Information Science Research

Donald W. King

   It was such a pleasure seeing so many old friends and colleagues at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) Conference. It reminded me of how I came into information science through the back door. In 1961, Edward Bryant, James Daley and I started a statistical consulting company, Westat Research Analysts, in Denver. After struggling for a year we were awarded a contract with the U.S. Patent Office in Washington to help design experiments involving indexing and searching of patent documents. As part of this work, I was asked to attend the 1962 annual meeting of the American Documentation Institute (predecessor to the American Society for Information Science). This was my introduction to information science and where I first met some of the attendees who were at the CHF Conference.

    As a statistician, I had the unique opportunity of observing a great deal of information science research from the early 1960s onwards through statistical observation, statistical surveys and experimental design. These studies were performed while I was with Westat, during a short "sabbatical with Informatics, and at King Research (from 1976). They involved such interesting areas as evaluating information retrieval systems (U.S. Patent Office, CIRCOL, APA, NLM Cancerline) and information centers (NTIS, OSTI, DTIC, ERIC). In the 1970s, my staff and I had the opportunity to describe scientific communication through a series of NSF studies under the umbrella "Statistical Indicators of STI Communication". During this time we also performed systems analysis and development of the International Cancer Research Databank (including development of Cancerline), editorial processing centers and electronic publishing, and development of a numeric metadata system for the U.S. Department of Energy. We performed two studies of the impact of the 1976 revision to the Copyright Law and a study of the cost-benefit of copyright formalities. I was also involved is studies of information professionals and information professional competencies.
    Beginning in the early 1980s, Jose-Marie Griffiths and I developed a conceptual framework, methods and measures for assessing the use, usefulness and value of information services and products. We were able to apply our approach to well over 100 libraries of all kinds, multitype library networks across 14 states and several regions. Since most of these studies were proprietary, I have spent much of my retirement aggregating and documenting these results with Jose so the knowledge will not be lost to others. Carol Tenopir and I are also documenting the results of over 20,000 readership surveys and cost studies involving publishers, libraries, and scientists' time. Our intent is to help scientists; librarians and publishers understand one another's participation in scholarly communication and how they should approach the transformation to electronic journals.
    In addition to being able to describe and play a role in the growth of information science, my fondest memories come from my good fortune to have worked with so many talented people and to have observed the innovations and enormous contributions made by so many of the information pioneers in attendance at the Conference, as well as others who were not. My greatest regret is that so much of their knowledge, contributions and experience has been lost and is not being built upon by many of those involved today in digital libraries, electronic publishing and other forms of scientific communication. Hopefully, some of the effort to describe pioneering efforts in information science will bridge this "disconnect".

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Biographical Information on Donald King

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