historic trend may have been reversed with regard to monographs published in the Soviet Union.
Dr. King concluded that there is a whole group of non-serial publications which may be generally labeled monographs and which include the traditional type of monograph, the original contribution published separately, and, per-
haps, the modern technical report. On this latter point there was considerable question as to whether the technical report deserves special consideration as a new medium of publication or whether the report is merely a collection of preliminary observations and data of which the most important will appear later in journal form. There was some opinion that technical reports do not merit abstracting if it can be assumed those which contain important information will later appear as journal articles.
In the absence of papers dealing with scientific compendia, Dr. Pietsch described the basic character of the compendium and reviewed the role it has played from its inception to the present. He pointed out that while abstracts and special reviews are considered essential, questions are raised frequently with regard to the usefulness of compendia, perhaps even their right to exist.
Two criticisms are directed at the conception and usefulness of the handbook. There is first of all a critical and increasing time gap in the publication of information which must be reviewed against the background of the ever-increasing flow of scientific data. Secondly, the preparation of the handbook is so costly that the price of the compendium becomes prohibitive for the individual scientist.
In favor of the handbook there is the conviction on the part of many that the handbook presents the only means of overcoming the deep compartmentalization of knowledge in a given discipline. The compendium differs from the abstract journal and the review in that it is a long-term and comprehensive record of a given science.
With regard to the field of chemistry in which compendia have been prominent, it is clear that almost from the very beginning of modern chemistry there was a need for publications reviewing the progress made in these fields. It is significant that the annual reviews did not completely satisfy the requirements of the practicing chemists and scientists. During the period when the entire knowledge was recorded in no more than a dozen periodicals, several handbooks started to appear. Thus, in the early years of the handbook it became obvious that this type of publication would not claim to be up to date, and that the time lag between the generation of knowledge and its recording in the handbooks was unavoidable.
To illustrate the situation further, Dr. Pietsch cited as an example the preparation of the Gmelin’s Handbuch der Anorganischen Chemie and the attempts of the Gmelin Institute to overcome the restrictions of a classical compendium. All work processes of the Institute are being continually reviewed for efficiency. An average of 19 literature references per page is cited at a cost of $6.15 for
each reference. Every effort is made to streamline the operations and to render them more efficient and more economical through the introduction of modern documentation techniques. This has resulted in substantially increasing output but a significant time lag remains.
Dr. Pietsch observed that two hundred years of chemistry up to 1950, reported in about 60,000 pages, will be brought into the eighth edition which is scheduled for complete publication by 1966. At the same time the Gmelin Institute is preparing the material in the form of card files which will be recorded on magnetic tape and thus readily available through type-written lists for every subject.
The need for specialized compilations of data seems to be growing almost daily. Mr. Hilsenrath cited the revision and updating of the International Critical Tables as an example of the enormous growth of data collections. He concluded that the ten volumes of critical tables would have to be expanded into hundreds of volumes in order to do the job adequate to the present needs that the International Critical Tables did about 25 years ago.
Professor Bernal stated his conviction that compendia are absolutely necessary but that we are in danger of destroying compendia by dating them. He offered as a means of overcoming the delay factor that essential data tables should be compiled in an abbreviated form “in handbooks which you could actually hold in your hands.”
Sir Alfred Egerton proposed that the way to tackle the vital question of compendia and particularly of critical tables is by bringing out series of critical data in special subjects and by keeping that going as far as the advance takes place. This could be done by publishing bodies under competition to provide the scientist the best working material.
In summary, there was strong opinion in favor of compendia, both of the type of large compilations of data as well as the type of specialist publications in a critical sense, field by field. Dr. King concluded either type of compendium is economically an enormous job involving large resources. “It seems to me another case of what we require from a basic world service for science, and I don’t think it is a subject on which we can afford very much duplication, although we wish and we require an essential critical approach, especially on the data side.”
Specialized information centers
Any consideration of the need for specialized information centers raises immediately the question: Why does the scientist need aids to information access other than those already discussed—abstracts, reviews, monographs, and compendia?
The answer appears to lie in the different levels of need on the part of the research scientist. The use of abstracts, reviews, compendia and other aids of a similar nature in the past have provided sufficient information for the conduct of an investigation.
Increasingly, however, the specialized information center represents a new level of comprehension demanded by the intensification of research activity in many fields and by the importance of achieving efficiency in the use of information.
The last few decades have been marked by the growth and creation of centers of this kind all over the world, much more in relation to the applied sciences than to the fundamental sciences. Two general types of specialized information centers have appeared: One organized to provide service over narrow segments of particular disciplines, and the other devoted to a national point of view comprehensive in scope and centralized in administration.
The three papers in Area 3 relating to specialized information centers all illustrate the national point of view. In his review of the paper by Dr. Sheel, Mr. Green raised questions as to alternative ways of speedily providing the minimum of information to scientists throughout the world. Radio and television were suggested as an improvement over airmail dissemination. Two interesting points raised by Mr. Ciganik’s paper were discussed. One was the utilization of patent information in two phases of their operation; the other had to do with the proper framing of the technical inquiry. In this last instance, an inquiry is assigned to a specialist who either has a face to face discussion with the inquirer to make sure the question is accurately understood, or a series of carefully phrased questions is sent out for answering.
Dr. Kotani described the work of national and regional information centers in Japan. The work and function of these centers are twofold. The one which is called responsive documentation services covers research, duplication and so forth, made on request of the users. The other one described as active documentation work consists of publishing bibliographies and lists of publications of science literature. The publication activity is cross-filed into two categories. In order to keep scientists informed of the latest development in their special field of study, most of the centers publish cross-filed lists of literature. In some cases these lists are very comprehensive and contain abstracts and can be regarded as abstracted journals. In other cases, however, the list is merely a list of titles and author names of papers. The well known INSDOC list is an example. The Japan Information Center of Science and Technology recently established is now publishing cross-filed lists of papers in several branches of pure and applied sciences, and in these lists a simple annotation of contents is given in addition to titles and author names. In order that these lists
can be very useful to the scientists, delay must be avoided as far as possible.
The Japan Information Center of Science and Technology is receiving current issues of 400 journals by air from the United States and Europe. These copies are regularly sent from New York, USA, and from Europe by air cargo, and air cargo is much less expensive than airmail. Dr. Kotani stressed that the system of sending journals as air cargo should be internationally organized, in order that scientists in different parts of the world may be able to have access through regional centers to new publications without undue delay. This is a program of no small significance to scientists in Asian countries.
Dr. Kotani pointed out another important function of these national or regional centers is found in the compilation and publication of bibliographies of scientific periodicals appearing in these regions. He referred to an example in regional bibliographical reprints, from Yugoslavia, from Mexico, from India, and from Egypt containing literature from African and Near Asian regions. In Japan the Japan Science Review is published. Most of these regional or national bibliographic journals are written in languages used in wider areas of the world, mostly in English.
Dr. Kotani concluded: “I think English is now coming to be regarded as an international language in the science field. Personally, I think that the adoption of one definite language, an international language in kind, is highly desirable. This can be done in such a way that scientists not only will tend to write papers in this common language but will talk in the common language on the occasions of international conferences and meetings to exchange ideas.
“When once this ideal has been attained, the regional or national bibliographies will be much easier tasks to do. However, in the present state of development in which most papers are written in local languages, national or regional bibliographies are very useful and almost indispensable for making scientific information produced in these areas available to the scientists of all the world.”
Mr. Fry noted the essential characteristics of a specialized information center are completeness and depth in search, and promptness in service. The center is expected to have a rather complete grasp of the recorded information in a particular area, depending upon the degree of intensification of research it is expected to serve. The special points of view often peculiar to particular fields also argue in favor of the specialized information center.
A recent survey, tabulation of forty specialized information centers revealed the many features of service in highly specialized projects in narrow subject fields.
The principal information search facility most commonly includes a catalog, abstract file, punched cards, extract file, and tape recordings.
The information file normally does not contain a collection of library literature.
There is a concentration on providing unpublished data and on distributing basic documents.
A majority of centers prepare review reports and compilations.
The following means of disseminating information were found to be most prevalent:
Preparation of abstracts, accession lists or bibliographies.
Detailed answers to technical inquiries.
Provision of technical consultation.
Provision of special laboratory services.
Mr. Fry emphasized any attempt to describe the need for specialized information centers must have regard to the actual and potential contributions of available and proposed services at various levels, for example:
International cooperative ventures.
Government-sponsored scientific and technical information centers.
Information centers in technical and professional societies.
Information centers in private research institutions and universities.
Company information centers.
Information centers operated by individuals.
Mr. Clark stressed the importance of giving more attention to the provision of adequate literature services to the applied sciences. He pointed out there is in the United States no centralized source and no centralized documentation system dealing with the large field of technology.
In this connection the very considerable efforts of the Institute of Radio Engineers to provide its own publication and documentation services were described. The Institute publishes a journal of several thousand pages per year, and also the 25 professional groups comprising the Institute each publishes a set of transactions, usually four volumes per year. In addition, to utilize the maximum communication by personal contact, the Institute has organized a system of about 50 symposia and annual meetings.
The Institute, in order to provide abstracts and index service to the most important publications, publishes the abstracts compiled by the radio organization of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in London. Mr. Clark also referred to the important contribution of the technical press in various countries which publishes a great deal of original material.
In commenting on the inadequacies of present day scientific and technical documentation organizations, Mr. Clark observed that most concern is in the
technical field: “We can see from the papers that have been presented at this conference the trend is in two directions: The establishment of specialized centers to meet narrow, detailed needs and the establishment of great national centers which include provision for specialized needs but cover the whole literature of science, and particularly technology.”
On the question of centralized national systems or decentralized national systems, or separate specialized information centers, Professor Mikhailov stressed the advantages of the centralized approach to information services. He compared the position of scientists seeking information to that of “a gold prospector faced with the Himalayan jungle and the rock formations of the modern libraries.” He reported his conviction that the most effective way of assisting the scientists was in the creation of a large central institute which in its activities would embrace the entire output of national as well as international scientific experience accumulated so far. He noted the individual scientific trends and disciplines of today are organically interconnected and have their interests in the adjacent areas. It is therefore difficult to draw lines between them in order to avoid duplication of material and data. Professor Mikhailov reported it has been the experience of the All-Union Institute of Scientific and Technical Information over a five-year period that this complex problem can only be resolved successfully within the system of a centralized information institute which has as its assignment the embracing of the entire range of scientific knowledge. In this way he stated it is possible to reach the individual scientific disciplines with knowledge and information taken from the adjacent fields. He cited as an example that useful information for a physicist may be derived from the disciplines of biology, chemistry, metallurgy and other sources, which is not possible if the scientists are concentrating only on one narrow specific field.
“Thus in creating an abstract journal, let us say in the area of chemistry and other sciences, within the system of the centralized information institute it becomes possible with more and greater confidence to evaluate the fullness of coverage of all the primary sources. And finally, another and the most important reason is the concentration within a centralized institute of the specialized personnel and the possibility of using all the data and all the advances of machine engineering available, which are only possible in a centralized service.”
Professor Mikhailov stated that in Russia a monograph is understood to be a scientific work which concentrates in full and develops the aspects and facets of a given specific scientific discipline. On this basis the type of literature describing various technological processes for various developments in certain areas could not be classified as monographic literature.
Professor Mikhailov announced that the All-Union Institute is planning to publish beginning in 1959 “monographic reviews or reviews in the form of monographs which will be known as ‘The Total Development of Science.’ The volumes that we intend to publish encompass the total development of science, and, divided into various disciplines, will be issued at different times. Of course, the time will depend on the state of the contemporary development of this particular science.
“We realize the difficulties and hardships in the way of publishing such volumes devoted to particular disciplines. The overriding difficulty is the availability of special personnel qualified to write such volumes.”
Dr. Majewski stated that in Poland a practical solution to the problem has been found through a type of organization permitting the use of specialists attached to the several specialized information centers for particular topics. “It seems to us that this system collects the products of the research workers and puts this to the attention of those who can use it.”
Professor Bernal observed that the problem of world communication already had been posed to the Conference. “I would say that we ought to consider that we are building a service system, actually, for world science, and we ought to lay down the foundations for it at this meeting, using as nuclei the ganglias that we have already heard from the Soviet Union, from the United States and other places.”
Mr. Farradane stated his belief that specialized information services to be of real value must be more creative. He suggested there is “too much documentation and recorded information and not enough knowledge, real ideas and creative work essential to the future development of information services.”
On the question of a monograph representing the author’s personal evaluation of the literature, Professor Mikhailov stated that at the All-Union Institute: “We consider that the amount of work and energy and thought and scientific skill that goes into a monograph must not limit itself only to the viewpoint of one author, but must embrace all the accumulated knowledge and experience bearing upon this particular field.”
In summarizing discussions of this Panel, Dr. King stated his belief that certain minimum services are needed more and more on a world basis. “We have reached the stage when no country, not even the largest, can be self-sufficient in science. In the course of the next few decades we shall see a rise of scientific activity in every part of the world…it will happen that gradually the number of contributions made to science will be approximately equal in proportion to the population wherever it may be…. Consequently, if we restrict our contacts and knowledge to what is done in our own country or published in our own language, we shall miss a very high proportion of what
is really valuable and thus limit intellectual and economic growth. We are at the threshold of the period when we must consider these matters on a world basis.
“We are at present going through a very useful and interesting stage of evaluating the needs of scientists and of industry, discussing and evolving techniques of documentation. We shall have to proceed then to consideration of how to provide the maximum service with the minimum of bureaucratic obstruction. This will not be easy as bureaucracy is inherent in large-scale operations. But it is possible without breaking down the traditional activities and responsibilities; and it is necessary, if we are to prevent expensive and unproductive duplication of services and publications in contrast to the creative duplication of scientific effort in the laboratory.”
BERNARD M.FRY, Rapporteur
ALEXANDER KING, Discussion Panel Chairman