Magazine article Information Today

The NFAIS Conference-Part II

Magazine article Information Today

The NFAIS Conference-Part II

Article excerpt

[Editor's Note: In last month's IT on page 21, Ev Brenner reported on NFAIS's 40th Anniversary Conference, which took place February 22-25 in Philadelphia. Given the amount of material he had to report on, however, we decided to save some of it for a sequel article that we are running here.]

Following my article last month on the NFAIS conference, I'll report here as promised on three papers, adding some personal commentary after each, and add a footnote on a fourth that I found of particular interest.

Fundamental Changes

Maureen Kelly, vice president for document analysis at BIOSIS, presented a paper entitled "Providing Access to the eArchive of Science-The Role of Abstracting & Indexing Services." The author was particularly significant in her admittance that fundamental changes are occurring in the preservation as well as the transmission of information.

Kelly said: "The basic tokens of information content have expanded beyond words to include images and sounds, data and metadata. This information is packaged for distribution and access in the form of Web pages and Web sites. Information on the Internet is identified by the site on which it resides rather than the cite that describes its contents. There is more than a letter's difference between these two approaches."

She went on to say that there will be a need for content identifiers to ensure the stability of that content. She breaks with the traditional idea and looks "beyond the current, text-centric paradigm." "Today's scientists" she said, "require access to data in numerical, symbolic, and image form; they also need mechanisms for sharing computational models and simulations along with other collections of functional information. In their current forms neither journal articles nor Web sites are sufficient for this task; the future requires a more versatile container for publishing and archiving scientific information."

Her suggestion is "knowledge objects," or KNOBs, each a container that comprises a database on a specific research topic with all kinds of related textual and non-textual information.

She suggested a future role for A&I services, to "enable users within and across knowledge communities to identify, locate, and manipulate relevant knowledge objects based on concepts, [and to] link diverse knowledge resources. But the knowledge to be organized will be far more diverse in character than today's journal article." She then asked, "Is the A&I industry ready for the new paradigm?"

Commentary: I'm skeptical. Who will take up the challenge? Is Chemical Abstracts, as the largest A&I scientific service, moving in this direction? Will it more likely be the role of the parent organization, The American Chemical Society? If we are speaking of diversification and linking services, it is more likely that the parent organization will see the forest for the trees and will be large enough to implement such a large operation. Or will it come from the entrepreneurs? Will it be a Yahoo! that already utilizes humans to index, thus controlling content, and that has been successful at it despite the cost of these humans who are traditional subjectheading catalogers? Or will it be entrepreneurs with powerful search engines who will expand their power with diversified content and diversified techniques, such as data extraction, imaging, etc.?

I think it will be the latter who will eventually realize Kelly is right. The A&I services are too entrenched. I may be wrong, but I still don't see much movement among A&I services, despite the excellent theme of this conference on links in the information chain. The A&I services may be engulfed by some more all-encompassing authority. I'm not sure it will be Elsevier either, although they are certainly doing much "engulfing."

The Miles Conrad Lecture

Kent Smith, deputy director of the National Library of Medicine, gave this prestigious lecture, titling his presentation somewhat ironically "Federal? …

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