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Training the Scientific Information Officer

A.B.AGARD EVANS and J.FARRADANE

ABSTRACT. The function of a scientific information officer is basically different from that of a librarian. Documentation has been defined as the recording, organization, and dissemination of knowledge; the information officer is deeply concerned with all three. The information officer has a critical function; his task is synthesis of information, its predigestion and the addition of background information. The training therefore requires not only the inclusion of a variety of subjects not included in a librarian’s training, but a fundamentally different approach and emphasis on what might appear to be common ground.

A syllabus is presented for a post-graduate course of training for a student who is already a subject specialist. Stress is laid on the problem of human communications in the efficient application of research; presentation of information at all levels of industry; abstracting, translating, editing; compilation of surveys; reproduction techniques. It includes indexing, classification, and work organization, but approached from a different angle than that of the librarian.

The course envisaged covers 166 hours of lectures plus practice. But the equipment of a competent information officer requires experience of research, laboratory, or practical work. It is therefore to be preferred that the course should not be consecutive to or concurrent with academic studies, but rather be available as a part-time or long-vacation course for experienced students.

The function of a Scientific Information Officer

The function of a Scientific Information Officer is basically different from that of a librarian. Documentation has been defined as the recording, organization, and dissemination of knowledge. The librarian is mainly concerned with organization; the information officer is deeply concerned with all three.

In a research establishment, one of the functions of the information officer is

A.B.AGARD EVANS Chief Librarian, Ministry of Works, London.

J.FARRADANE Scientific Information Officer, Tate and Lyle Research Laboratories, Keston, Kent, England.



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--> Training the Scientific Information Officer A.B.AGARD EVANS and J.FARRADANE ABSTRACT. The function of a scientific information officer is basically different from that of a librarian. Documentation has been defined as the recording, organization, and dissemination of knowledge; the information officer is deeply concerned with all three. The information officer has a critical function; his task is synthesis of information, its predigestion and the addition of background information. The training therefore requires not only the inclusion of a variety of subjects not included in a librarian’s training, but a fundamentally different approach and emphasis on what might appear to be common ground. A syllabus is presented for a post-graduate course of training for a student who is already a subject specialist. Stress is laid on the problem of human communications in the efficient application of research; presentation of information at all levels of industry; abstracting, translating, editing; compilation of surveys; reproduction techniques. It includes indexing, classification, and work organization, but approached from a different angle than that of the librarian. The course envisaged covers 166 hours of lectures plus practice. But the equipment of a competent information officer requires experience of research, laboratory, or practical work. It is therefore to be preferred that the course should not be consecutive to or concurrent with academic studies, but rather be available as a part-time or long-vacation course for experienced students. The function of a Scientific Information Officer The function of a Scientific Information Officer is basically different from that of a librarian. Documentation has been defined as the recording, organization, and dissemination of knowledge. The librarian is mainly concerned with organization; the information officer is deeply concerned with all three. In a research establishment, one of the functions of the information officer is A.B.AGARD EVANS Chief Librarian, Ministry of Works, London. J.FARRADANE Scientific Information Officer, Tate and Lyle Research Laboratories, Keston, Kent, England.

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--> the responsibility for assembling, organizing, and circulating the information required by the establishment. This function is that of the librarian with an intimate knowledge of the subject and the particular fields of interest of the research staff. But this work is only a part of his duties. He is responsible for ensuring that the work of the research staff is properly recorded and published, so that its use is maximised; that is to say, ensuring that it is systematically and adequately reported to facilitate accessibility of the information both currently and in future; and also that it may be fed into the world pool of information, where possible, so that it may reach other centres with the greatest certainty. He is in effect a publisher with a specialist responsibility. Moreover, he has the responsibility for critical selection and predigestion of material required by the research staff both currently and in response to specific inquiry. This may take the forms of preparation of abstracts of papers, digests of information from several sources, translations, compilation of data sheets or information sheets; all of which is based upon recorded information. It is not his place to usurp the critical judgment of the research worker, but to prepare the material for the research worker’s judgment in the same way as a solicitor compiles a brief for the barrister-at-law. His answers to an inquiry will frequently go beyond that of the Reference Librarian: his task is not fulfilled by presenting a number of references or the actual material with the pages marked: he must prepare an essentially complete, accurate and up-to-date digest of available information, together with selected references for fuller study. The answer must be adjusted according to the context in which the information is required and the intellectual level or occupation of the inquirer. Finally, his intimate knowledge of the work of the establishment and his wide range of reading and study put him in a unique position to help in the cross-fertilization of ideas, to become aware of gaps in knowledge and to make suggestions for future programmes. It was the view of the Royal Society’s Information Conference of 1948 that the Information Officer should have equality of training and status with his colleagues in research. The information section should be a major section in a research establishment and the Information Officer should rank equal with the Directors of the Research Divisions. What has been said above in connexion with a research establishment applies to a greater or less degree to an industrial organization, a Government Department or business where the scientific or technological aspects predominate. By analogy, also, it could apply in other specialist fields with sociology or economics replacing the term science.

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--> We offer no apology for the above brief exposition of a scientific information officer’s function, which, though well-known is apt to be overlooked during controversy. Qualifications It follows logically that apart from the essential geist of aptitude, temperament and vocation for this ‘peculiar trade’, the education and training for the work must comprise: (a) scientific qualifications of a good standard; (b) reading knowledge of three major languages; (c) training in the technique of technical information (TTI). At first sight there would appear to be a large measure of common ground between the training of a librarian and TTI. On this assumption a joint committee of the Library Association and Aslib (Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux), strove earnestly between 1954 and 1957 to evolve a syllabus which would, in whole or in part, serve both purposes. No real progress was made, however, towards a syllabus or courses suitable for persons engaged in those aspects of information work quite distinct from librarianship. The fact emerged more and more clearly that not only does TTI include a variety of subjects not relevant in a librarian’s training, but that it also requires a fundamentally different approach and emphasis on what might appear to be common ground. Syllabus A syllabus is presented for a post-graduate course of training for a student who is already a subject specialist. The syllabus is not a product of spontaneous genius, but owes much to the deliberations of the Aslib Education Committee, which, however, is not officially responsible for it as presented here. The course covers 166 hours of lectures plus practice. Since the equipment of a competent information officer requires experience of research, laboratory, or practical work, it is to be preferred that the course should not be full-time or concurrent with academic studies, but rather be available for part-time or evening studies, possibly culminating in a vacation seminar of a month. It will be noted that stress is laid on the problem of human communications in the efficient application of research; presentation of information at all levels of industry; abstracting, translating, editing; compilation of surveys; reproduction techniques. It includes indexing, classification, and work organization, but approached from a different angle from that of the librarian.

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--> SYLLABUS Human communications: some problems in the efficient use of the results of research in science and scholarship Inquiry techniques Sources of information general reference sources materials and sources in either (i) science and technology or (ii) social sciences Cataloguing, indexing, and classification Presentation of information abstracting and précis writing principles of translating editorial work and report writing compilation of selective bibliographies, surveys, and special reports dissemination of information, including internal and external publications personal liaison answers to inquirers Administration personnel, work organization, budgeting, and costing, planning, equipment, and layout organization of internal records book selection, loans, exchanges Document reproduction Copyright law. Notes on Syllabus Course 1. (8 hours) consisting of Introduction Growth of language difficulties, including relation of concept and term source and nature of transliteration problems standardization problems Proliferation of written records scientific sociological (a) national listing (b) international subject listing Inadequate publication Accessibility of material library development non-library sources The economic factor relating to publication affecting the nature and extent of service to research

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--> Course 2. (3 hours) consisting of Assessment of inquiries Factual information Indefinite and research inquiries Course 3(a). (12 hours+practical) consisting of 1. Book trade 1 hour 2. Government publications 2 hours 3. U.N. and foreign government publications 2 hours 4. Maps 1 hour 5. Periodicals indexes 1 hour 6. Abstracts 3 hours 7. Bibliographies of bibliographies 1 hour 8. Guides to current research 1 hour Course 3(b)(i). (48 hours+practical work) to include the following: Periodicals, house journals, etc., and indexes to them; preprints and offprints; catalogues of periodicals; abstracts; book reviews; reviews of progress; current and standard bibliographies; monographs series; collections of tables and data; Handbücher; technical dictionaries—single language and others; standards; patents and their use; book selection Libraries; interlibrary co-operation, national and international; societies; institutions; trade associations; research associations; research stations; chambers of commerce; government departments; intergovernmental organizations; other international organizations Course 3(b)(ii). (48 hours+practical work) to include the following: Newspapers—indexes, cuttings, press summaries; monitoring reports of broadcasts; periodicals—indexes, abstracts, offprints, etc; surveys—reports of sample surveys, national, local, government and commercial Monographs; dictionaries, and glossaries. Statistical sources—censuses and other basic national statistics, statistical abstracts, statistical publications of government departments, international statistical publications; legal sources—national and international Bibliographical sources—publications of the International Committee for Social Science Documentation, etc., records of current research including theses, trend reports, reviews, library catalogues and acquisition lists, commercial bibliographies Centres of documentation—handbooks and guides to centres; inter-library co-operation—joint catalogues of periodicals, etc., societies and institutions Special problems of social science documentation: Area studies Problems connected with a new orientation of disciplines terminology and, therefore, classification importance of sources in other disciplines making past or present contribution to social science studies Course 4. (48 hours) to be based on following division: Author treatment

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--> Subject treatment in catalogues (i) alphabetical subject headings (ii) general classifications in indexes (distributed and collective entries, with reference to special classification, etc.) Course 5 as follows: 24 hours 1 hour 3 hours to include proofing, preparation of MSS, 3 hours 3 hours Course 6. (9 hours) as follows: (a) 1. personnel, work organization 1 hour   2. budgeting and costing 2 hours   3. planning, equipment, and layout 2 hours (b) organization of internal records 2 hours (c) book selection, loans, exchanges 2 hours Course 7. (3 hours) (including visits) Course 8. (1 hour).