Access to and Use of Information Centres among Scientists at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research-Crops Research Institute, Kumasi, Ghana

Article excerpt

Introduction

In this era of information overload, explosion and globalisation, information centres have become the link or medium through which professionals, scientists, researchers and students have access to the relevant information available. The development of information technology has brought about the creation of information at a higher rate. The dramatic acceleration in the development and use of information and communication technology (ICT) during the last few years has set in motion, a worldwide process of transition from the "industrial to the information society" (Alemna, 2000).

Information centres are essential for the free flow of information and are also used to maintain, increase and spread knowledge. They play a vital role in the dissemination and use of scientific and technological information for economic and social development. The traditional role of information centres is collection, organization and dissemination of information. Information is provided in various formats (written, visual and audiovisual) to make them easily retrievable for use. Nevertheless, presently information centres remain the key source of information because they generate, collect, organize, interpret, store, retrieve, disseminate, transform and use information, with particular emphasis on the applications of modern technologies in these areas (Griffith, 1980).

For decades, the scientific industry has played an increasingly important role in the national development. They develop the economy through research by providing information in the areas that have already been researched into and new areas that can be researched. In this sense, the production, management and dissemination of scientific data and information become very critical within scientific research (Oddoye, 1979).

Michael Faraday, the famous chemist, once stated that the three necessary stages of useful research are to begin it, end it, and to publish it. The importance of communication in the sciences arises from the fact that the objective knowledge of science is cumulative in nature. Each new bit of knowledge adds to, modifies, refines, or sometimes refutes that which already exists (Faraday, 1991). In most developing countries like Ghana, libraries do not enjoy the recognition as pertain in the developed countries. The idea that, special libraries are the pivot around which scientific research work revolves does not apply because the vital role information centres play is not fully appreciated. In Ghana, the demand for current scientific information grows more acute, because the scientist needs information to research and thereafter the need to disseminate the results obtained to the appropriate users of such information.

The growth in literature, which has led to information overload, superhighway, or information flooding, has made it difficult for people to keep abreast with the current information in their various fields. Unless one is information literate, it will be difficult to get hold of relevant information at the right time. Scientists are an extraordinary diverse group of professionals. An attribute common to all scientists is their use of information. Viewing the information seeking behaviour of scientists within a conceptual framework, they must be considered as an information processor (Chudamni and Nagarathna, 2006). One of the major resources for scientists is information, this is so, because scientists depend on existing relevant, current and accurate literature to identify research problem.

The onset of the Internet has brought about information overload. There is therefore the need to have people and structures in place that can sift the information (on the Internet) into manageable units for use. To this, the need for information centre for the scientists becomes very important. In their busy schedule of organising data, the information officer in his/her professional way, organises the relevant information for the scientists. …