ICSTI General Assembly

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ICSTI General Assembly 2002

A report by Dr. Wendy A Warr printed in Chemistry International 2002, Volume 24(6)

I have the pleasure to be IUPAC's representative to ICSTI, the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (http://www.icsti.org). ICSTI is a forum for interaction between organizations that create, disseminate, and use scientific and technical information. It is unique in its breadth of membership: primary and secondary publishers, database producers, government departments, national libraries and users from across the world, with a broad range of interests in a multiplicity of scientific disciplines. The General Assembly is hosted by a different member organization each year. Recent meetings have been held in South Africa, the United States, Scotland, Taiwan, and Germany. Next year's meeting will be held in Canada. At this year's meeting there was a representative from every major land mass except Antarctica.

The 2002 Assembly was hosted by KTHB, the library of the Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm, Sweden, a library which had just celebrated the opening of a splendid new building. Tours of the new facility were arranged. The Sunday afternoon special event was a visit to the Viking site of Birka. The Council Dinner was held in Stockholm City Hall, emulating the December 2001 Nobel Laureates' formal dinner. Such functions, which, in my opinion, General Assembly hosts use legitimately, and hospitably, out of national pride, have led detractors to suggest ICSTI is some sort of social club for those in the higher echelons of information organizations.

This has certainly not been the case while IUPAC has been a member, although I have noticed a certain change in focus. Some years ago, there was much discussion on the r˘le of professional publishers, and on copyright issues, as publishers struggled to find new, money-making positions in the changing world of electronic publishing. Nowadays there is much more discussion about "free" information and access from the Third World. Indeed, at the Stockholm ICSTI meeting, the Swedish International Development Agency invited observers from the National Information System for Science and Technology in New Delhi, India, and from the Sri Lanka Scientific and Technical Information Center. Access for all was also one of the main underlying themes at the second UNESCO/ICSU Conference on Electronic Publishing in Science, supported by ICSTI, and held in Paris in February 2001. A detailed report is available on the Web at http://www.warr.com/epubscience.html. A paper on the "digital divide" was also presented by the representative of the Institute of Physics in Mexico, at the public conference in Stockholm.

A one-day conference, open to the public, is held in conjunction with each ICSTI General Assembly. This year's theme was "Scientific information: the challenges of creating and maintaining access". Papers of particular interest to me, personally, were by Uwe Assmann, of Link÷ping University, on the second generation Web, by Ian Butterworth, of Imperial College, London, on academic user behavior in accessing scholarly information, and by Mayur Amin, of Elsevier Science, whose publisher viewpoint showed up some of the inconsistencies in user perceptions. Some of the conference papers may appear in ICSTI's newsletter Forum, available free on the Web (http://www.icsti.org/forum/index.html).

ICSTI also funds a number of projects under the auspices of its technical activities and information policy committees. One project worth mentioning here is Henry Kehiaian's "IUCOSPED" numeric data standardization effort. This work was supported in a small way by CPEP about two years ago and IUPAC was instrumental in raising further financial support from ICSU and ICSTI. A final report will be presented to the CODATA General Assembly in October 2002. A Data Explorer portal will reportedly be made available at FIZ Karlsruhe, built on an Oracle database.

ICSTI is currently very interested in ensuring that digital data is permanently archived. ICSTI, ICSU and CODATA sponsored a seminar in February 2002 to consider the challenges. Tony Davies, the secretary of CPEP has written a useful article about this (http://www.spectroscopyeurope.com/TD_14_3.pdf). Other projects, amongst many, have involved classifications and glossaries, knowledge management, the EU Copyright Directive, and work with the Ingenta Institute on access to journals through subscriptions and document delivery. In early 2003, ICSTI is involved with two meetings on access to scientific and technical information generated by public institutions, or open access in the public domain. Each meeting will have a rather different focus.

ICSTI's Secretariat is under new management and the organization's officers (who serve on a voluntary basis) are actively ensuring that ICSTI's meetings and projects meet the rapidly changing needs and interests of its fifty or more member organizations. IUPAC and the International Unions of Physics and of Crystallography are 3 of the 9 members in the international category. I conclude that IUPAC and ICSTI continue to receive mutual benefits from the networking within this global community.

This page last updated 25th February 2006