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IAEA Data Animation: INIS Scientific Database Evolution Proves Power of Global Cooperation


The animation represents the cumulative contributions of INIS member states and organizations from 1970-2020. The top 20 cumulative contributing entities are displayed at any one time. The contributions of countries such as the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, and Czechoslovakia are retained as their own for historical purposes. The contributions of successor countries, such as Russia, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are counted independently.

All for one and one for all: A new IAEA data animation demonstrates the power of global scientific collaboration, charting the 50-year evolution of the Agency’s International Nuclear Information System (INIS) into one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of scientific and technological literature which is now visited by around 8000 researchers every day.

The animation shows the Repository’s exponential growth over five decades, breaking down the contributions by country and international organization. The Repository possessed only around 4000 records at its inception in 1970 and now includes nearly 4.5 million records as it continues to rapidly expand in parallel with global knowledge of nuclear science and technology. These include nearly 7000 records related to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, one of the most accurate methods for detecting viruses including the coronavirus which causes COVID-19. The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has trained and equipped experts from all over the world to use the real time reverse transcription-PCR method for more than 20 years.

“The development of INIS into one of the world’s leading archives of scientific research bodes well for continued progress in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” said Dobrica Savic, Head of the Nuclear Information Section. “By facilitating access to vital data and information, INIS provides researchers with the tools they need to continue to advance innovation, demonstrating what is possible when the global community bands together to pursue the common good.”

The INIS Repository, managed by the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Energy, contains both bibliographic references and full-text documents covering a wide range of topics, from nuclear fuel dynamics to energy system modelling. The Repository counts 132 IAEA Member States and 11 international organizations among its contributors, up from the 23 Member States and two international organizations that started the project. It is available to the public on the INIS webpage and built to accommodate both simple searches by term and advanced searches according to parameters including language of issue.

INIS fulfils the IAEA’s mandate to “foster the exchange of scientific and technical information on peaceful uses of atomic energy”. The first contributions to INIS included journal articles and books as well as ‘grey’ literature such as reports, speeches and policies not intended for traditional publication. While INIS records were originally only available in hard copy and on microfiche, the entire archive is now accessible online, with approximately 120 000 bibliographic records and 13 000 full-text documents being added each year. INIS records can be found at or near the top of Google results for a variety of search terms, including those related to recycling and environmental pollution.

The data animation also illustrates how the IAEA, the world’s centre for cooperation in the nuclear field, has become a leading contributor to INIS. While at first only contributing in-house reports and publications, the IAEA began adding articles and books offered by electronic publishers at the turn of the century. Currently, the IAEA is responsible for around one-quarter of the total records, even as Member States remain the driving force behind INIS, with national Liaison Officers facilitating continual updates to the database.

In 2020, 1.7 million users visited the Repository, conducting 2.5 million unique searches and viewing more than 4 million pages, Savic said. INIS also maintains a multilingual thesaurus in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish which provides translations of numerous technical terms to enhance the Repository’s ease of use.

“With frequent contributions from Member States and weekly updates, INIS plays a key role in the international sharing and preservation of vital scientific and technological information—for the benefit of all,” Savic said.

INIS will be in focus next month at the 40th Consultative Meeting of INIS Liaison Officers, taking place from 10 to 12 May. This year’s iteration, to be held virtually for the first time, will include presentations from 10 countries highlighting their contributions to the authoritative database, which global researchers mine daily for information on everything from nuclear physics and radiopharmaceuticals to the effects of pollution on the environment.

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