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Introduction to Volume 40

Blaise Cronin

ARIST is forty, a suitable moment to pause and reflect. Volume 1 appeared in 1966 and was published by John Wiley & Sons in conjunction with the American Documentation Institute (ADI), the forerunner of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIST). The inaugural volume contained 389 pages and cost $12.50. Its founding editor, Carlos A. Cuadra, was a System Development Corporation (SDC) employee and graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. The idea for a series of comprehensive reviews in information science and technology came to him in the early 1960s and found enthusiastic support from ADI notables such as Pauline Atherton Cochrane, Charles Bourne, Robert Hayes, and Donald Swanson

Cuadra launched ARIST with the financial support of both SDC and the National Science Foundation (NSF) but not without misgivings within the ranks of the ADI itself (see Bjørner, 2003 for some historical background). The NSF, however, had no doubts: in her foreword to Volume 1, Helen Brownson details the organization's commitment to both the editor and the idea of an annual review for the nascent field of information science and technology. Their early optimism was not misplaced. Forty volumes, several publishers, and three editors later, ARIST sails on, fulfilling its original remit and continuing to attract plaudits. Since this is an anniversary volume, a little blowing of one's own trumpet may be permitted: According to the most recent ISI data I have seen, ARIST ranks first in terms of its impact factor when compared with more than 50 other serials in its subject group, including its stable mate, the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. Dr. Cuadra and his redoubtable successor, Professor Martha Williams, have much of which to be proud; reputations are not built overnight.

Cuadra's expansive introduction makes for interesting reading. Parts of it could have been written yesterday; indeed, his scene-setting remarks brought to mind the title of Bruno Latour's (1987) book, We Have Never Been Modern. There is, as Cuadra (1966, p. 1) notes, "very little agreement about the boundaries of Information Science and Technology, or about its parentage, its essential nature, or its future." This, after all, is a field which "draws on fragments and fringes of a number of sciences, technologies, disciplines, arts, and practices." Still, Cuadra (1966, p. 2) is a pragmatist at heart and rather than fret about definitions and essentialism, he focuses on what can be done to encourage "intercommunication in the field," specifically the role ARIST can play in creating an inter-discipline (although he doesn't use that term) and promoting what Gernot Wersig (1992, p. 214) later called "inter-conceptual work." Some of the chapter titles in the first volume (e.g., Automated Language Processing, Selected Hardware Developments, Content Analysis, Representation and Control, National Information Issues and Trends) could have been stripped out of the current ARIST, suggesting not only that Dr. Cuadra was a prescient and knowledgeable editor but also that some themes and topics are ever-present in the information science canon, even if, on occasion, the language of the first Review (e.g., Man-Machine Communication) signals that we are in pre-PC (political correctness) times.

Conversely, some of the chapters making up Volume 40 could have featured in Volume 1 (e.g., Information Seeking, Semantic Relationships, Information History). Even the chapter on social epistemology could, conceivably, have seen the light of day in 1966, as Jesse Shera (1961) had published on that very subject five years earlier. But some things do change, and Volume 40 addresses a number of topics that even the most farsighted founding editor could not have anticipated (e.g., The Geographies of the Internet, Open Access). Constancy and change: Such is ARIST.

One of the questions posed by Cuadra is why anyone would willingly undertake to write a comprehensive annual review chapter, given the enormous amount of work involved. This, as you may imagine, is a question often asked by the present editor, but, mirabile dictu, there are still enough individuals motivated by enlightened altruism to keep ARIST on course. Now, whether all of these selfless souls meet the requirements for the ideal author as specified by Cuadra is a question for you, the reader, to answer. Permit me to quote in full Cuadra's (1966, p. 8) five desiderata. "(1) he must have a strong grasp of the basic issues in his field and must be able to understand and express them in their historical perspective; (2) he must have an established habit of keeping informed by reading reports and published literature and by making effective use of his contacts in the 'invisible college'; (3) he must be able to write lucid, incisive prose and must be willing and able to make objective value judgments—in public—about the merit and implications of given lines of reported work, research, and experience; (4) he must have, in addition to this technical and literary talent, sufficient prestige in the field to invite the reader's respectful attention to his contribution; and (5) he must be willing to do an immense amount of sifting, reading, and evaluation on an extremely tight schedule."

I could not have put it better myself—this is a near perfect pen portrait of the ideal ARIST author. I hope that forty years on we still come respectably close to the benchmark set by Carlos Cuadra. Given the increasing pressure on authors to publish frequently and communicate widely in order to maintain their professional salience (Cronin, 2005), we are mightily grateful to those who commit the time and energy needed to craft a good ARIST chapter. At the risk of sounding like a fogey, there is something to be said for deliberative writing and deferred gratification. Paradoxically, in an economy of attention (Simon, 1971), less may well be more. Perhaps what academia needs is a Slow Writing movement akin to the Slow Food, Slow Cities movement (see http://www.slowfood.com).

References

Bjørner, S. (2003). Online before the Internet, Part 3. Early pioneers tell their stories: Carlos Cuadra. Retrieved March 1, 2005, from http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/oct03/CuadraWeb.shtml

Cronin, B. (2005). The hand of science: Academic writing and its rewards. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

Cuadra, C. A. (1966). Introduction to the ADI Annual Review. In: Cuadra, C. A. (Ed.), Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, 1, 114.

Latour, B. (1993). We have never been modern (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Shera, J. (1961). Social epistemology, general semantics and librarianship. Wilson Library Bulletin, 35, 767770.

Simon, H. (1971). Designing organizations for an information-rich world. In: M. Greenberger (Ed.), Computers, communications and the public interest (pp. 3772). Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wersig, G. (1992). Information science and theory: A weaver bird's perspective. In: P. Vakkari & B. Cronin (Eds.), Conceptions of library and information science: Historical, empirical and theoretical perspectives (pp. 201217). London: Taylor Graham.