The Scientific and Technical Information (STI) Transfer Center: Strategic Information Management for Regional Economic Development

Article excerpt

* Scientific and technical information (STI), technology transfer, and local economic development are interwoven in this paper, which reports on the results of a feasibility study done in the Syracuse, New York area. Information needs and information resources data were collected from local businesspeople, information professionals, university personnel, and secondary sources. Upon examination of the data and consideration of several information transfer models, a "switching station "design was recommended. Service, staffing, administration, and cruical success factors for an STI switching station are discussed here.

Introduction

THE exchange of scientific and technical information (STI) is a necessary part of successful technology transfer-aii exchange whereby new products and processes emerging from research are developed and, ultimately, commercialized in the private sector. In many regions in the United States, local initiatives to improve technology transfer have been undertaken to promote economic development. Such initiatives represent a new challenge and opportunity for information managers. Establishment of an "STI transfer center," functioning as a "switching station" among die various constituencies which participate in technology transfer, is one way to harness available information resources, local scientific research, and technical expertise to help those in a region cope with complex, evolving economic conditions.

In the spring of 1987 the authors participated in a locally-funded project to study the feasibility of implementing an STI transfer center in the Syracuse, New York region. The team's efforts resulted in a report recommending the establishment of an STI transfer center on the Syracuse University campus. (1) This paper presents one method for conducting a feasibility study for such a center and describes its possible structure and activities. The paper also describes the role information managers can assume, either as coordinators of STI switching stations or as speciallibrary participants in a regional STI transfer network. With careful planning and the required knowledge and skills, infoffnation managers can take the initiative in promoting local awareness of the value of STI, assessing information needs, and identifying, designing, and implementing appropriate STI exchange mechanisms.

STI, Technology Transfer, and Economic Development

STI is usually defined as "die product of research and development (including) data, understanding, knowledge, and insight." (2) For the purposes of the feasibility swdy performed, this definition was expanded to include business information such as informadon relevant to accounting, marketing, business law, govemment, finance, and pricing. Businesses canvassed stated such information is necessary to improve their performances which, in tum, contributes to economic development in the region.

An STI transfer center can be thought of as the switching station in an information exchange network (see figure 1). An STI transfer center differs from a library in that the center's primary goal is to actively promote and support technology transfer; administratively, it should remain independent enough to serve regional goals. An STI transfer center would probably devote most of its resources not to the development of a vast collection, but to the management of free and fee-based services such as:

* information and referral

* customized information brokering

activities

* Access to commercial and in-house

databases

* Seminars on technology transfer

* Access to library reference and

business information resources

Transfer and use of STI have been acknowledged as an important component in economic development. In recent congressional hearings, the chair of the task group on National Information Systems reported,"the scientific, technical, and economic progress and international competitive posidon of the United States depends on ready access to information as well as its effective use. …