The printed knowledge available to scientists and technologists is increasing at such a phenomenal
rate that most individuals find it an impossible task to stay abreast of developments within even specialised
fields. A large proportion of the cost and effort spent on research and development may
accordingly be wasteful duplication of work of which the results have already been published. Manufacturing
and production processes may also be greatly improved if existing knowledge is fully applied.
In highly developed industrial countries, such as Russia and America, great efforts are made by
the State and by private organisations to facilitate and encourage the use of available koowledge. They
have realised that adequate communication is a pre-requisite for virile science and technology, which
in turn is a national necessity.
The most effective way of making information available is by means of specialised information
centres, staffed by information officers well qualified in specific subject fields.
The calibre of the information officer should be such that he is accepted as a valued colleague
by scientists and engineers. His thorough knowledge of the subject, of information sources and the
needs of his users, should enable him to save much time and effort of the latter and of expenditure
which would otherwise be wasted on unnecessary or ineffective work.
South Africa is slowly awakening to the advantage of using available world knowledge, but not much
has as yet been done here to attack the problem. The University of Pretoria can participate actively
in the development of the use of information.
Students in science and technology - who traditionally are poor users of published information -
should be trained rigorously in appreciating the necessity for finding and using information. To
acquire this capability is essential for the future professional success of the student.
Members of the teaching staff could write exhaustive and penetrating reviews of the literature
on particular subjects, for the guidance of researchers and other workers in the field.
Information services could be based on the specialised bibliographic collections of the University,
and backed by the knowledge of subject specialists on the teaching staff.
A most important project would be the training of scientists and engineers in the science of information
handling, to act either as information officers serving other technologists, or as theoreticians
developing new methods of information handling.
The co-operation and financial aid of the Government should be obtained towards these and other
projects to satisfy the country's need for adequate assimilation of scientific and technical information.