Science Abstracts in World War II

World War II created similar problems to those during the first World War; namely acute shortage of paper and difficulty in obtaining foreign periodicals.

The situation was eased by a number of organisations who lent their help in obtaining and ensuring maximum use of foreign material. Among these organisations were ASLIB, the National Physical Laboratory and the British Society of International Bibliography. However, the situation in obtaining primary material remained difficult and throughout the war much of the abstracting was done from copies of journals held by the Science Museum and Patent Office Libraries.

In 1941, in an effort to fall into line with the policy of ensuring maximum use of foreign material entering Britain, the IEE introduced a loan service of original articles for subscribers. The scheme, which was discontinued in 1949, was not a success mainly because much of the material then abstracted was taken from material not actually held by the IEE.

In spite of all the difficulties encountered, the wartime was an important period in the development of Science Abstracts. In January 1941, the typo-graphical layout was changed, partly to reduce the number of pages and partly to fall into line with recommendations of the Royal Society. A two column format was adopted with closer margins and Times Roman type chosen for its legibility.

As a result, 10 to 12 abstracts were now possible per page compared with only 4 in 1940. In 1941, efforts were also made to standardise periodical abbreviations using the World List of Scientific Periodicals 'as modified and used by the Royal Society'. In the following year the title page was also changed so that the words 'Physics Abstracts' and 'Electrical Engineering Abstracts' were given more prominence over the Science Abstracts title.

1942 also marked the year when the UDC classification scheme was adopted for Science Abstracts. Recommendations to use some form of classification had been first proposed as early as 1924, but it was not until 1936 as a result of a letter from Dr. S C Bradford of the Science Museum, that the Management Committee gave serious consideration to the idea. 

Dr. Bradford's letter suggested no basic change in the order of Science Abstracts but merely that UDC numbers should be assigned to help the Science Museum Library and other libraries with their card indexes. That year representatives of Science Abstracts, The British Standards Institution, The Science Museum, The National Physical Laboratory and others began working on modernising the relevant UDC schedules. 

This work was nearing completion when the decision to adopt UDC headings was taken. The new rearrangement of Science Abstracts using UDC caused much controversy among the Management Committee members and as a result the Physics Panel were asked to look into the whole application of the system. Their main recommendation was that a panel of 6 to 12 section leaders should be formed from the abstractors who could become experts in the use of UDC and act as classifiers for a fee of between 5 and 10 guineas per year. This was implemented in February 1943.

It is interesting to note that in 1944 the production of Science Abstracts had grown to 8,500 copies (6,250 for Section A and 2,250 for Section B). In that year, the Finance Committee recommended a preferential rate (half price) for members of 'kindred societies' which helped to bring about financial stability and security for the coming years.

Continue with the history of Science Abstracts.