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International Cooperation, Communication and Sources of Information (Part #3)

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The handling, storage and retrieval of information, particularly in the field ofscience and technology, are posing many problems. The availability and free flow of this information is essential to effective communication, co-ordination and co-operation between disciplines and at the local, national and international levels.

Information may be visualized as being generated at a multitude of point within the context mentioned in the previous section. A record is then channeled to a series of collecting points (periodicals, organizations, information centres, special libraries, bibliographies, etc.). The problem is to ensure that all points at which information is generated are within the framework and then to ensure that the channels along which the information flows to the collecting points are known. Given this state of affairs, it is possible to determine:

(i) whether collecting points exist for all information channels; (ii) which points and/or channels need to be tapped to collect all information of a given type; (iii) the minimum number of points and/or channels to be tapped for an optimum amount of information of a given type, taking into account the geographical location of the collecting points; (iv) whether duplicate collecting points exist or whether more comprehensive exist or could be created for information of a given type; (v) the selection mechanism operating to include or exclude information from a particular collecting point.

The establishment of an information flow-chart along these lines is a necessary step prior to information retrieval. It permits an intelligent choice of the collection(s) of information from which information can be most efficiently retrieved. This avoids any possibility of installing a highly efficient retrieval system for an inferior collection of information. Knowledge of the overall information flow-chart, covering all countries and all subjects, will become increasingly necessary as information centres become more specialized and more de-centralized, in order to determine who is getting how much of what.

Information is normally organized by subject area (science, education, religion, etc.) and/or geographical area (country, continent or region, international). The organization of a particular subject area at the collecting points may be represented by any or all of the following items (in approximate degree of organization):

(i) publication introducing the subject (ii) periodicals (iii) meetings (regular or irregular; with or without continuing body) (iv) organizations (societies, research institutes, etc.) (v) bibliographies / directories / Who's Who (vi) abstracting services / current bibliographies (vii) special libraries / information clearing houses (viii) lists of periodicals / libraries / bibliographies (ix) guides to sources of information / reference material

Each of these may be repeated at a national, regional or international level. It is therefore vitally important to establish the relationship between them as regards content and to determine, for example, what proportion of information listed in a particular national subject bibliography reaches an international bibliography covering that subject.

The information flow-chart should be presented so as to make it clear to a member of a research team which source(s) of information he could most usefully consult - whether it would be more efficient to plough through a series of periodicals, write to a particular national or international organization, consult a special library in some other country, or examine a particular bibliography. It is only by supplying him with an overall view of the organization of the information on his subject that he and his team can operate at maximum efficiency and keep up to date, with the confidence that there is not a research institute in some other country which has produced material useful to his project.

It is so often the prospect of lengthy research in libraries, visits, telephone calls and correspondence necessary to understand the organization and flow of information in a particular subject area which constitutes the effective communication block. Only by constructing and making available an overall information flow-chart is it possible to be sure that a negative answer means that no information is available and not that the bibliography / organization / library consulted was unable to locate any information.

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