News from the International Nuclear Information System
Number 10, September 2010


INIS Today

Confronting Reality

For the past two years I have had the privilege of working with INIS and had a chance to talk to some of the INIS Liaison Officers at the 34th ILO Meeting in 2008, the Joint INIS/ETDE Technical Meeting in 2009 and the INIS training seminar in November 2009.In 2010, INIS celebrates its 40th anniversary and its achievements are remarkable. Today, over 3.2 million bibliographic records and 250 000 full text documents are searchable and accessible on the web.

But let's be honest. When I spoke at the 34th ILO Meeting two years ago, INIS was facing the beginning of a crisis; Member States' input of bibliographic records stagnated and usage of the database was modest.

The 34th INIS Liaison Officer Meeting took corrective action. The INIS Liaison Officers decided to make the INIS database freely available on the web. Within ten months, usage of the INIS database increased tenfold, increasing from 7000 searches in April 2009, the month INIS was made freely available on the web, to 70 000 searches in December 2009.

Removing barriers to access and opening INIS on the web proved to be a landmark in positioning INIS as a key provider of information on the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology.

However, the information 'landscape' is continuously changing. In his opening speech at the 5th International Conference on Academic Publishing in Europe, Dr. Winters, representing the German Association of Publishers and Booksellers, highlighted that "2009 was yet another important year in the transition to digital publishing". Elsevier, in their annual report for 2009, recognized a strong growth in on-line usage of scientific articles (+20% in 2009). In December 2009, Amazon US sold more eBooks than printed books for the first time. In early 2010, Nature Publishing Group announced iPhone applications that allow searching, browsing, reading and bookmarking full text.Hand-in-hand with the shift towards digital content go changing user needs and behaviour.

Today, speed and convenience are the most important factors when choosing among information sources. Resource discovery is no longer the major problem, unmediated access to digital full text and its source data is the issue.

To remain of relevance for future generations, information providers have to match their activities with the needs and behaviour of their customers.

The Joint INIS/ETDE Technical Meeting in 2009 recognized that INIS does not need to be at the forefront of this change, but it has to pursue new opportunities. Settling into safe routines is not an option in today's fast changing information landscape.

Pragmatic approach - or realistic foresight?

To face a downturn, you have to look away from supposed necessities and look towards facts and consequences. You have to make choices about what not to do so that resources will go to the most important initiatives. These are often the hardest decisions to make. Making a decision not to fund a new product is not painful; making a decision to discontinue a product is.

In 2010, the INIS Secretariat in consultation with the INIS Liaison Officers, revisited some of its products. In February 2010, the distribution of the INIS Atomindex on CD-ROM was discontinued. As Ms. Atieh, Chief of the Capacity Building and Liaison Group outlined by email to Liaison Officers "It is worth mentioning that the same data will continue to be available on our FTP server; on a weekly basis a new update is made available to the ILOs". In the same line of thought, the List of Key and Regularly Scanned Journals has been discontinued. At the same time, Mr. Savic, Head of INIS, confirmed the INIS Secretariat's "determination to continue maintaining basic journal authority tables used for input verification and validity control".

The INIS Secretariat, in cooperation with the INIS Liaison Officers, will continue to challenge supposed necessities and cut costs by improving operational efficiency.

However, cutting costs is not enough; INIS Liaison Officers also carry the responsibility to lay the foundation for continued success.Providing a repository of digital information has great promise. Digital information is everywhere; text, data files, still and moving pictures, databases; and it is growing in volume and value.

To further support the shift towards a repository of digital information, INIS would need to tackle policy and technical challenges. Managing, searching and preserving digital information has implications for technology as well as production requirements and the way operations are managed.The future will not be easy, but we do not need to fear it; we have to shape it! The 35th INIS Liaison Officer Meeting can begin taking steps to position INIS for these changes.

Ruth Hahn-Weinert