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Now these things have to be updated constantly. It is important.
Mr. DADDARIO. You refer to the Russian data book, Dr. Hornig. Do the Russians do a better job keeping the data current, considering the cost and the difficulties involved in compiling the data?
Dr. HORNIG. I am not acquainted in great detail with their effort, but my impression is “No.” I am not specifically aware, but through their large information dissemination system which you know aboutI know they have a very considerable effort. But I am afraid I have not investigated the exact relationships of their standard data program to our own.
I should mention that besides these examples of what you might call primary data compilations every scientist and engineer has on his bookshelf various secondary compilations, such as handbooks. For instance, I have a thing called the “Handbook of Chemistry and Physics.” Now the publishers of this book don't go back to the primary sources, and do critical evaluations. They use these primary sources to put together these secondary data compilations which contain extracted data and which is presumed to be useful to a particular class of scientist or engineer. This is because if you try to get the whole data collection together you have many volumes, even when it is compiled.
Now you might ask the question: "With all the indicated effort, both within and outside of the Government, why do we need a Standard Reference Data Program under the management of the National Bureau of Standards?"
The primary reason is that no one group has undertaken to assess the total standard reference data needs of the national research and development community and to insure that these needs are being met. In many areas of science and technology, there is an adequate effort, and there is considerable suspicion that there is some duplicative effort, especially in the private sector.
In other areas of science and technology, we know that the compilation of standard reference data is woefully inadequate, and yet no group feels a responsibility or obligation to remedy this lack.
The second important reason is that the methods of making such information readily available have been overtaken by the advance of technology itself. Three factors have caused serious difficulties: the increased complexity of the field of science and technology; the increased volume of scientific and technological information generated; the increase in volume and complexity of the use patterns of such data. I should add one other factor, that is, just the need to update constantly whatever has been done. Yet these same factors result in an intensified need for such data.
We are dealing, then, not with a brand new subject or activity, but rather with an aggravated situation of fragmented, dispersed effort and antiquation of methods. The task is to organize disparate efforts and apply modern techniques to an existing activity which is not being done well. Two questions naturally arise: How should it be done, or by whom, and at what level?
The preparation of standard reference data is no simple job. An exhaustive search of the published literature must be made, and where the evaluators know of unpublished information they must endeavor to obtain it also. The various numbers for a given measurement must be weighed against each other, and a judgment rendered as to the probable best number and the probable accuracy of that value. This effort calls for scientific and engineering competence of the highest degree. Yet, because this type of effort only rarely leads to the discovery of new knowledge, there is a shortage of able scientists and engineers working in this field.
The problems of making standard reference data readily available have been accentuated by the increased complexity of science and technology itself. For example, the cost of making a measurement of the effective cross-section of a nucleus is in the order of $100,000. Yet this information is essential for the efficient design of nuclear power reactors.
Measurements of nuclear cross-sections are being made in atomic energy installations around the world. The volume of information is steadily increasing, and is being published in more different languages.
Another complicating factor is the more diverse and more frequent use of standard reference data. The multidisciplinary teams working on many of our research and development projects today call for standard reference data from the most unexpected sources.
Yet we have learned that this interdisciplinary approach is an exceedingly fruitful one.
This kind of a situation cries out for a closely coordinated program of governmental and private data collection, evaluation, compilation and dissemination efforts. This is what is being proposed as the Standard Reference Data System.
Because it was a matter which jointly concerned all of the Federal agencies involved in scientific and technical advance, the Federal Council for Science and Technology, as the subcommittee chairman noted, recommended in 1963 that the National Bureau of Standards be given the responsibility for a Government-wide program to develop critically evaluated or standard reference data in the physical sciences and technology and to insure its ready access for the benefit of the entire scientific and technical community in the United States.
This program was named the Standard Reference Data System, and was to be the primary means by which the Nation's scientists and engineers obtained the critically evaluated data which undergird modern science, technology, industry, and commerce. To meet the needs, new activities are required of the Department of Commerce and these are provided for in the Standard Reference Data Act.
The level of activity should be one which will result in a viable program; that is, one where the solutions or rate of improvement at least exceed the rate of growth of the problem or activity. The projections that the National Bureau of Standards has made, which you will hear about from them, to attain a fully operational level are consonant with my own experience in dealing with this kind of data and my feelings as to a viable level of effort.
It would take time to build to such a level due to organizing and staffing requirements and the limited number and availability of qualified people. The cost of such a program would be small compared to the research and development effort itself. In my judgment, it is still premature to decide that the Federal Government will operate at
least all of the information distribution part of the standard reference data system in all its aspects and forms. Perhaps the private publishing industry would be willing to undertake a large share of the information dissemination responsibility. Professional scientific and engineering societies may also wish to participate.
Mr. DADDARIO. Dr. Hornig, this question will come up from time to time and there will be different judgments. So we might as well ask you: You refer to the cost of such a program and the return as a result of it. Do you have any estimate as to this cost, and what its value would be in the final analysis?
Dr. HORNIG. Well, I think
Mr. DADDARIO. The reason I ask is that we have heard a very small figure as to the cost and tremendous figures as to what the return will be. So it would be helpful to us if we can get some judgment from
you on it.
Dr. HORNIG. I think you will have to get this in detail from Dr. Hollomon and Dr. Astin, but at the moment we are spending on the order of a couple of million dollars a year in this area. Since we are talking about the improvement in the national research and development effort which in the public and private sectors together is in excess of $20 billion, I would think that a program of the order of $10 to $20 million at equilibrium would be a reasonable one, but this has to be based on detailed plans, so this is just to indicate a general order of magnitude.
The estimate of the return is a very, very hard one. What I know from personal experience, though, is that you simply can't carry on a research program without this data available and, therefore, our $20 billion program can't proceed efficiently without this other effort. I believe the estimates that have been made were ranging from 10 to 1, to 100 to 1 and more, for the return per dollar invested. The reason it is so hard to estimate return, of course, is knowing "what would have been” is a problem. If I have the wrong number and I design a bad machine, this costs us money. But since I never have the machine I would have designed to compare with the machine I do design, this gets to be a judgment problem—there is a bit of guessing involved. But I think that the judgment that the returns are very great, since one is talking about an investment number which is a fraction of 1 percent of the total R. & D. effort, is certain to be true.
Mr. DADDARIO. You refer to the staffing requirement and the limited number of qualified people available. Do you believe that if this program is emphasized it will attract such people, or will they need to be trained and recruited specifically for this purpose?
Dr. Hornig. Well, in general, the people who do this job will have to be practicing scientists at the same time. I don't think you can simply train a class of person to look at other people's numbers and work over their probable reliability and accuracy unless he is actively working himself in these fields.
I believe that the people are available within the scientific and technical community, but I think that it will take time to get the people and assemble them—they will have to be taken from, as I said, the practicing scientific field, and it will take time to get them acquainted with the special jobs of critically evaluating and compiling the data. Mr. DADDARIO. We are not talking about new people, but about an extension of the use of their knowledge in a more efficient way!
Dr. HORNIG. I am talking about new people in the Bureau of Standards. I mean they will have to add to their staff. But it is not a new class of persons.
Mr. Vivian. Will the chairman yield?
Mr. VIVIAN. Dr. Hornig, it seems to me that adding additional people to the Bureau of Standards to do this work might be one of the staler ways of doing the job. A much better approach would be to add a limited number of personnel to the Bureau of Standards, and carry on most of the specialized research in other institutions, whether it be nonprofit institutions, such as Battelle, or a university such as Cal Tech, which has done excellent work. In this way, the quality of the work is likely to be better because you change the people as the scope of the job begins to be completed.
Dr. HORNIG. I think there is no question that you are right. As I said, this work has to be done by practicing scientists and engineers, and the present pattern in the Bureau of Standards is to do it by contract in universities and in the nonprofit organizations to get data when it is available and it has been generated in industry, and I think every one of these sources should be used to the maximum practicable extent.
Mr. VIVIAN. So we would not interpret this $20 million as all being spent internally in the Bureau of Standards?
Dr. HORNIG. I don't think it should be internal in NBS. The NBS has, of course, a key role in the United States in that it has been historically the center for very accurate determinations, so it has a tradition in this area which is very important in bringing together all the various elements you mentioned.
Mr. DADDARIO. Will you proceed, please?
Dr. Hornig. Now, I understand you will be hearing from Drs. Hollomon and Astin later, on the more detailed aspects of the plans and progress of the program at the National Bureau of Standards, so I would like to spend a few minutes on more related general problems.
The problem of standard reference data is part of the general question of the network of information systems in the whole of science and technology. The overall information problem has been a subject of considerable importance in the Office of Science and Technology for several years. It has resulted from the three factors mentioned above; namely, the increasing quantities of information generated out of the increased research and development efforts, the growing numbers of scientists and engineers, and the increasingly complex use of information for purposes far beyond those in the mind of the original investigator. Added to these should be the factor of mounting costs of information generation and processing.
The assurance of continued progress is dependent upon our ability to keep informed of past progress in terms of both successful and unsuccessful results and the ability to transfer results from one area of effort to other areas of effort. So we build information systems. National information systems constitutes not a new activity so much as an effort to get better organized and do a more effective job of information transfer in both the public and private sectors.
There has been considerable progress within the last year or two toward resolving these questions. A special task force of the Committee on Scientific and Technical Information of the Federal Council for Science and Technology last fall issued a report entitled “Recommendations for National Document Handling Systems in Science and Technology.
The essential recommendation of the report was that the Federal Government should make explicit its responsibility to insure that the significant worldwide scientific and technical literature is made readily accessible to all qualified individuals in the United States. All of this information may, in fact, already be here. If it is, however, we do not know it, nor can people find it if we do not know where it is. COSATT therefore recommended, also, that the Office of Science and Technology undertake the exploratory development of several national information systems in science and technology.
Recent planning in my office indicates that national systems will be constructed along a variety of lines, that is, some systems will be subject oriented, some process oriented, some mission oriented, and some by a combination of these and other dimensions. The Standard Reference Data System should be considered part of the total national network of scientific and technical information systems.
Four characteristics of national information systems, as we anticipate they may develop, are exemplified in the Standard Reference Data System. First, there is the need for minimizing the duplication of human effort both in the generation of data from research and development and in the handling of information resulting from this effort.
This principle of minimizing duplicate information derivation and processing, or conversely, capitalizing on human processing of information once performed, is a guiding one in our design of all the national scientific and technical information systems.
Second, national information systems will require the establishment of certain standards for quality and form. This will be vital to the Standard Reference Data System, which emphasizes data reliability.
Third, it is not expected that the Federal departments and agencies would operate the national information systems, although in some cases they might. The SRDS enlists the cooperation of all sectors of our scientific and technical community in the planning, support and operation of the system. I consider it to be very important to encourage and support the information-handling activities in the private sector.
I also consider it important to encourage the coordination of these efforts with governmental efforts in order to develop a more efficient and effective rational network of information systems in science and technology. Fourth, the fixing of responsibility for the system in one Federal department focuses attention and effort on a specific set of objectives and activities.
This latter feature calls attention to an important aspect of national systems. The development and utilization of information and the nature of effective information systems which results, is no respecter of organizational demarcation lines drawn for good' and sufficient but different purposes.