Is Science Information Information Science—
Implications for the Information Revolution

Presented By

Eugene Garfield, Ph.D., President
Institute for Scientific Information
325 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106

Presented At

5th Annual National Meeting
of the
Information Industry Association
April 3, 1973

I think I am fortunate to have obligated myself to teach a course on information retrieval to students of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania. However, it is always incredible to me that I must remind these students each year that Philadelphia was the birthplace of the first digital computer. It happened at Penn, and not much later there was the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation — later to become Univac. John Mauchly came to see me at Johns Hopkins University in l95l when I was first doing research on machine methods for indexing medical literature. Even then we were already talking about using digital computers for information retrieval. Calvin Mooers had used that term in his master's thesis. No one really talked about the information industry then. And certainly the term information science had not yet become fashionable. In those days, we were still trying to convince people that documentation was something different than library science. ADI had been founded in the twenties on the basis of microfilm. The American Documentation Institute only opened its doors to individuals in 1952. I spent almost the next fifteen years getting them to change the title to its present American Society of Information Science.

It is not completely comprehensible to me why history selected the problem of science information as the one upon which so much attention was focused in those early days. I realize that physical and life science literature was doubling every eight years — in some fields like molecular biology even faster — and undoubtedly the scientific orientation of computer inventors like Vannevar Bush and John Mauchly made the use of computers for scientific and mathematical calculations the path of least resistance — never realizing the untold number of non-numerical applications that would overwhelm the computer and information industries. Even IBM was a little slow at first, being properly preoccupied with punched card or EDP equipment that was being used, so-to-speak, in the real world of everyday data processing applications.

So back in those early days it seemed to many people that science information and information science were almost interchangeable. The idea of a science of information, like a theory of information, is not and was not at all obvious. Adding to the semantic confusion is the ambiguity of the word science, used almost interchangeably with scientific, and really meaning not merely physics, chemistry, and biology (sometimes called hard science) but also social, psychological, management, or soft science. In fact, it is best to think of scientific as the German word Wissenschaft which is most closely identified with scholarship or knowledge

This seemingly obvious assertion becomes less so when you consider that as recently as 1963 Leslie Wilson of ASLIB claimed that in the U K an information scientist is what we in the U.S. call a science-information specialist. The British Institute of Information Scientists, he pointed out correctly was primarily a society of science-information specialists This occurred in spite of the fact that J Farradane was using the term information science in the opposite sense as early as 1958, the year that group was founded

Having mentioned it in passing, I might add that information theory as pioneered by Claude Shannon really has little to do with information science per se, though, of course, it should be understood and used by all those who have coding and communication problems to which it is applicable. An awful lot of applied probability has been done in the IR field under the misnomer of information theory.

Now I do not intend to bore you to death with a continued elaboration on this point. Any of you who have a persistent interest in these semantic distinctions can write me for a copy of a talk I gave in Philadelphia at Drexel University nine years ago in which I covered this topic in gory detail. I also discussed the ideal information system as that which genetic engineers are now making a reality. In fact, some of you may recall that when Sputnik hit the headlines it temporarily distracted us from the discovery by Watson and Crick and the Double Helix nature of DNA. You may recall that when the first astronaut landed on Mars he was taken to their computer maternity ward where, by the detailed specifications of the genetic profile, babies were produced on demand. When the astronaut was asked to demonstrate how we achieved the miracle of reproduction he gladly did so but the nurse in charge asked him to produce the baby He said she would have to wait nine months to which she replied “So why did you stop stirring?”

The mere existence of a large information industry does not justify the creation of a term like information science. However, there has been accumulated sufficient quantitative and qualitative knowledge about information for us to declare the existence of a science of information. A science is an organized body of knowledge. Many other large industries
I could name do not have a corresponding science. Since meat is on our minds, I might mention that there is no meat-science per se, though protein chemists, agricultural scientists and others might argue otherwise. If I am pressed for another example, I might cite the entertainment industry as one which lacks a definitive science or theory though some might argue that Stanislawsky, and others, are purveyors of dramatic or theatrical science. My colleagues at the School of Communications might argue that entertainment is part of communications science.

I think though that the entertainment industry and other people-oriented services, such as the graphic and fine arts have something to teach us in the information industry. This is primarily because our earlier pre-occupations with science encouraged some to forget that we are also supposed to serve people. As a profession, information scientists have been content to allow science information to dominate information science. This unreality caused me to admonish my colleagues about this point right here in Philadelphia a few years ago when the ASIS held its national meeting dedicated to the information conscious society. However, I feel very differently about berating the members of IIA about this topic simply because I believe the IIA is the reflection of and embodiment of the information conscious society. This does not mean that the information industry has done everything in its power to cater to the unsatisfied information needs of society. If that were true then there would be little or no future in this business. The complete opposite is the case. We are rapidly moving from the era of the industrial revolution into the era of the information revolution. As is often the case, the naive and innocent get crushed in the transition between revolutions

Every intelligent person knows that in our justifiable drive to make America affluent we overlooked millions of our own underprivileged people even while we were chastising the ruling classes in other countries about their neglects. The information industry has a special role to play in making up for the mistakes of our parents. Primarily through information and education can the poor and minorities receive their just rewards in a democratic society. And I would remind you that amongst the poor or low income people are many of our own parents who wish to retain their own independence and freedom from younger generations. In turn our children have almost become tyrannical in their demands for freedom and independence based on their superior access to information. In a further effort to reduce the time required to lecture you on the information-conscious society, I simply will refer you to the reprints I've brought for you so let me turn to some other aspects of this topic.

Unlike many subsidized information services with which we must compete under trying conditions, IIA members epitomize those organizations who are responsive to the information needs of their users. The ultimate test of the marketplace is renewed support. I know of no product or service produced by an IIA firm which is forced down the throat of its buyers. There can be no doubt that many users could not survive without the information products we produce. But the open market always permits the potential and actual competition to invade any temporary or defacto exclusivity that a clever entrepreneur may obtain. Groups of users can always band together to demand better service when any of us fails to satisfy their needs in a reasonable and timely fashion.

I've taken great satisfaction in serving as your President. I truly enjoy the pride that our member companies have in the products they produce. I especially enjoy listening to the long lists of satisfied customers.

And, of course, on this special occasion we extend to these hard-working guys, deserved praise from their peers in the information industry.

To illustrate my preoccupation with the unmet information needs of society, I have also given you a reprint of an editorial I wrote last week about the doctor-patient relationship and how it has changed. The desire for medical information is but another manifestation of the growing intellectuality and literacy of the U.S. and world population. When you think about the future remember that in two important cases, the U.S.S.R. and China, illiteracy was wiped out in a single generation. These accomplishments should remind us that the democratic-capitalist free enterprise system is of our own choosing and preference, but it has no monopoly on accomplishment. Obviously, one can question the value of literacy that is unilaterally directed towards reading Mao's thoughts. In spite of that, I never have heard anyone seriously suggest that a professor of medicine in the U.S. is somehow guaranteed superiority over his counterpart in the People's Republic of China. Our present fascination with acupuncture is yet another reminder that there is no capitalist monopoly on wisdom in medicine or in other spheres of human endeavor.

The world-wide increase in literacy has enormous implications for the information industry and the opportunities for domestic and international information services. As the world grows smaller any successful information service in the U.S. will be exploitable in the other literature countries of the world. The information industry will foster many new and large multi-national corporations. As an example from our experience when I explained McGraw-Hill's Shepard's Citations for lawyers to a German Rechtsanwalt he said he would like to see one developed for his country in spite of the differences in legal philosophy.

Ironically, in spite of a conservative Republican administration which faces trade deficits, and domestic unemployment problems for scientists and scholars, this government still gives away scientific and technological information which then competes directly with members of the IIA As though it is not enough that we face strong foreign-based for-profit competition we must also contend with these continued government giveaway programs operated by foreign governments or organizations. This causes concern not only for those who sell information products but also those U.S. companies who would like to sell our government contracts for indexing, abstracting, and other activities that are now bought abroad in exchange for information services that would otherwise be purchased with hard currency. Had the U.S. been placing reasonable and competitive prices on its information services during the past twenty years, I estimate conservatively this could have changed our accumulated balance of payments deficits by as much as one billion dollars. Instead, the government has helped to cultivate the disastrous idea that information, unlike other commodities, is something that should be as free as the air. These notions continue to be encouraged in our panic-stricken effort to encourage international collaboration and cooperation in cancer, space, nuclear, and all those areas of motherhood which, if challenged, are considered gauche.

There are, of course, many signs that the IIA has been successful in changing the direction of these innate bureaucratic tendencies but I assure you that it takes a lot of running just to keep in place and we need your constant and increased support to put out the fires that pop up almost daily. Last night we heard that the NSF still intends to give away close to five million dollars to a non-profit society that has already received 24 million dollars. Some of you may not be aware that this information is now more readily available to our foreign competitors in Germany and Japan than it is to us in the U.S.

In summary — I have touched upon many aspects of IIA's concerns — a brief excursion into the unnatural history of documentation, library, and computer science which blended into a whole new science of information; and the existence of a profession of information science which guarantees the future growth and stability of the information industry it serves. I have also indicated my belief that, unlike the robber barons of the early industrial revolution, the information industry can spawn leaders and entrepreneurs who are socially responsible and responsive to society's existing and also its unrecognized information needs. This applies to the needs of the poor and low income classes, including the large and neglected older generation, as well as to the almost universally literate, intellectual, and sensitive younger generation And information, like the communication satellites over which it will travel, is international and universal in its applicability and thereby makes the information industry, and all it implies, the growth industry par excellence.

I have never been a believer in the notion that history makes men. I think the role of the individual still remains paramount. I call on each and every IIA member to pitch in so that the information industry can fulfill its enormous potential.