IAEA logo Nuclear Information Newsletter
www.iaea.org/inis                ISSN 2410-4940 (online)
No. 17, October 2015
45th INIS Anniversary Newsletter
CERN: Operating in Synergy

Jens Vigen, CERN’s INIS Liaison Officer, at the 37th Consultative Meeting of INIS Liaison Officers October 2014 (Photo IAEA).

FIG. 1 CERN photo 171
The united nations Conference on the
Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy,
delegates visiting the CERN laboratories.
From left to right: Jack R. MacCabe
(Head of the CERN Public Information
Office), Dag Hammarskjöld (Secretary-General of the
United Nations), Cornelis Bakker (CERN
Director-General) and Francis Perrin (French
high-commissioner for atomic energy and French
delegate to the CERN Council).

When looking at the history of INIS and CERN’s involvement, one has to look further back than the printed INIS Atomindex and magnetic tapes, which were first published in April 1970.

CERN was established, under the auspices of UNESCO in 1954, as an independent international organization. The IAEA was set up, within the United Nations family, as the world's "Atoms for Peace" organization in 1957. The first major interaction between the two organizations took place during the 2nd International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in Geneva in 1958. On this occasion, CERN had a stand at the exhibition and the delegates were invited to visit the CERN laboratories1.

Years later, when an international system for nuclear information was proposed, former CERN librarian, Herbert Coblans, who actually established the CERN Scientific Information Service, was invited to take part in the INIS study team that worked in Vienna from March to June 1968. This study2 eventually led to the creation of INIS as an information service. However, despite Coblans’ involvement, CERN was, for its own reasons, skeptical about the scope of INIS.

In a letter to Prof. Eklund, Director General of the IAEA, CERN Director General Prof. Gregory wrote: “Thank you for your letter of 18th December [1969] concerning the participation of CERN in INIS. Since, with few exceptions, CERN’s domains of interest are outside of the initial scope of INIS, it appears to me that the time for deciding on CERN’s participation would come at a somewhat later stage, when INIS’ present scope becomes a more immediate prospect.”

However, Prof. Gregory did not close the door; luckily he added towards the end of the letter “I would like to suggest, therefore, that Dr. Lew Kowarski and Dr. Alfred Günther should be agreed by your secretariat for the task of maintaining the liaison and as recipients of such information as you decide to make available to us at the present stage.”

 In this way, Drs. Kowarski3 and Günther4 were jointly named INIS Liaison Officers, and CERN officially became part of INIS operations – a link that has continued ever since.

However, other ‘frictions’, in addition to the subject matter, existed which made CERN appear reserved, even if this is not mentioned in Prof. Gergory’s letter. In the 1968 study (page 71), it was stated “The preprint has thus become a form of personal communication …, it should not be part of the scientific record”, while this was fully orthogonal to the mode of operation that had developed within the field of high-energy physics, a situation that is described in the paper Preprints in particles and fields, by Rosenfeld et al.: “The importance of preprints was recognized by some of the large high-energy physics laboratories. O. Piccioni at Brookhaven took the initiative in the late fifties to begin a BNL preprint list; and a very effective preprint handling technique and a list was developed by Mme. L. Goldschmidt-Clermont at CERN. (A major problem at that time was persuading authors to send preprints to a "library" rather than only to colleagues, a situation which has since been reversed.) When the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center Library was opened in 1962, preprints were the first concern and, with the help of Mme. Goldschmidt-Clermont, a preprint system similar to CERN's took root. At DESY, preprints have for several years been given subject Indexing along with the more conventional literature in the DESY high-energy physics index.”

FIG. 2. 

The original INIS subject categories went from A-F. Kowarski, with his good sense of humor, expanded the classification to also include a category G.

As most of CERN’s scientific output is published by third party publishers, the Organization’s input to INIS over the years has remained limited. However, CERN has had a tradition, since the very beginning, to collaborate with INIS on technical issues. On a note from Kowarski to Günther, exchanged during the first INIS panel on subject scope matters, held in Vienna in July 1971, Kowarski wrote: “Would you say that the mechanization of CERN Library, as it is now going to be adopted, is relevant, in a practical way, to CERN’s collaboration with INIS, if full scope is decided? How soon?” This is intriguing reading as we still collaborate on the same type of matters today. INIS was actually one of the first database services to link out to information resources in high-energy physics, a development that took place long before DOI linking became mainstream.

The original INIS subject categories went from A-F (Figure 2). Kowarski, with his good sense of humor, expanded the classification to also include a category G. This proposal was presumably never officially discussed, but most likely reflects some level of frustration at the time (The Kowarski file, B324, in the CERN Archive).

Among more recent developments, CERN salutes INIS’ 2009 decision to offer open access to the database. Continuing to make nuclear information, from data to publications, available through open access to interested parties around the world will ensure INIS’ role and success for many years to come.

1 Photos from the CERN stand at the exhibition "Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy" https://cds.cern.ch/record/761042

2 http://www.iaea.org/inis/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/46/010/46010908.pdf

3 Prof. Lew Kowarski was at the time chairman of the CERN Library committee. It should also be noted that he was UNESCO delegate to the International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy in 1955.

4 Dr. Günther was at the time head of the CERN library and the Scientific Information Service