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International Cooperation, Communication and Sources of Information

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Summary: International co-operation and communication are based on the availability and free flow of information between organizations and disciplines at and between the local, national and international levels. The author discusses and proposes: (i) a project to encourage the de-centralized publication of lists of available sources of information in the form of periodicals, organizations, libraries, bibliographies, etc.; (ii) a specific research project to establish the relationship between these sources in order to highlight duplication, communication gaps, and the sources from which an optimum amount of information may be retrieved; (iii) the establishment of a world information clearing house devoted to the collection, coordination and distribution of data of this kind, which could constitute a permanent symbol of the International Co-operation Year idea.

(Circulated in 1965 as 'a discussion of some ideas and proposals arising from the author's research and editorial work on the Bibliographies of Proceedings of International Meetings and the Yearbook of International Organizations, published in Brussels by the Union of International Associations)


Existing Material
Proposal I - Local, National and International Sources of Information
Proposal II - Information Flow-Chart and Sources of Information
Proposal III - World Information Clearing House


International co-operation is a difficult concept to promote. Co-operation is better understood at the national, regional or urban level where collaboration for mutual profit has a recognized value. International co-operation could be more effectively encouraged if it was represented and treated as the extension and integration of a co-operative process already in existence at different stages of development in subject or geographical areas right down to the grass-roots level of interest groups in town or village. Co-operation at grass-roots level then becomes an essential preliminary consolidation prior to effective international co-operation.

Little can be done directly to foster the link between two bodies (i.e. organizations, information services, special libraries, etc.), for this depends on their individual wish to develop their field of activity. What can be done, however, is to alter the environment in which they operate by removing or reducing barriers to the communication on which the development and maintenance of any link depends.

The reduction of barriers to communication may be achieved by three methods:

(i) Concept - communication requires a context. Links between bodies need to be seen as occurring within a framework in order to give a foundation and stability to existing links and to increase the credibility of, and confidence in any proposed new link. (ii) Information - within the context the bodies concerned must be made aware of each others existence, of the fact that they have a mutual field of interest, and of the means by which they can make contact. This is a straightforward problem of organizing and presenting Informations so as to render the astrial process of contact feasible. (iii) Attitudes - the attitudes of the bodies concerned must be such as to favour the inclination to initiate, sustain and profit from a contact. This is a vaguer problem involving inter-group attitudes, 'images', prejudices, etc.


As it stands today, international co-operation is suspect because it is distant, difficult to visualize and has become, to some extent, a political pawn. Each instance of co-operation appears isolated within a subject and/or geographical area, or else is related through some intangible concept such as 'world society' . Promotion of the idea of co-operation appears to be promotion of co-operation for co-operation's sake, whereas, given a conceptual framework, co-operation becomes an emotionally neutral, logical development of action which has already taken place at a national level.

The problem is that there is, as yet, no means of supplying a total physicalrepresentation of the state of development of the series of communication links upon which co-operation is based. Hence we have no means of assessing progress as a whole, nor of systematically analysing the efficiency and degree of integration of subject communication networks in order to determine areas where links could be fruitfully made, or where they exist in duplicate.

This sort of approach is standard procedure in the analysis of commercial systems and would provide the necessary conceptual foundation for a proper understanding and visualization of the relationship between the component networks of 'world society', represented physically, and of the series of links from individuals at the grass-roots level to opinion at the international level.


The handling, storage and retrieval of information, particularly in the field ofscience and technology, are posing many problems. The availability and free flow of this information is essential to effective communication, co-ordination and co-operation between disciplines and at the local, national and international levels.

Information may be visualized as being generated at a multitude of point within the context mentioned in the previous section. A record is then channeled to a series of collecting points (periodicals, organizations, information centres, special libraries, bibliographies, etc.). The problem is to ensure that all points at which information is generated are within the framework and then to ensure that the channels along which the information flows to the collecting points are known. Given this state of affairs, it is possible to determine:

(i) whether collecting points exist for all information channels; (ii) which points and/or channels need to be tapped to collect all information of a given type; (iii) the minimum number of points and/or channels to be tapped for an optimum amount of information of a given type, taking into account the geographical location of the collecting points; (iv) whether duplicate collecting points exist or whether more comprehensive exist or could be created for information of a given type; (v) the selection mechanism operating to include or exclude information from a particular collecting point.

The establishment of an information flow-chart along these lines is a necessary step prior to information retrieval. It permits an intelligent choice of the collection(s) of information from which information can be most efficiently retrieved. This avoids any possibility of installing a highly efficient retrieval system for an inferior collection of information. Knowledge of the overall information flow-chart, covering all countries and all subjects, will become increasingly necessary as information centres become more specialized and more de-centralized, in order to determine who is getting how much of what.

Information is normally organized by subject area (science, education, religion, etc.) and/or geographical area (country, continent or region, international). The organization of a particular subject area at the collecting points may be represented by any or all of the following items (in approximate degree of organization):

(i) publication introducing the subject (ii) periodicals (iii) meetings (regular or irregular; with or without continuing body) (iv) organizations (societies, research institutes, etc.) (v) bibliographies / directories / Who's Who (vi) abstracting services / current bibliographies (vii) special libraries / information clearing houses (viii) lists of periodicals / libraries / bibliographies (ix) guides to sources of information / reference material

Each of these may be repeated at a national, regional or international level. It is therefore vitally important to establish the relationship between them as regards content and to determine, for example, what proportion of information listed in a particular national subject bibliography reaches an international bibliography covering that subject.

The information flow-chart should be presented so as to make it clear to a member of a research team which source(s) of information he could most usefully consult - whether it would be more efficient to plough through a series of periodicals, write to a particular national or international organization, consult a special library in some other country, or examine a particular bibliography. It is only by supplying him with an overall view of the organization of the information on his subject that he and his team can operate at maximum efficiency and keep up to date, with the confidence that there is not a research institute in some other country which has produced material useful to his project.

It is so often the prospect of lengthy research in libraries, visits, telephone calls and correspondence necessary to understand the organization and flow of information in a particular subject area which constitutes the effective communication block. Only by constructing and making available an overall information flow-chart is it possible to be sure that a negative answer means that no information is available and not that the bibliography / organization / library consulted was unable to locate any information.


The creation of a favourable atmosphere to encourage co-operation and communication is one of the tasks of the International Co-operation Year (1965). This problem will be approached using the techniques of mass communication and group and community education.

It is important that advantage be taken of this emphasis on international co-operation to render permanent any change towards a more positive attitude to co-operation in general and international co-operation in particular. Hence the value of producing a physical representation of the present state of communication to concretize and make evident what has already been achieved and what has still to be achieved. The ICY and any future programmes would then have a base to work and argue from, as well as a symbol of past activity.

Existing material

There are a wide variety of guides to sources of information and reference material. (see: WALFORD, A.J. Guide to reference material WINCHELL, C.M.,Guide to reference books Interdnational Federation for Documentation. Bibliography of directories of sources of information; UNESCO. Bibliographical services throughout the world)

The problem is to provide this range of material with a context in order to bring out the relationships between guides to the same subject, to highlight duplication of effort and the existence of more comprehensive sources* Most guides are of necessity organized to cover information on all subjects in one country or information on a particular subject in all countries or a combination of the two. It is therefore never possible to determine the actual flow of information and the relative efficiency of a particular source. Given the appropriate conceptual framework, the value of individual guides will be increased


On the basis of the above arguments three Proposals have been outlined in the Appendix.

It will be seen that these are graded from a scheme suggesting general encouragement of the idea of providing guides to sources of information, through a study of the feasibility of producing an information flow-chart to aid international and inter-disciplinary information retrieval, to a highly mechanized documentation centre based on a computer.


What is required of the International Co-operation Year (1965), and of any future programmes, is a practical step forward in the development, improvement and maintenance of national and international contacts. These contacts are based on the availability and free flow of information and the feasibility of communication between disciplines and between geographical areas.

The flow of information needs to be given a conceptual framework capable of physical representation in order to give a stable background to international co-operation and to draw the inquirer's attention to the point in the overall information flow-chart at which the optimum amount of information may be retrieved, whether from a periodical, organization, bibliography or information clearing house. This framework would be of use in studying the communication networks employed for the movement of information and would help to highlight those areas or links where there are communication gaps or where no information is available.

The physical representation of this information flow-chart could take the form of a single volume study of the relationship between known sources of information or, more usefully, a fully fledged information clearing house listing these sources and using modern data handling and processing methods.


Proposal I - Local, national and International Sources of Information

(This proposal is put forward as a general project where no centralization of activity is possible. It could form part of a brochure on general suggestions to national I.C.Y. / U.N. / U.N.E.S.C.O. committees, NGOs and community groups on means of promoting international co-operation)

International co-operation has its roots in the confidence in communication and co-operation at the local and national levels. It is proposed, therefore, as a practical general project to establish and make known the existing communication networks and sources of information at a local, national and international level as a necessary step prior to effective international co-operation, that:

(i) interested groups, committees and organizations within every field (science, religion, education, youth, etc.) and/or geographical area (city, state, country, continent or region, world) be encouraged to identify, contact and list similar bodies and sources of information in their own and neighbouring fields in other geographical areas in order to establish the series of possible communication links between subjects from the grass-roots to the international level; (ii) these groups be encouraged to publish, keep up to date and make generally available (i.e. one copy to national library) the addresses of those groups and sources of information as a guide to a particular field and/or geographical area, and for the benefit of those who may wish to participate in, aid or contact some such group; (iii) representatives of these groups be encouraged to meet, if they do not already do so, to discuss any common problems (legal, fiscal, business efficiency, etc.) and the possible usefulness of joint activity; (iv) Governments be encouraged to examine and, if necessary, re-define and clarify the financial, legal and charitable status and responsibilities of local, national and international non-governmental bodies and their personnel, and to publish and make available (i.e. copies to national library and U.N. Library, New York) their results in a convenient form to facilitate the task of those who may wish to establish a national or international organization in a particular country.

Proposal II - Information Flow-Chart and Sources of Information

(This proposal is put forward as a specific research project to be conducted under the auspices of some interested body with the aim of making better known the different sources of information available throughout the world and the relationship between them)

International co-operation and communication are based on the availability and free flow of information, and the feasibility of communication between disciplines and/or between geographical areas. It is proposed, therefore, in order to determine and make known the sources of information available throughout the world and the flow of information between them, and to provide a context for existing guides to sources of information by highlighting duplication and communication gaps, that a study be made of the possibility of publishing an information flowchart as a means of establishing the relationship between existing sources of information in the form of periodicals, organizations, (committees, societies, research institutes, etc.), bibliographies, directories, special libraries and information clearing houses, etc. in order to determine systematically, as a necessary step prior to efficient information retrieval:

(i) whether known sources cover all types of information; (ii) which sources need to be tapped to collect all information of a given type; (iii) the minimum number of sources to be tapped to collect an optimum amount of information; (iv) which sources duplicate one another and whether more compre- hensive sources exist or could be created for information of a given type

Proposal III -- World Information Clearing House

(This proposal is put forward as an international project requiring substantial financial support, but which would contribute significantly to the availability and free flow of information in the future)

It is proposed that:

(i) a study be prepared of the feasiblity of placing information sources and reference material on local, national and international periodicals, organizations (committees, societies, research institutes, etc.), bibliographies, abstracting services, directories, information clearing houses, etc. onto punched cards, magnetic tape or discs to permit sorting by computer; (ii) the possibility of computer sorting of these information sources to provide the source(s) giving an optimum amount of information under a given set of circumstances be investigated; (iii) the possibility of providing financial support for this project by printing off and selling directories of information sources or mailing lists to cover a particular field and/or country be investigated; (iv) an investigation be made of the usefulness of information in this form in the study of the efficiency of the local / national / international communication networks
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