SUMMARY OF DISCUSSION
The Chairman of the Panel opened the Area 7 session with the statement that the discussion now comes down from the pure air of mathematical analysis and theorem-building to the smoke-filled room of politics, economics, and administration. He called attention to the fact that, in addition to the nine papers brought together in the “Preprints” as dealing with Area 7, there are in the volume a number of papers assigned to other areas which deal with the subjects under discussion here. Specifically: A Unified Index to Science (Area 2 ), by Eugene Garfield; International Cooperation in Physics Abstracting (Area 2), by B.M.Crowther; International Cooperative Abstracting on Building: An Appraisal (Area 2), by A.B.Agard Evans; Cooperation and Coordination in Abstracting and Documentation (Area 2), by Otto Frank; On the Functioning of the All-Union Institute for Scientific and Technical Information of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. (Area 2), by A.I. Mikhailov; Recent Trends in Scientific Documentation in South Asia: Problems of Speed and Coverage (Area 3), by P.Sheel; Scientific Documentation in France (Area 3), by J.Wyart; and A Proposed Information Handling System for a Large Research Organization (Area 5), by W.K.Lowry and J.C. Albrecht.
He stated that the Panel, in its own discussions of the topic assigned to it, had identified the following questions as being those which lie closest to the surface:
What responsibilities for scientific documentation should lie with agencies supporting research?
Scientists (both as individuals and in groups)?
Scientific and other professional societies?
Abstracting and indexing services?
National documentation centers?
International documentation centers?
How shall such activities be financed?
How can the needs for scientific documentation of the smaller or less developed countries best be met, and their contributions enlisted?
How can research looking to improvement in the techniques of scientific documentation best be promoted?
How is scientific documentation to be rationalized, simplified and unified so as to avoid scattering of effort?
How can training for scientific documentation work best be secured?
The Panel, he said, would attempt, with its limited membership, to touch on all these questions.
Dr. David C.Martin, Assistant Secretary of the Royal Society of London, speaking on the responsibilities of scientific societies and journals, commenced the Panel presentation by reminding the Conference that for three centuries scientific societies, through the publication of their journals, have been the principal builders of scientific information; they organize the supply of bricks and provide much of the mortar. He prophesied that for some years to come the paper published in the scientific journal will continue to be the principal medium through which scientific information is first dispensed. A large debt is owed, therefore, to the editors of scientific journals for their vital contribution. He suggested that this important service might be further strengthened by, among other things, the following:
Societies should place greater emphasis on good writing—on the need for papers to be clear, precise, logical, and brief.
Authors’ synopses, subject to editing, could be helpful and should be further exploited.
The encouragement of authors to indicate subjects for indexing and classification of their material as well as specific information for use in data processing might be useful.
Teams of young scientists might be organized, perhaps by the universities, to extract information from the literature; there is no better way for getting acquainted with the shortcomings of the literature and for stimulating efforts for reform.
Reviews should be written only by well qualified persons; more prestige should be given to this important information service. f Rapid announcement of titles after publication, followed by a speedy on-request service of individual offerings might be beneficial and should be tried.
Societies should be financially independent and retain complete control of the publication of their original works. In return for the public benefit they give, the societies merit public support. Governments might provide funds to selected societies.
The scientific unions can promote international coordination of the work of national associations.
Continued emphasis should be given to the value of personal contacts.
International agreements in such matters as nomenclature, transliteration schemes, etc. can provide national academies with a useful vehicle for communication.
Dr. Martin stressed the importance of patience and willingness to experiment. Too much should not be expected too soon, because cooperation on an international scale takes time. He anticipated the continued rise in the recognition of the importance of scientific information (this Conference will assist in this respect), even though the stage for the establishment of international scientific information centers might not yet have been reached.
Mr. Noble Clark, Associate Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Wisconsin, discussed the question of the degree to which the scientists, working individually or in cooperation with scientific groups, should be responsible for contributing to the organization and control of scientific information in forms generally available to the scientific community. He mentioned the suggestion made earlier in the Conference that the documentalist should give the scientist the information that he needs, rather than what he wants. Speaking as an administrator, Mr. Clark placed a high value on the expressed needs and desires of the individual scientist. Important new ideas in science, he explained, arise in the single mind of the scientist, whose convictions and preferences must not be ignored. In making a plea for finding new and better ways of taking care of the real and felt needs of the scientist, whether he works individually or in a research group, the speaker asked for continued efforts to find new and improved ways of access to the findings of scientific research in order to be of more help to the individual scientist. These methods need not always be elaborate; just as in transportation we have the great ocean liner and the one-man automobile, so in information work we undoubtedly need the computer-retrieval mechanisms for great team research projects, but we also need simpler devices to serve the needs of individual scientists, such as the following:
A master card file of abstracts kept up-to-date in the institutional library.
Duplicate cards for abstracts of interest distributed to individual scientists within the institution.
Index words supplied with each abstract (perhaps by the wavy lines used to specify bold-face type).
Cards adapted to machine sorting when files reach a size warranting such a procedure.
Sir Herbert Howard, Secretary, Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau, speaking on the responsibilities of the indexing and abstracting services, spoke of the differences in the needs of the various scientific disciplines and the degree
to which these needs can be expected to be met by further cooperative effort. In any question involving cooperation, it is the scientist-users of the abstracts who must be the final judges of the efficiency of the operation. Discussion of means and methods should never be allowed to confuse the real objective of satisfying the needs of the user. The cooperative efforts that have been undertaken in physics and chemistry owe their success to author abstracts. These may be satisfactory in physics and chemistry, but biologists may need some very different kind of aid, particularly those who work in isolation without easy access to libraries or to literature. Touching on the matter of the high cost of specialized abstracts, Sir Herbert spoke of the sometimes unequal sharing of the cost in cooperative ventures, when one service makes use of the expensive abstracts produced by another without adequate compensation, sometimes even using them for competition. In summing up his principal points, Sir Herbert emphasized that:
Abstracts which are subsidized by governments do cost money; this money comes from the taxpayers,
Schemes of cooperation which satisfy the physicist or chemist are not necessarily suitable for the biologist,
In formulating a cooperative policy, those agencies that have produced abstracts for a considerable period should be consulted,
Inasmuch as specialized abstracts are expensive, any form of cooperation should provide benefits both ways,
The success of any cooperative scheme must be judged by those for whom the information is provided, rather than by those who provide it.
Dr. W.O.Baker, Vice President for Research, Bell Telephone Laboratories, discussed the responsibilities of industry for contributing to the organization and control of scientific information in forms generally available to the entire scientific community. Suggesting that industry has the important responsibility of communicating back to the scientist information on industry’s use of and experience with science, Dr. Baker advanced the idea that industry should take responsibility for recruiting personnel capable of preparing in scientific terms reports on the industrial applications of science. Industry has responsibilities, he emphasized, not only as a user of science, but also as a critic on the application of the science. It is industry’s job to extract what is valuable from the application of the science and it can serve a useful role by producing authoritative monographs, cogent surveys of its experience as a user of science, referring to original sources and written in scientific terms.
Dr. Burton W.Adkinson, Head, Office of Scientific Information, National
Science Foundation, speaking on the question of what responsibilities should rest with national governments, based his remarks on the following assumptions:
Scientific information is a national resource.
National governments are users of scientific information.
Many national governments are responsible for the production of much of the scientific and technical information that is distributed today.
Recognizing the existence, even within the Conference, of completely opposite points of view as to the value of governmental control (e.g., as expressed in the papers by Dr. Milton O.Lee and Miss Hazel Mews), Dr. Adkinson enumerated several points that must be taken into account if national governments are to assume an important responsibility in this area:
National governments must recognize their responsibility for the establishment and maintenance of adequate documentation services.
National governments must provide a proper climate for the maintenance of adequate documentation services and accept responsibility for supporting and stimulating such services (this would involve whole-hearted cooperation between those who produce the information and those who organize and disseminate it).
National governments will have to accept responsibility for fostering international cooperation in this field, since no nation is self-sufficient.
A variety of factors influence the role of the different governments:
The stage of research and development programs both within and without the governmental structure.
The stage and development of documentation activities within a particular country.
The degree to which the country is a heavy contributor in scientific fields.
The cultural and economic patterns of the country.
The degree to which the country has developed bibliographical tools of international importance.
The linguistic competence of the specialists within the country who use these major bibliographical tools in science and technology.
In summary, Dr. Adkinson emphasized the fact that national governments have been in the documentation business since the beginning of history. They must continue to be much concerned with this area. National governments have administrative and intellectual responsibilities as well as financial responsibilities here. How far each country can go in supporting documentation serv-
ices will be determined on the basis of such factors as those enumerated above.
Dr. C.E.Sunderlin, of European Research Associates, S.A., Brussels, in considering the responsibilities that rest with both governmental and non-governmental groups at the international level, referred to the recommendations for the establishment of international scientific documentation centers contained in the papers of Paul Boquet and Waldo Chamberlin. He stated that among the considerations bearing upon the establishment of such centers are: (a) measurement of the effectiveness of existing services; (b) determination of the existence of needs beyond what present services provide; and (c) considerations of the kind of organization required to provide such additional services. In his following remarks he limited himself to two questions, the first being, “Is there a need for scientific information services of a kind which would be persuasive of the establishment of an international center?” He believes that Dr. Boquet and Dr. Chamberlin have not made the case for such a need. Just to say that science is international is not to demonstrate a need for an international center—art and sex are both international. He would greatly question whether the information services now being provided at the international level by various services could be rendered more effective if they were provided by a single international center. To the question, “How can existing needs best be met?” he would say that scientific information services must ultimately rest on great scientific collections, and that this argues the establishment of a series of national and regional science libraries functioning as national and regional science centers. The proposed National Lending Library for Science and Technology in the United Kingdom, and the various regional science documentation centers established under the sponsorship of Unesco are harbingers of such a system. Such centers would be coupled with continued growth and experimentation in international activities for specific areas of science, and questions of sponsorship, financing, policy determination, organization and control of services would be solved on a case-by-case basis.
Dr. Juan Carlos Secondi, Director of Libraries and Public Information, Provincial Health Service of the Chaco, Buenos Aires, outlined some of the problems arising from the high rate of illiteracy in the world today. Explaining some of the attempts being made in Latin America today, including the contributions made by Unesco, to lift the barriers to learning, Dr. Secondi saw technical assistance as perhaps the best tool to progress. The less-developed countries need help from the more-developed, in scientific documentation as in other matters, until their level of development is such that they can go ahead alone.
Dr. Jesse H.Shera, Dean, School of Library Science, Western Reserve University, next spoke on the matter of training for work related to documenta-
tion. He stressed the importance of the maturity that comes to a profession from experience and the fact that the field of scientific documentation is still very young. While he doubted that there was any one ideal school curriculum, Dr. Shera viewed education as the bridge to the future. Although one cannot expect a research program in education to find out for certain what kind of training is best, the maturity that will come only from experience will help to indicate the most suitable kinds of training for this field.
Dr. Raymund L.Zwemer, Assistant Science Adviser, U.S. Department of State, reviewed the principal steps to be followed in furthering research in the communication of scientific information.
Find the man with the idea that needs to be developed and give him backing,
Make certain that those working on related subjects have an opportunity to get together for discussion, mutual aid, and constructive criticism,
Provide adequate publication outlets for exchange of information,
Develop in a practical area but on a small scale the most promising of these ideas.
Dr. Zwemer stressed the importance of controlled studies of various methods of documentation, so that they may be compared in similar terms (this is seldom now the case); he also stressed the importance of personal communication as a medium for the transmission of scientific information, the need for better studies on the scientists’ own use of informational materials, and the need for more investigation on the integration of research. He saw considerable merit to the suggestion that the scientist might put in the headings and index words under which information in a published work might be recovered. Systems compatibility on the international scale will become increasingly important. Governments must look carefully into the language problem, for example, and into the financial barriers to the free flow of scientific information. In the international field, it would be helpful to have a description of the techniques followed in the regional centers which are just beginning to grow into prominence. A better assessment is needed on the magnitude of what can and should be done in the light of what we can afford to do.
Discussion from the floor brought out a number of points.
Dr. D.J.Urquhart, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, London, commented that the papers in Area 7 appeared to be deficient in basic data, and
rather concerned instead to put forward personal views. He himself had been inclined to prepare a paper in this area, on an inquiry of some consequence, but had felt that his conclusions lacked the basic character which should have been a prerequisite for papers for this Conference. He had observed that English abstracting journals deal with scientific literature in English better than do the Soviet abstracting journals, and the Soviet abstracting journals better with Soviet literature than with English; this might have been expected. He then found, however, that Soviet abstracting services deal better with the German literature than do the English services, and this seems to be due to deficiencies in collections of the German literature in England. As a consequence, the National Lending Library for Science and Technology is being planned in the United Kingdom. But this does not result from a conclusion that a centralized system is better than a decentralized, but rather from observation of operational, as opposed to fundamental, aspects of organization.
Mrs. Helen L.Brownson, Office of Scientific Information, National Science Foundation, pointed out that the comments of Mr. Clark, Dr. Sunderlin, Dr. Boutry, and Dr. Urquhart all add up to the fact that we just simply do not know enough, and that what we need is real work, more studies in a number of the areas discussed during the Conference.
Professor Eric de Grolier, Director, Centre Français d’Échanges et de Documentation Techniques, Milan, warmly seconded Mrs. Brownson’s suggestion, adding that there must be a series of specialized conferences or symposia at which real research projects in the field of information communication could be devised. For “even Hell has its laws,” as the French say, and the hell of scientific documentation may have them too.
Professor J.D.Bernal, Birkbeck College, University of London, stated that finance should not become an obstacle to improvements in the dissemination of information. The centralized service could begin as a free service, with the government supporting it. Or it might be sold to industry, with the resulting revenue used to finance research in the problems of dissemination. Perhaps a finance committee is needed to look into the problem of the degree to which high cost, including the increasing cost of books and journals, is a barrier to communication.
Coordination of effort in indexing and abstracting
Dr. G.A.Boutry, Secretary, Abstracting Board, International Council of Scientific Unions, commented that no attempt has been made to assess the magnitude of the problem with which we are dealing. He notes, however, that out of the mass of abstracted literature, less than one fiftieth is devoted to
mathematics. Between one fifth and one sixth is devoted to physics, and less than one third is concerned with chemistry. All the rest, about 50 per cent, is devoted to biology and its allied disciplines. These rough statistics would seem to explain why there are so many problems in the documentation of the biological disciplines, and so few, comparatively, in mathematics. It explains, too, why there has been little difficulty in the attempt of the ICSU Abstracting Board to organize the field of physics. As for principles, the Board has none; it forces no one to do anything. But when it started, the only agreement the various parties could reach was that authors’ abstracts, even though they were not thought to be any good, yet cost nothing and so were worth trying. But it is not to be expected that they will meet everybody’s needs. So, the Board is willing to compromise in an effort to secure action which will be some good to some, without expecting that it will find the perfect solution for everyone.
Mr. Cyril Cleverdon, College of Aeronautics, Cranfield, Buckinghamshire, said that it seems sensible to ask the writers of a document to indicate the index terms under which the information therein can be found.
An international scientific documentation center
Dr. Paul Boquet, Institut Pasteur, Paris, remarked that man has been concerned with the retrieval and dissemination of information for thousands of years. Even though much progress has been made, the problems remain complex, partly because of the difficulty in standardizing methods and systems.
Dr. Waldo Chamberlin, New York University, stated that after five days in the Conference he felt that his paper was too conservative. Since so many people are apparently doing the same thing in the field of storage and retrieval of scientific information, a modest goal might be the establishment of an informational center aimed at improving our present methods of storage and retrieval. Present costs of decentralized services appear to be higher than would be required by an international center. But irrespective of the cost, can we afford the present wasteful effort? The Soviet Government has decided that it cannot afford it—perhaps other countries cannot afford it either. This Conference can undoubtedly make a concerted attack on the problem if it chooses to do so. In politics we get what we want.
Dr. Masao Kotani, Chairman, National Committee for Documentation, Science Council of Japan, and Dr. Wallace W.Atwood, Jr., Director, Office of International Relations, National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.), forwarded the idea that international centers are perhaps the most sensible answer to many present needs. The experience of the three world data centers collecting information during the International Geophysical Year offers a precedent which
should be watched carefully to see if it may offer a solution to the problems which have been considered at this Conference.
The role of the scientific information officer and training for documentation work
Mr. J.E.L.Farradane, Tate and Lyle Research Laboratories, Keston, Kent, and Dr. Mortimer Taube, Documentation, Inc., Washington, D.C., brought out that it does not give an accurate picture to say that the documentalist is not competent to know what the scientist wants and needs. Many documentalists have been research scientists and thus have a high appreciation of the scientist’s needs. The entire field of scientific information services should be recognized as a newly organized professional activity that will help both the scientist and the public and that merits recognition by both.
Mr. Clark interjected a request that documentalists not become too defensive or take themselves too seriously.
With respect to training for documentation work, Dr. S.R.Ranganathan, Professor of Library Science Emeritus, University of Madras, stated that the similarity between the work of the librarian and the information officer would seem to argue for similarity in their training. The curricula of library schools in India are now being used effectively for the training of people in both professions. He concluded by asking the Conference not to confuse issues by drawing unnecessary and non-existing distinctions between librarians and information officers.
Mr. Farradane agreed heartily with Dr. Ranganathan, and stated that the paper prepared by himself and Dr. A.B.Agard Evans for Area 7 is out of date in this respect.
Simplification and unification of scientific information services
In bringing the session to a close, the Chairman mentioned that perhaps insufficient attention had been given both in the papers and in the discussion to the question of what is needed to provide greater unity in documentation research in order to overcome the present scattering of effort. This desire to find a simplified method is in some respects the natural result of human laziness, and while there are many precedents there are large economic problems to be faced. We do not know with any precision what the boundaries of the scientific information problem are in economic terms. In April 1953 The New York Times reported that the cost of literature searching in the United States had been estimated at some $300,000,000 a year. Dr. Chamberlin has estimated
that about $200,000,000 annually is going into the compilation of the publications that are searched by these literature searchers. Unquestionably duplication is a basic problem here, as is also the enormous growth of research institutions. Further economic studies appear to be an urgent need, and some funds ought to go to research toward the discovery of satisfactory methods of simplification.
VERNER W.CLAPP, Rapporteur and Discussion Panel Chairman
FRANK B.ROGERS, Area Program Chairman
Members of Discussion Panel
Chairman: MILTON O.LEE, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, Washington, D.C.
HELEN L.BROWNSON, Office of Scientific Information, National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C.
VERNER W.CLAPP, Council on Library Resources, Inc., Washington, D.C.
ERIC DE GROLIER, Centre Français d’Échanges et de Documentation Techniques, Milan, Italy
SIR ALFRED EGERTON, Salters Institute of Chemistry, London, England
DWIGHT E.GRAY, Office of Scientific Information, National Science Foundation, Washington, D.C.
ALEXANDER KING, European Productivity Agency, Paris, France
GILBERT W.KING, I.B.M. Research Center, Yorktown Heights, N.Y.
JOHN W.TUKEY, Department of Mathematics, Princeton University, Princeton N.J.