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«ASFA The First Twenty Years An Outline History of Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts 1971-l 990 UNESCO Distribution limited IOCXNF-994 Paris, 1 ...»

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Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission


The First Twenty Years

An Outline History of

Aquatic Sciences and

Fisheries Abstracts

1971-l 990


Distribution limited IOCXNF-994

Paris, 1 March 1995

English only

Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission


ASFA: The First Twenty Years. An Outline History of

Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts, 1971-1990 Prepared for the ASFA Advisory Board by Allen Varley ASFA is jointly sponsored by United Nations Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UNDOALOS) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (of UNESCO) (IOC) United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) IOCXNF-994 page (0


In 1993 I suggested to the members of the ASFA Advisory Board that since most of the people closely concerned with the development of ASFA had retied or moved to other fields, efforts should be made, before it becametoo late, to record ASFA’s history, and to document its evolution, growth, policy, philosophy and technical development. I informed them that I would be willing to undertake the work.

The resulting record would be a use&l reference document of value not only to the members of the Advisory Board and their colleagues, but also to present and future stti of the Secretariat, the international organisations, the input centres and the publisher, as well as to new and potential partners and funding bodies. In addition, an account of international cooperation could well prove to be of interest to a wider audience.

The Board approved my proposal and as well as providing encouragement, a number of past and present members have actively cooperated by supplying information and copies of documents, and by reviewing the draR.

Historical accounts resembleicebergs, in that much remains concealed beneath the surface; this is no exception. I have avoided the strong temptation to include anecdotes and observations about the personalities involved, and am conscious that the account inevitably reflects my own perspective as an Advisory Board member representing a national partner. Different interpretations would result if written as seen through theeyes of a member of the Secretariat, one of the international organisations, or the publisher, and it would indeed be interesting to compare such versions.

Many of the staff of the various organisations and institutions associated with ASFA are not mentioned by name in this account. From the start they have worked together with a sense of purpose, unity and camaraderie, and with a firm belief in the value of their collective effort; without them there would be no ASFA. At a time when experts would have us accept that networks and systemsare the products and fLnctions of electronic technology, I hope that this narrative will remind readers that key ingredients for successare human effort and human interaction.

–  –  –

Communication and Co-ordination..............




Production and Coverage

System Tools


Communication and Co-ordination...................

IOCYINF-994 page (iv)

–  –  –


Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA) first appeared as a monthly abstract journal in July 1971. Conceived as a new product, it also replaced the Current Bibliography for Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries, issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and Aquatic Biology Abstracts, published by Information Retrieval Limited @XL), London.

FAO’s mandate to collect, analyse, interpret and disseminate information dates from the first FA0 Conference, held in Quebec, Canada in 1945, and the Fisheries Division developed a publications programme and gradually introduced what became known in the 1950’s as “information” or “intelligence” services. ASFA’s lineage derives from two bibliographic services launched by FA0 during this decade, one emphasising the fishing industry and the post-harvest processing of fish and fish products, and the other fishery science with the emphasis on biology.

From January 1950 the Technological Branch of the Fisheries Division (later the Fishery Industry Division of the Department of Fisheries) produced World Fisheries Abstracts, a bimonthly (quarterly from 1962) “review of technical literature on fisheries and related industries”. Published in English French and Spanish the records were printed on sheets which could be cut into cards for filing.

A meeting of FA0 consultants at the Centre d’etudes et de recherches scientifiques, Biarritz in February 1956 considered that a complete abstracting service would be costly though of incalculable value, but recognised the limitations of the Fishery Division. They recommended that “for the present emphasis be given to development of the services of listing and annotating fishery literature”.(‘) Bibliographic punched cards were demonstrated by the two FA0 representatives, G.L.

Kesteven, Chief of the Fisheries Biology Branch and his colleague S.J. Holt.

A service aiming to include fisheries biology, aquaculture and fisheries oceanography, and produced by the Biology Branch of the Fisheries Division was first offered to outside users in the form of a monthly mimeographed bulletin entitled Current Bibliography for Fisheries Science.

Volume 1 Number 1 appeared in April 1958 and copies were sent to selected institutions on the Fisheries Division’s mailing and “exchange” list. The Research Programs Section of the Biology Branch, with S.J. Holt as Chief, produced the bulletin which from Volume 2 Number 1, January 1959, changed its name to Current Bibliography for Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries.

The Current Bibliography appeared at an opportune time and was welcomed by users in many countries. Based on material received in the Fisheries Branch Library and the Fisheries Division, it was produced by fisheries scientists with the needs of the research community in mind, and although the records did not include abstracts, the bulletin contained good taxonomic and geographic indexes, as well as author and subject indexes. Well in advance of its time, the Current Bibliography also included citation indexes.(2) From Volume 3, 1960 the Current Bibliography was printed by the London publishers Taylor and Francis, with Erdogan F. Akyuz (Biologist in the IOCLNF-994 r-we 2 Research Programs Section of the Biology Branch) as editor, while by this time Sidney Holt was Chief of the Biology Branch.

Meanwhile in the United States Joel S. O’Connor and Saul B. Saila were developing a pilot project at the Aquatic Sciences information Retrieval Center (ASIRC) of the University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Marine Laboratory to produce mechanised indexes to the technical literature.

Using punched card technology and taxonomic, geographic and subject index terms from the Current Bibliography and also from the Bibliographia Oceanographica (with which FA0 were collaborating, but which was, unfortunately, in terminal decline), the aim was to develop a literature searching and retrieval system and users were invited to submit enquiries to test the system.@” ASIRC was assisted financially by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, and by 1962 had developed an operational system.f~(@flf~The pilot project had added about 7,000 index terms and it was envisaged that during the year some 40,000 documents would be indexed (publications dated 1957 to 1962 listed in the Current Bibliography), with an annual addition of some 15,000.

In 1961 Dr Mario Ruivo became Chief of the Research Programs Section of the Biology Branch of the Fisheries Division. The close alliance of Holt, Ruivo and Akyuz and their links with other members of the international fisheries and oceanographic research communities were to be significant factors in the development of aquatic information services over the next quarter century.

Saul B. Saila and the Aquatic Sciences Information Retrieval Center continued to be associatedwith Current Bibliography until the closure of ASIRC in 1965; Volume 9 of the Current Bibliography (1966) optimistically mentions the continuation of computer-oriented services “formerly provided by ASIRC” The value of the Current Bibliography was endorsed by Working Group 15 of the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) at meetings in Plymouth (December 1963) and Marseille (October 1965). The Group’s concern was “Abstracts and bibliographies of use in marine sciences” and at the second meeting Ed Akyiiz listed some of the problems, due mainly to lack of sufficient staff and resources, affecting the Current Bibliography. The Working Group made a number of resolutions regarding more active participation by Unesco in documentation work, collaboration between Unesco and FAO,@@)and recommended the inauguration of a Current Contents in Marine Sciencesservice. A precedent for collaboration on information activities already existed in the form ofIntemationalMarine Science, a quarterly newsletter prepared jointly between the Unesco Office of Oceanography and the FA0 Fisheries Biology Branch and published by Unesco from April 1963.

The need for mechanisationwas acknowledged, and the Working Group were informed that one of their members, the Deutsche Hydrographische Institut @HI), had been provided with a Friden’s Flexowriter by the German Institut tir Dokumentationswesen (IDW) to facilitate the production of DHI’s HyaFographische Bibliogrqvhie. Flexowriters were “tape typewriters”, using paper tape as a machine readable storage medium. The tapes could be manipulated by Friden or IBM machines, and could be converted to sets of punched cards for greater flexibility in searching and retrieval. FA0 and DHI, the two members with capabilities, were invited to store machine readable versions of their bibliographies in the form of Flexowriter tapes for later merger in a common pool for mechanised search and retrieval.

–  –  –

and Documentation Office of the Bundesforschungsanstalt f?.ir Fischerei (BF), Hamburg) and delegates to the October 1968 meeting of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), on 3 December 1968 Dr Udo Schtitzsack, a Division Chief of IDW, and Professor Meyer-Waarden visited FA0 for discussions with Ed Akyuz on collaboration between FAO, BF, DHI and IDW.“” It was noted that BF planned to establish a documentation service, principally to serve the national fisheries bodies in Germany, and that IDW had expertise in the mechanised production of the International Food Information Service (IFIS). Collaboration was proposed whereby IDW would provide computer programs, expertise and training, BF would provide input from some 500 periodicals in the field of marine and inland fisheries science, and an approach would be made to DHI who would hopefully cover a siiar number of periodicals. The Current Bibliography would be produced under a joint Editorial Board and would possibly be published by BF. Flexowriters would be used for decentralised data recording, with information in a common bibliographic style being held on paper or magnetic tape, the ultimate aim being to achieve electronic type-setting fi-om tape, and for FA0 to store and disseminate information from the tapes. At this stagethere was no agreement that the records would include abstracts. FAO’s contribution to IDW would be to cover the literature and also to supply references with abstracts on fish food sciences for IFIS.

In May 1969 FAO’s concept of involving additional national partners in a cooperative effort was furthered through an exchange of correspondence between Allen Varley of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (MBA), Plymouth, and Sidney Holt, who was now the FA0 Marine Science and Fishery Coordinator with UNESCO in Paris. The letters discuss the problems of Current Bibliography, particularly the delays in its publication, and stress the need for a timely, comprehensiveinformation service to be made available without duplication of effort. It was agreed that MBA would immediately begin to supply FA0 with monthly sets of current references on marine pollution. Sidney Holt, referring to the new Aquatic Biology Abstracts published by IRL, London, hoped to “be able to bring the undoubted competence and experience of Information Retrieval Ltd. into our joint efforts”.

Aquatic Biology Abstracts, which commenced publication in January 1969, was one of a group of inexpensive


journals in the life sciences published by IRL. Other titles included Calcijed TissueAbstracts, Entomology Abstracts, Genetics Abstracts, Microbiology Abstracts, and Virology Abstracts.

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