Research programme

Since a few decades the scientific communication system is getting seriously overloaded. The congestion of information flow is often called, in medical metaphor, an 'information infarct'. At a FOM meeting (Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter) in 1993, different sectors of the Dutch physics community met to discuss the various aspects of the communication blockage and information inundation. Following a IUPAP recommendation , the community decided to tackle the problems in scientific communication.

In 1994 the research programme Communication in Physics was launched by the Physica Foundation, an organization promoting the advancement of physics in The Netherlands. The foundation was incited to initiate this programme by two trends in scientific communication. Firstly, we have the increasing dissatisfaction with the flow of scientific information, as was voiced at the meeting in 1993. Secondly, new technologies of computer networks and electronic publishing are emerging, changing the infrastructure of scientific communication. These technology-based developments could solve the information overflow. The question is how the different new techniques should be used to improve our ways of communicating.

The first goal of the research programme is to gain insight into the nature of scientific information itself and in the management of this information. The second goal is to develop recommendations for new approaches to the exchange of scientific information, beyond the simple digitalization of the traditional paper-based communication. This new system of information presentation, transfer and storage should more fully exploit the new capacities of electronic tools.

In order to increase our understanding of the scientific communication system and the information infarct obstructing it, different aspects need to be considered. There are social aspects, including issues like knowledge percolation, intellectual property, research policy and motives of scientists. Then we have technical aspects, which relate to information management and retrieval, such as publishing, storage and automatic indexing. There are also aspects concerning the scientific substance of the information. These are now being studied in the modularisation project that has been started at the University of Amsterdam. In this project, we analyze the structure and content of information contained in scientific articles. The project is described separately.

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