Science, government, and information: The responsibilities of the technical community and the government in the transfer of information

Government information Grey literature Public sector Science Information resources management United States of America
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A seminal paper on US government interest in the field of information science.

The Weinberg report, as it is known,  provided an impressive analysis of the many issues involved in ensuring that the abundance of scientific and technical information being produced in the US was managed and communicated effectively across government, agencies, industry and academia. It was one of the first documents to propose a wholesale information strategy including valuing the role of report literature which it described as the “crux of the current information crisis”.  Weinberg reported that the US was producing 100,000 informal government reports per year, in contrast to 450,000 journal articles, but unlike journal articles the reports had no bibliographical control or comprehensive collecting system.

Information overload was a recurring theme of the Weinberg report and one of his key recommendations was that new modes of information retrieval be explored along with the adoption of ‘information-handling technology’. At the same time Weinberg warned that the promise and limitations of such technology should be well understood before they are adopted as ‘magical panaceas’. Weinberg’s report was influential in the establishment of computer databases and bibliographic cataloguing systems for report grey literature.

The first two parts of the report describe some attributes of the information process and of various information handling systems. Recommendations to the technical community include: (1) The technical community must recognize that handling of technical information is a worthy and integral part of science; (2) The individual author must accept more responsibility for subsequent retrieval of what is published; (3) Techniques of handling information must be widely taught; (4) New modes for information processing and retrieval must be explored and (5) Uniformity and compatibility of information systems are desirable. Recommendations to Government agencies include: (1) Each Federal agency concerned with science and technology must accept its responsibility for information activities in fields relevant to its mission; (2) Each agency should establish a focal point of responsibility for information activities; (3) The Federal Council for Science and Technology should keep all Government information systems under surveillance; (4) The various systems should be articulated by information clearinghouses; (5) Each agency must maintain its own system and (6) The President's Science Advisory Committee should give information problems continued attention.

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