Chapter 3. Channels for Scientific and Technological Communication

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Scholarly activity - research - creates a need to spread and share information about the results, methods, new processes and products. The findings are shared and evaluated by colleagues and students. There is a need for both informal and formal communication, both locally and on a world-wide scale. As has been pointed out by Kauffer and Carley (1993), there are a number of important factors in academic writing:[5]

Scientific information can be communicated in a number of different ways - through These are now published ina variety of ways. In scholarly and professional communication, increasing use is being made of electronic publishing

by means of a variety of media such as CD-ROM or on the World Wide Web

Scientific communication can be conducted through:

3.1Oral communication channels

Traditionally, the main forms of informal communication in science, technology, medicine etc. have been through verbal communication channels - personal contacts with colleagues and teachers - seminars, lectures, and discussions at conferences, fairs etc. These oral channels are often rapid and effective for conveying information. They allow a high degree of flexibility and are easy and pleasant to use. There is the possibility of a two-way communication between the producer and the receiver of the information. However, oral communication is seldom comprehensive; for example, it can be difficult to give detailed information about methods, constructions or results in a verbal presentation. Oral communication sometimes stimulates the hearer to look for some form of printed communication, but some information does not exist in a printed form, and can, therefore, only be reached by means of oral communication.

A widespread network of personal contacts is of great importance for gathering information. Research workers are particularly interested in obtaining the most recent information about developments within their own subject fields. Informal verbal communication is valued for the speed of information transfer. Established research workers gradually build up "the invisible college," an informal communication network.

Fig.3. Scholarly communication channels

The term invisible colleges is used to indicate personal informal communication networks between research workers. This term was coined by Robert Boyle for a small group of intellectuals in seventeenth century England, possibly forerunners of "The Royal Society" in London. [7] Crane carried out a detailed analysis of the concept of the invisible college (1972) and suggested that, within each research area, there is a core of highly active and productive communicators who bring other members of the group into the communication network (See Fig. 4).[8] Allen and his co-workers showed that information is often introduced into R & D organisations by means of a few key persons - gatekeepers - who act as catalysts, passing on information both from within the institution, and from external sources, to potential users.

Fig. 4. Oral channels of communication

If you want to know something, ask someone;
If you don't know anybody, ask someone who does;
If you don't know anybody at all and you can't solve or abandon your problem;
Then search in the literature!
Francis W, Wolek, 1981. [9]
The importance of the use of oral channels of communication varies according to the subject field and branch of engineering. An example of an area where oral communication is of great importance is the construction and building business, where people often work with unique objects and need to solve specific problems in a short space of time. The telephone and telefacsimile (for the transmission of diagrams etc.) are invaluable tools.

The advantages of oral channels of communication are that they:

  1. are fast - useful for obtaining very recent unpublished information
  2. are based on two-way communication and therefore promote an understanding of the real information need(s) and the communication of relevant information
  3. are flexible
  4. simplify and facilitate the transmission of information between people working in different subject areas (useful in interdisciplinary studies)
  5. are easy and pleasant to use
The disadvantages of oral channels of communication are that they:
  1. are not open to everyone - established researchers have access to good networks of contacts, but these usually take time to cultivate
  2. can lead to misconceptions because the information is sometimes incomplete (lack of detail etc.)
  3. are difficult to maintain and therefore unstable

3.2 Printed or written sources of information

Scholarly communication normally leads to some type of formal publication (making public) results, findings, observations, and views arising from the researcher's work. Traditionally these have taken the form of printed material. Printed or written documentation can be based on a paper product or on media such as microfiche, microfilm, audio-visual media, multimedia and machine-readable digital information. In scholarly and professional communication, increasing use is being made of electronic publishing by means of a variety of media such as CD-ROM or on the World Wide Web. Libraries aim to acquire, register and store printed and other media of this formal type, increasingly as net-based electronic products, thereby providing scholars with access to past work (or a portion of it).

The advantages of the formal printed channels are that:

  1. information can be spread to a widely scattered group of readers;
  2. detailed information, such as descriptions of methods, tables, diagrams, results etc, can easily be given;
  3. printed documents contain information which can be critically examined and verified;
  4. the documents can easily be referred to, as and when required;
  5. published documents provide a means for establishing the "priority" of academic work, and thereby contribute to establishing academic merit for the author(s).
The structure of the published literature is today well-organised into different kinds of primary publications and secondary publications (See Fig.3.).

Primary publications

Scientific and technical information is primarily published as:
  1. Patents
  2. Reports
  3. Conference proceedings (with conference papers)
  4. Journal articles
  5. Theses or dissertations
  6. Monographs or books
  7. Brochures
  8. Trade literature
These primary publications contain relatively new scientific and technical information, that is, information recently given out by the producer. Specific information on a given subject topic is often found to be scattered amongst a considerable number of sources - such as journals and conference proceedings. (Bradford, 1948).[10]

The most important carrier of printed information is the journal article. The first scientific journals were published during the seventeenth century - Journal des Sçavans, Paris 1665; Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London, 1665; Acta Eruditorum, Leipzig, 1682. During the eighteenth century a few more scientific journals appeared, amongst them such well known titles as Annales de Chimie (et de Physique), 1790; Annalen der Physik, 1799 (Thornton & Tully, 1978),[11] Kronick, 1991,[12] Meadows, 1974.[13]). The growth in scientific and technological journals has increased dramatically in the twentieth century - giving the Information Explosion. (see Fig.2).

The formal pattern of printed communication is relatively slow. The time sequence for the publication of research results in the physical sciences is shown schematically in Figure 5. If the research is such that a patent can be applied for, this will be the first form of printed communication. At about the same time, some form of internal report and/or seminar paper may be published. This may be followed, after an interval of a few months, by a conference paper and/or an external report, possibly to a funding organisation. During this time the manuscript for a journal article is being prepared, checked and revised. This manuscript is sent off to the journal editor about four to six months after the completion of the research. Sometimes an article is accepted directly, but in the case of the refereed journal, it is passed on to one or more referees. These may suggest revision and alteration. The average time between the completion of a research project and a published journal article is about eighteen months. It should be noted that there are some journals which specialise in more rapid publication - examples are Electronics Letters, Physics Letters and Spectroscopy Letters. Knowledge of the time schedule for formal printed communication makes you aware of the value of such sources as patents, reports and conference literature when looking for recent information.

Fig. 5. Schematic representation of the time sequence for the publication
of research results in the physical sciences.

Secondary publications

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the volume of primary publications had reached such a large size that it began to be difficult for scientists to find information. In order to simplify literature searching secondary publications began to be produced. These can take the form of single volumes, such as handbooks, or can be published at regular intervals, such as abstracts and indexes. Engineering Index (EI) was first published in New York in 1884, and from 1905 it has been given out annually. Physics Abstracts (Science Abstracts Section A) was published in London in 1903, whilst Chemical Abstracts (CA) was first published in 1907 in the USA. Well known examples of other types of secondary publications are encyclopaedias and yearbooks. These are often grouped under the heading "reference literature" in libraries.

In primary publications, information on a given topic is widely scattered, for example, in many different journals. Secondary publications are usually subject-oriented. Information from many primary sources is collected together and organised in a structured form, for example, under subject headings, and designed to facilitate information searching. Indexes provide search entry points, for example, to authors or subjects, and primary publications can be identified by means of detailed information as to the author, source of the publication and year of publication. Indexes only contain titles of the primary publications (e.g. articles) together with identification details, such as author(s), name of journal, date of publication, volume, issue number and pagination. An example is Abstracts in New Technologies Index and Engineering, formerly Current Technology Index (see Fig. 6.).

563 - Silicon Semiconductors - Czochralski grown single crystals -
Precipitates - Shape - Determination - Light scatter - Laser 
tomography - Analysis - Fourier transforms
Fourier-transformed light-scattering tomography for determination
of scatterer shapes. K. Sakai and T. Ogawa. Measurement Science
& Technology, 8 (10) Oct 1997, p.1090-4. il. refs.
The light diffraction patterns from precipitates in Si crystals annealed at
950°C for 6-18 h or at 1050°C at 8-64 h following pre-annealing at 750°C
for 4 h were obseved using light scattering tomography apparatus. The
patterns clearly differed from one another and every image at a focus position
was a small point. The diffraction patterns obtained at a position deviating by
30 µm from the focus position were transformed into an image by Fourier
analysis in terms of Fresnel diffration using tentative phase data. A good
similarity between the images observed here and images from transmission
electron microscopy was obtained. (Abstract quotes from original text)

Fig. 6. Example of an Index - Abstracts in New Technologies Index and Engineering, formerly Current Technology Index

Abstracts or abstract publications are secondary publications that include a short abstract of the contents of the primary publication in addition to the identification details. An example is Electrical and Electronics Abstracts (see Fig. 7.).

Fig. 7. Example of an Abstract Publication - Electrical and Electronics Abstracts

There are today several thousand abstract and index publications, some of which are of an interdisciplinary type, for example, the Engineering Index, New York, PASCAL (formerly Bulletin Analytique, 1940-55, then Bulletin Signalétique, 1956-83), published in Paris, and the Referativny Zhurnal, Moscow. Other abstract publications cover more specific subject fields, for example, Chemical Abstracts, Computer and Control Abstracts, Electrical and Electronic Abstracts, Index Medicus, Metals Abstracts, and Physics Abstracts. These publications form part of comprehensive information retrieval services based on databases from which they are printed. Abstract and index publications and their corresponding databases, either online or in CD-ROM form, are very useful tools in that they save time in the information retrieval process.

Some abstract and index publications cover a certain type of primary publication, instead of a specific subject. Examples of such publications are Dissertation Abstracts, which presents information from doctoral theses from a wide number of countries, and Government Reports Announcements & Index, listing reports from projects supported by the American government.

Yet another type of secondary publication is the research review or review article. Early annual reviews were comprehensive treatises on broad subject areas. One of the earliest examples of such a publication is "Årsberättelser om framstegen i fysik och kemi" by J.J. Berzelius, published 1822 to 1850 by the Royal Science Academy in Stockholm. These publications were translated into both German and French - see Fig. 8. - (Odelberg, 1978).[14]Reviews today cover much narrower subject areas. The typical review is directed towards a well-defined subject area and is written by an expert who critically examines and reviews new information in that area over a given period of time. The review usually contains a fairly extensive list of references to the primary publications which have been examined. This makes the review article a very good starting point for information searching, because it not only contains the results of an expert literature search, plus references to earlier surveys or reviews, but theses are placed in relation to each other and to the general body of information within the subject area.

Fig. 8. French translation of "Årsberättelser
om framstegen i fysik och kemi" by J.J. Berzelius

Research reviews are to be found both in primary journals - as articles - and in special publications - review journals - with titles such as:

Advances in ....
Annual Review of ....
Progress in ....
Survey of ....
Yearbook of ....
Examples of journals containing regular research reviews are the IEEE Proceedings and the Journal of Chromatography.

The textbook is a secondary publication which is similar in some ways to the review article, but it is usually far more general in coverage. The information contained in the textbook is considerably removed in time from original research. Statements such as "Recent research shows that..." should therefore be treated with caution!

Information from a number of primary publications is structured, organised and presented in other types of secondary publications, such as encyclopaedias, handbooks and dictionaries. These are usually grouped under the term "reference literature."

A different type of secondary publication is the Citation Index. In every field of scholarship, research workers and practitioners cite references to earlier publications related to the work described in their own papers. Through these references (citations) an author expresses subject relationships between the current article and the cited references. A citation index is based on these relationships. It lists publications that have been cited and identifies the sources of these citations. Starting from a known relevant reference, it is possible to trace subsequent articles which refer to the original document, thus leading to more recent literature than the first known item. Citation indexes are designed to facilitate searching forwards in time from a known relevant paper.

The oldest citation index is Shepard's Citations started in 1873, to list citations to precedents used in legal cases in various US courts. In 1961, the first volume of Science Citation Index (SCI) was published. This was followed by Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) in 1973, and the Arts & Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI) in 1978. These Citation Indexes are divided into three main parts:

The structure of the Science Citation Index is illustrated in Fig. 9.

Fig. 9. The structure of the Science Citation Index

The citation index is a powerful tool for information retrieval, in that it is possible to use a cyclic technique, in which the citing document found, together with other papers by the same author (s), may act as new search entry points. Citation indexing, in the words of Garfield, "has the advantage of eliminating the need for intellectual indexing without compromising either the depth of the index or the quality of the terms."[15]

Citation indexes are extremely useful tools for "working forwards" from a highly relevant reference. In using them, it is, however, important to bear in mind the normal pattern of citation. There is a time-lag between the publication of a document and the first reference to it, due to the time taken to assimilate the new information, the time taken to make use of it in further research and the time taken to publish the citing document.

3.3 The research and academic networks

Now we make increasing use of global digital networks for communication within the scientific community. The leading country in the development of electronic networks has been the USA, where the ARPAnet - Advanced Research Project Agency network was developed by the U.S. Department of Defense to support military research in the early 1970s. The ARPAnet used a fairly simple set of rules - a protocol - the Internet Protocol (IP) for sending messages. This IP technology was subsequently made use of in the National Science Foundation´s (NSF) NSFNET which connected the five US supercomputer centres in the late 1980s. These five very expensive supercomputer centres had to be connected in order to share resources amongst the academic community. This opened up the networks for academic use, and the Internet was born as a net of networks linking different kinds of computers. Other networks using the Internet Protocol TCP/IP could be easily linked in.
        ACOnet          Austria

        BELNET          Belgium

        CARNet          Croatia

        CESNET          Czech Republic

        DENet           Denmark

        FUNET           Finland

        RENATER         France

        DFN             Germany

        ARIADNE         Greece

        HUNGARNET       Hungary

        SURIS           Island

        HEAnet          Ireland

        GARR            Italy

        RESTENA         Luxembourg

        SURFnet         Netherlands

        UNINETT         Norway

        NASK            Poland

        FCCN            Portugal

        SANET           Slovak Republic

        ARNES           Slovenia

        RedIRIS         Spain

        SUNET           Sweden

        SWITCH          Switzerland

        TÜVAKA             Turkey

        JANET           United Kingdom
Fig.10. The European academic and research networks

An important issue for the future development of European research networks is that of funding. The CEC has supported many development projects, but cannot, within the limits of its authority, provide all the support necessary for operational services. There are, in addition, many European countries which are not part of the European Community. During the last few years there have been radical changes in central and eastern Europe. One result of this has been a greatly increased demand from the academic communities for network services.

3.3.1 Electronic mail

These academic networks can be used for Electronic mail or e-mail, which is a hybrid between informal and formal communication. This gives a rapid and relatively inexpensive method of direct communication between people or groups of people. E-mail has a number of advantages: There are today a number of E-mail servicesbased om the use of the Internet

3.3.2 Electronic Conferences and Bulletin Boards

Today many computers throughout the world are linked with each other by means of communication networks. This provides boundless opportunities for the transfer of information. The networks can be used to provide electronic conferencing facilities between users interested in a specific field or topic. This allows the users to exchange news and views and to seek advice from others with similar interests. A user can select which conference(s) to belong to. Many of the conferences are computer-oriented, covering such areas as the use of certain types of software or hardware. An example of such a conferencing system is the USENET available over the Internet by means of the remote access program Telnet. USENET contains seven major news categories:
Computer science and related topics, including software sources, information on software and hardware systems.
Concerned with the news network and news software. Includes group news.newusers, questions as well as information for new users.
Groups discussing recreational activities, hobbies, etc.
Groups discussing scientific research and applications (other than computer science).
Groups discussing "social" and political issues.
A forum for debate on controversial issues.
Anything that does not fit into any of the above categories. Note (jobs wanted and offered) and
In addition to the conference systems there areBulletin Board Systems (BBS) or notice boards, where the same messages can be sent simultaneously to a number of receivers. BBS are available, for example, on Compuserve or on private dial-up systems. These tend to be fairly small systems. Many bulletin board systems can be used for the price of the telephone call to connect in to the system. They can provide articles about the use of a given PC, such as the Macintosh, or available software. Many include a facility for leaving a message.

3.3.3 Recent developments in digital networks

The academic and research networks have a characteristic pattern of increasing use, so considerable effort is now being put into expanding the capacity of these networks in order to cope with the increased traffic.

The academic networks are now well developed and offer an obvious potential for electronic publishing and the distribution of scientific and technical information. Consult the Into Info Internet resources section for specific subject oriented resources Many scientific journals are now available in electronic form. Consult your Local Library to see what you can access over the campus network.