Chapter 1 - Introduction

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In the industrialised world of today, information plays a key role in the lives of scientists and engineers. Information is, for example, of vital importance in research and development work. Information is needed for practical work such as technical construction, manufacturing and in the marketing of products. Engineers and scientists also increasingly act as vectors in the transmission of relatively complex information between individuals or groups who either ask them to solve problems or tell them what is needed (society, industry, the general public, political authorities). This often involves the use of specialised systems for handling scientific, technical and economic information. There is an ever-growing volume of information in every sphere of individual, professional and social life. This has resulted in attempts to structure and organise information and in the production of tools such as databases and data banks to assist the search and retrieval process. The use of communication networks plays an important part in today's information handling.

No one scientist or engineer can hope to have more than a minute fraction of knowledge of all the recorded information, observations, experiments, measurements, standards, diagrams and opinions of the hundreds of thousands of people working in his or her main subject area. It is, therefore, fortunate that it is possible to learn about the organisation of knowledge within a subject and to find what you require efficiently and quickly. The aim of this text is to describe the fundamental organisation of information in science and engineering - to provide a model or Pathfinder Map showing the relationship of these sources to each other - in order to help you to find information. Emphasis will be placed on understanding the patterns of communication. In particular, the time relationships between different forms of published material will be shown, as these are so important in scientific and technological work. An overview of modern tools and methods for handling information will be presented. Different types of information search will be described, together with search strategies. A section will be devoted to how to obtain full-text documents as opposed to references.

1.1 Information in research and development

There are three important areas where information handling can play a decisive role in research and development: Research workers strive to gain new knowledge. This knowledge can then be used for a number of purposes: to provide answers to fundamental questions, to solve problems or to be used as a base for interpretation. In order to gain knowledge one must acquire information. In order to acquire information one must know of, and be able to use, the information sources. The total mass of information is growing rapidly, thus making it more and more difficult to find exactly what one is looking for. Therefore, learning how to obtain and handle information efficiently is of great importance to today's students and research workers.

1.2 Information for engineers

Engineers have to use many types of information, both for design and development, in problem solving, and in the distribution and marketing of products and processes. Engineers need to manage the information systems which aid the decision-making process and enable appropriate answers to be found in relation to expressed needs. Engineers can be visualised as steering a course in a sea of information; they transform this information and produce plans and projects which are the expression, in a given moment of time and in terms of practical information, of solutions geared to their clients' expectations.

Many leading companies have become aware of the importance of information handling techniques for strategic planning and in the development and design process. Successful use of information within the company involves the use of both external and internal information sources. These may be combined to form a Business Intelligence System for weighing future opportunities against the risks of taking a given action (See Fig.1). Business Intelligence can be defined as the processed information which is of interest to the management in relation to the present and future environment in which the company is operating. This provides one example of the strategic management of information.

1.3 The aim of the Into Info Information Literacy subject modules

The aim of the Into Info Information Literacy subject modules is to provide networked support in how to search for information, evaluate and select relevant information and use it in a variety of ways. This networked support will be available when ever you wish to use it - for project work, research, fact finding, etc.

This will hopefully help you to obtain

A short Into Info Course is provided for self-study purposes