By HENRY OWINO (Senior Correspondent)

Public awareness of developments in scientific research is crucial for building a more informed global society, and the IAEA is providing access to a trove of research on the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the world’s centre for cooperation in the nuclear field, promoting the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technology. It is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.

The IAEA was established as an autonomous organization on 29 July 1957. Though established independently of the United Nations through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute, report to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council. The IAEA has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.

The IAEA’s International Nuclear Information System (INIS) is one of the world’s largest repositories of published research on the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, with more than 4.2 million bibliographic records and access to more than 1.6 million full-text documents. Each year, more than 1 million unique users perform around 2 million searches and download 3 million pages.

In line with the theme of this year’s World Science Day for Peace and Development dubbed: “Open Science, leaving no one behind,” marked on 10 November, INIS plays a vital role in providing open access to information and research.

“The IAEA has been an advocate of open access to knowledge since the inception of INIS in 1970,” said Dobrica Savic, Head of the Nuclear Information Section. All the documents, presentations and records are free of charge and accessible to anyone via the Internet.

Open science is defined by UNESCO as making scientific research and data accessible to all. It includes publishing open scientific research, promoting open access and making open source software available. Libraries and repositories are key for open science as many play an active role in the preservation, curation, publication and dissemination of digital scientific materials, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The INIS repository includes research on a wide range of nuclear-related topics, from environmental science and energy storage to radiology and many more. It’s made possible through an ongoing collaborative effort between the IAEA and experts from 132 countries and 24 international organizations. Member States submit peer-reviewed research from their country/organization to INIS, and approximately 120 000 bibliographic records and 13 000 full-text PDF documents are added each year.

To be sure, most publications are not for the lay reader. A quick glance turns up titles such as “Method and apparatus for the nondestructive assay of bulk nuclear fuel using 1 keV to Mev range neutrons” or “Regional comparison of nuclear and fossil electric power generation costs”. Many were once only available in hard copy but are now online after a massive effort to convert millions of microfiche pages to fully searchable electronic files.  

Improving INIS inputs

To continually improve the quantity and quality of submissions to the INIS repository, the IAEA periodically offers trainings and e-learning courses to specialists, librarians and scientific officers involved in knowledge management.

Last month (October), experts gathered in Vienna to discuss different aspects of INIS operations, such as selection criteria and descriptive cataloguing, and improve their skills for the preparation of high-quality input and use of the repository. The participants, more than half of them women, came from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.  

“INIS creates the possibility to pursue open science on a global level,” said Eva Sommer, a participant from the Austrian Central Library for Physics. “Our library is also engaged with the Open Science Network Austria, because we see open science as a key issue for the research of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. We are proud to contribute to open science by contributing to INIS.”  

Full-text documents available in the INIS repository represent almost entirely nuclear-related non-conventional literature. Non-conventional literature includes any literature which is not normally available through commercial distribution channels and which is generally difficult to locate. The depth and breadth of the INIS repository and the large number of daily users demonstrate how a well-planned and implemented international cooperation project can make a significant contribution to open science.

INIS also maintains a multilingual thesaurus in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish which provides translations of numerous technical terms to enhance the repository’s ease of use.  

“We believe that all countries can benefit from this international initiative to process, store and make available nuclear information,” said Savic. “Not only does this empower the current generation of researchers and students, it also serves to preserve knowledge for generations to come.”

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