On the Occasion of the OSTI 60th Anniversary
September 18, 2007
Thank you, Dr. Warnick. I’d like to thank Sharon [Jordan] and Bonnie Carroll for inviting me and twisting my arm until it hurt to come here because, to be quite honest with you, I still don’t know why I was selected. I know that I have a certain notoriety in the information business. You’ve had so many pioneers come to see you, and talk to you, and come from here, that you may listen to me but I hope that I can say a few things that will justify my residence.
Forgive me if I have to skip over some thoughts. If you come tonight I’ll elaborate in much greater detail on things I would like to talk about here which I thought I was going to do in the afternoon, but the schedule got a little complicated. So I will make a few personal remarks and that reminds me why I accepted in the beginning when Sharon called me.
Because when I was at Johns Hopkins University in 1951, in 1953 we organized a symposium -- the first symposium on machine techniques and scientific documentation. Among the people who attended, about 300, there were many information experts, but among them were people from Oak Ridge. I don’t know who exactly they were, who they might’ve been, in those days. I think it might have been Alberto Thompson, as a matter of fact, who I got to know better later. It was Alberto Thompson who was the organizer and one of the main people who raised the funds for the International Conference on Scientific Information that was held in Washington in 1958 when he had gone to the NSF. That was sponsored by NSF and the National Academy of Sciences. So that was my link to this place if you put it that way. There are other people that I’ve known from this institution. In particular, I’ll mention later in more detail, Dr. Alvin Weinberg.
Before I forget -- Al, good to see you again. I haven’t seen Al Trivelpiece in 20 years. I hoped it would be before that. I brought you a copy of the competition. When he said hello to me he said, “We were in competition twenty years ago.” I said, “We both survived.” So here’s a latest issue of The Scientist for you.
I would like to also mention the value to me of the [OSTI] exhibits. First of all, I hope you don’t mind if I remind you it wasn’t called OSTI. That’s why I was a little confused when you called me. I didn’t know this place as OSTI. It’s been that long. It was the Technical Information Center back in those days. Somebody from this organization actually wrote me a letter in 1953 inviting me to become a member of the staff. Who knows what might’ve happened if I’d come here? I probably would never have thought of the citation index. The government has a way of directing things in a different way than we do in the private sector.
I do remember when Nuclear Science Abstracts came out. It was somewhat of a shock to people in that business because everybody thought Chemical Abstracts and Physics Abstracts did it all. Why do we need another abstracting service? That’s the way it always is. Why do we need newcomers? So I wasn’t very much involved with them but I do know that they tried to do it and did do a great job for that field.
Another characteristic of this place that was brought home to me on the tour I took [earlier] today of the various reactor site and all the sort of exhibits I saw was the fact that Nuclear Science Abstracts and the work that was done at this lab epitomizes why I started the Science Citation Indexing. The key word there was “multidisciplinary”. Before that we had traditional, discipline-oriented science and then the nuclear revolution changed all that. It’s the interdisciplinary of science that made a justification for the products that I produced for ISI.
Now, I won’t go into all the neat things that were done here. I’m not an expert on [the] WorldWideScience [search tool]. I know you’ve got some great software developed for you by Abe Lederman, I believe, who is here today. I can only say that the Deep Web term is something I’d never heard until I got here. In any event I think they’ll get together -- the two [the Deep Web and the Surface Web]. And eventually they’ll all merge together, the private and the government.
As I’ll tell you tonight, the whole history with the abstracting and indexing industry is the realization that there really isn’t all that much difference between the so-called non-profit and for-profit enterprises that are going on in the multi-billion dollar information industry.
What else can I say without going on at too great a length? I want to mention the Weinberg Report because that will be more elaborated on in my talk tonight. It did have a huge impact on the world of science.
And yet, strangely enough, it is very rarely formally cited. If you look up its citation record you won’t find too many people who have explicitly cited the Weinberg Report. It’s like a lot of other significant documents in the history of science. Not everything is highly cited but on the other hand you’ll find out there are very few Nobel Prize discoveries that are not accompanied by what we call citation classics. Speaking of citation classics, Al Trivelpiece was the author of one back in 1959. He’s probably forgotten it by now.
One of the interesting things about the Weinberg committee -- that was a committee of the President’s Science Advisory Committee at the time. Al Weinberg had the wisdom to call together a group of luminaries that included several Nobel Prize winners like Josh Lederberg and I think that Nobel-class scientists like John Tooke, among others. These were all people that I got to know very well.
Now the interesting coincidence is that Louis P. Hammond, who had been by that time a President of the American Chemical Society, and the editor of McGraw Hill Science Series, and a winner of the national medal of science later on, was my professor at Columbia University and, in fact, he was the one that fired me from my job because I had too many explosions. I thought that was very funny that he was on that committee. Tonight I’ll tell you some more about some of the things he said about me for which I was very grateful; because without that push I would’ve never done what I did.
I think I’ve said as much as I should here today about this background. I did want to mention the fact it’s a great honor for me to be here today and I certainly agree with the previous speaker that you have had a long history and you do a great public service.
The final point that I’ll be talking about tonight, I mentioned to somebody else, is that the key issue I’m going to talk about is how do we establish -- in the minds of the [Congress] and the people who finance these findings, the true economic value of not only of science and research but scientific information? We all believe in it; but proving it conclusively is not to be.
So, I hope one day we’ll have much more attention paid to that.
Last updated: 7/3/2008