Accelerating Science Discovery - Join the Discussion

OSTI Joins In Celebrating the Forty-Fifth Anniversary of the International Nuclear Information System

by Debbie Cutler on Wed, March 25, 2015



Alternate Text PlaceholderForty-five years ago, nations around the world saw their dream for a more efficient way to share nuclear-related information reach fruition through the creation of a formal international collaboration. This was accomplished without the internet, email, or websites.  It was the right thing to do for public safety, education, and the further advancement of science.  It was also a necessary way forward as the volume of research and information about nuclear-related science, even back then, was skyrocketing and exceeded the capacity for any one country to go it alone.  And the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) was part of the collaboration from its initial planning stages.

The International Nuclear Information System, or INIS, as it is commonly known, was approved by the Governing Board of the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1969 and began operations in 1970.  The primary purpose of INIS was, and still is, to collect and share information about the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, with participating nations sharing efforts to build a centralized resource.  

OSTI grew out of the United States’ post-World War II initiative to make the scientific research of the Manhattan Project as freely available to the public as possible.  Thus, OSTI had been building the premier Nuclear Science Abstracts (NSA) publication since the late 1940s and was perfectly positioned to provide information gathering and organizing expertise to help the INIS concept coalesce into reality.  OSTI was a key player in formative working group discussions at the IAEA in Vienna, Austria in the 1966-67 timeframe, and led many of the subsequent discussions and teams that finalized INIS policy guidance, common exchange formats, and more.  To this day, OSTI has continued to represent the U.S. as the official INIS Liaison Officer (ILO) organization, contributing database content, helping disseminate INIS content more widely, and sharing information expertise as needed.  OSTI joins representatives from over 140 countries and international entities to help the centralized Secretariat in Vienna build and manage INIS.  

From its origins as a printed journal known as Atomindex, INIS evolved into the online world in 1978, and to CD-ROM in 1991, and finally to the internet in 1998.  It was only in 2009 that public access to the INIS database became a reality.  The database (referred to as the INIS Collection) has grown to more than 3.6 million bibliographic citations to publications worldwide, 350,000 of which have full text directly available to users.  A significant portion of this content was contributed by OSTI, on behalf of the United States.  OSTI attends ILO and other technical/policy meetings, contributes new database content, participates in discussion forums on specific information issues, aids Secretariat and other ILOs when possible, and makes the historical NSA content freely accessible to the INIS community (which includes the U.S. public).  OSTI also facilitates further dissemination of INIS-gathered information from around the world, just as INIS serves to further widen knowledge of U.S.-generated information.

The role of nuclear energy as a power source has ebbed and flowed in many nations over the years and research funding and public opinions have also fluctuated.  But the need for information sharing has grown steadily, no matter the current environment in any one country.  Nuclear and atomic science and physics have made great strides, as have safer engineering designs for reactors.  Information in INIS includes environmental concerns such as waste management, site remediation, and radiation safety, non-proliferation and policy issues, medical isotopes and agricultural applications, and much more.

Nuclear accidents, although rare, do happen, and the INIS Collection is an important resource when they occur.  Having INIS as an already established system of information available made quicker action possible to help address key issues related to the Fukushima event.  Lessons learned from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents were already available for Japan to access, as was research over the years on topics such as radiation monitoring and effects, containment, etc.  For the U.S. nuclear community, the INIS database is also a valued resource, not only for accessing research results from historical research, but to find more recent research coming from countries that have not had a gap in their nuclear focus.  The value is in saving countless hours, avoiding duplicative efforts, and learning from newer experiences.

Now that the internet is our way of life and Google typically our first go-to resource for information about anything, INIS and OSTI continue to play vital roles in collecting and sharing information about the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology.  People sometimes forget that someone has to put the information on the internet.  Someone chooses what should go up.  And then someone has to do things to make the information discoverable.  Users should get back reliable and quality information on technical subjects without having to waste time looking at marketing or irrelevant information.  It takes people to make this happen.  It takes cooperation.  INIS and OSTI both continue to collaborate in all these ways.  It is not magic.  It is committed people making a difference for an important international cause, every day.

Debbie Cutler heads OSTI’s International Program and serves as Alternate U.S. INIS Liaison Officer. 

Page last updated on 2017-09-08 06:52

About the Author

Debbie Cutler's picture
Debbie Cutler
Manager, International Program

International Program Manager, overseeing OSTI’s multilateral energy information exchange agreements, ETDE and INIS.