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IUCr 1993 Triennial Report - International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI)

The ICSTI Council meetings in the triennium have been held at Nancy, France, in May 1991, Berlin, Germany, in May 1992, and Williamsburg, USA, in May 1993. I attended the Berlin Meeting, at which A. J. C. Wilson, a former IUCr Representative on ICSTI, was the guest of honour. As is evident from the 1991 Symposium, on Squaring the Information Circle, and from the draft strategic plan to be considered at Williamsburg, ICSTI's objectives are closely attuned to the IUCr's requirements. Those objectives focus on providing scientific and technical information efficiently to all those who require access to that information. The role of standards in expediting the flow of scientific information is generally recognized. If those objectives were achieved it would help the IUCr to cope with the requirements for publishing the rapidly increasing volume of crystallographic information, and to make optimal use of improved communication technology as it becomes available. It would assist crystallographers generally by facilitating their access to the wide range of scientific information that is relevant to crystallography.

ICSTI does not have the financial and organizational strength necessary to achieve its laudable objectives. That reflects in part the failure, in the commercial sense, of most ICSTI publications. A contributing factor is its limited `Class A' membership, which encompasses international and national scientific bodies. This situation is exacerbated by that membership being restricted, in a geographical sense, almost exclusively to western Europe and North America. ICSTI is aware of all these weaknesses, but its efforts to rectify them have not yet succeeded. Because its membership is dominated by commercial publishers, many of its activities reflect their management's concern to steer those organizations through the upheaval in publishing generated by new technology. It is, of course, easy to criticize. It is more difficult to identify how an alternative organization could do better, or to make practical improvements in ICSTI's performance. The main players in the publishing industry are members of ICSTI, and many of those members are keen to make improvements if suitable opportunities are available.

While recognizing its shortcomings, I recommend that the IUCr persist with its membership of ICSTI. As a matter of policy, the IUCr should foster links between ICSTI and CODATA, with the ultimate objective that those two organizations merge.

7 April 1993                                E. N. MASLEN, Representative

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