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Suggested Citation:"Specialized Information Center." National Research Council. 1970. The Life Sciences: Recent Progress and Application to Human Affairs The World of Biological Research Requirements for the Future. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9575.
Page 424

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424 THE LIFE SCIENCES , . At- . ~ ~· ~ each article abstracts specifically designed to be informative when di- vorced from the text readers and abstracting services would profit. While ~ mung up.. Jouma~s now require such abstracts, only 30 percent of world biological journals demand them, and many are inadequate. The storage and retrieval function storage of references to publica- tions in a form suitable for rapid retrieval yet permitting browsing in de- fined fields of interest. This service is now provided by the tapes of the National Library of Medicine and the National Agricultural Library, the former for some 7,000 journals. Biological Abstracts has adopted a com- puterized indexing service, based on extraction by its staff of relevant in- formation obtained from publication titles. Speed is the most appealing feature of this procedure, though the subtlety and refinement of the con- ventional index is lost. The process would be much improved if editors or authors supplied amplifying key words, since it is often impossible to include all useful clues in titles of reasonable length. The alerting or current-awareness function to announce the appear- ance of a document of potential value to individuals or groups in special- ized areas of research. At present, formidable costs preclude the distribution of selected abstracts on a routine basis to such groups, but the Institute for Scientific Information is developing working programs for routine distribution of selected references (titles plus bibliographic details). How- ever, the personal element will remain overriding. As long as printed jour- nals retain their primacy in scientific communication, the taste and judgment of the individual scientist will continue to determine which papers to read and which to discard. Every scientist has found useful gems of information in surprising places, and has been sorely disappointed by the content of papers with rather grandiosely promising titles. At any rate, structured information systems do not offer a substitute for either the utility or the pleasures of browsing. SPECIALIZED INFORMATION CENTERS For some fields of biology, particularly the taxonomic sciences, coverage of the major primary journals, which may yield 85 percent of the significant information, is not enough. In these cases, specialized services should be encouraged to provide access to literature in highly limited journals, with a deliberate attempt to include the more expensive last 10 percent of the information. Centers providing services of this type can flourish only if they are in contact with active research and are staked in part by active scientists competent to grasp changing aspects of their fields and to provide

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