International Nuclear Information System:
New directions and partnerships

Mr. Claudio Todeschini, INIS Section, Division of Scientific and Technical Information

INIS set itself the goal 25 years ago to employ the most up-to-date information technologies in providing nuclear information services to Member States. The range of output products enabled members to provide information services to their users according to their capabilities.

Over the years, INIS has adapted both its methodologies for information processing and the services that its products can provide. The current “information revolution”, however, calls for a re-evaluation of methodologies for effectively providing nuclear information to users. This applies both to “what” information is provided and “how” it is provided. For example, what is currently referred to as the “information highway” provides worldwide telecommunication networks linking computers everywhere and enables searches of databases to be made from any location no matter where the databases themselves are stored. Once relevant references have been identified, the full text of the document can then be transmitted to the user.

Strategic planning. In the light of these developments, the IAEA and its INIS participating States have launched a plan for strategic development of the system to be enacted during the period 1995-2000 and beyond. Strategic developments that take advantage of the information revolution may change some of the basic tenets upon which the system was based.

The exchange of information has in the past been based on the development of a large bibliographic database containing references to the world's literature on the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology provided by the national INIS centres. In addition, the full text of non-conventional literature (NCL) has been available on microform from the IAEA in Vienna. The new approach would continue the development of a bibliographic database of references supplied by the national INIS centres, but it would include additional bibliographic references through arrangements with other database producers. Further sources of information would be accessed directly through networks to hosts located anywhere in the world. Developments in optical storage technologies open new possibilities for distribution of NCL. The full text of NCL can be scanned onto optical disk and distributed widely at low cost.

To proceed with the implementation of strategic developments as outlined above, the participating INIS Member States and the IAEA have adopted an Action Plan. It foresees the establishment of partnerships with publishers of primary and secondary information. The publishers of primary information can provide bibliographic records of their publications in electronic form for direct incorporation into the INIS database and possibly provide access to the full text of their publications in electronic form. The publishers of secondary information -- essentially the producers of bibliographic databases -- could provide bibliographic records from their databases to the INIS database eliminating duplication in the processing of the literature by the IAEA or one of its Member States. These partnerships would necessarily need to be “two-way streets”. While the publishers of primary information may see their benefit in the announcement of their publications in the INIS database, the publishers of secondary information would see a quid pro quo in being able to draw references from INIS to be included in their databases. Further action would be the establishment of partnerships with database hosts. Three-party agreements between INIS, individual database producers, and database hosts would enable users to gain access to information available in other databases offered by the hosts and to do so through INIS.

The printed version of the INIS database has been available as an abstracting journal, INIS Atomindex, as a parallel product to the electronic database. It has been enjoying a decreasing popularity. A forthcoming action will be to discontinue the printed product and to make the database more widely available on CD-ROM at a substantially reduced price. A system is being developed to enable digitalization and optical storage of full text documents onto CD-ROM from hard copies sent to Vienna by the INIS centres. The system will also accept digitized documents from remote locations so that Member States having the technical capability can scan documents at their own sites and transfer these electronically to Vienna. There will be no need for those centres to ship hard copies to Vienna. Actions on implementation of this optical storage system will, however, include the continued availability of NCL in microform for a certain period of time for services to those Member States not yet capable of fully utilizing documents in electronic form.

Users in the nuclear community also require information of a factual or numerical nature, information that is found in catalogues and directories, press releases, calendars of meetings or information on persons having specific expertise, etc. Such information exists at the IAEA and in Member States. As part of the Action Plan, INIS will provide access to this type of non-bibliographic information available either in Vienna or at locations in the Member States.

Impact on INIS centres. Implementation of the Action Plan will affect operations at the national INIS centres. As a result of partnerships established with publishers and database producers for the provision of records to INIS, national centres may not need to process certain portions of their national nuclear literature, thus reducing their costs for input preparation. To ensure that all the relevant literature is covered for the database, further co-ordination will need to be established. On the other hand, INIS centres and their users will benefit from access to nuclear-related information available from other sources. With regard to document delivery, the availability of NCL in electronic form will speed its distribution, utility, and timeliness.

The strategic developments for INIS inherent in the Action Plan for the years 1995-2000 and beyond accentuate timely changes to current operations and will serve the users of nuclear information well into the 21st century.