September 2000


“Information explosion”

A note regarding “Depot for data” in the August issue of the ORNL Reporter: This article describes the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) as “the Lab’s most venerable data center, operating since 1982.” In fact, this honor probably belongs either to the Radiation Safety Information Computational Center, which was established in 1962 as the Radiation Shielding Information Center under the direction of Betty Maskewitz, or to the Controlled Fusion Atomic Data Center, which was informally established in 1958 by C. F. (Barney) Barnett and formally chartered in 1963 as the Atomic and Molecular Processes Information Center. Another candidate is the Nuclear Data Project, which was begun at ORNL in the mid-1940s by Katherine (Kay) Way, then moved to Washington, D.C., and returned to the Laboratory in 1964.

According to ORNL: The First 50 Years, the Laboratory’s role as a storehouse of scientific information can be traced to former Director Alvin Weinberg, who was on the President’s Science Advisory Committee from 1959 to 1961 and chaired a panel to address the “information explosion” of the time. The panel’s report, Science, Government, and Information: The Responsibilities of the Technical Community and the Government in the Transfer of Information (informally known as the Weinberg report), provided the impetus for the formation of a number of scientific information centers, including roughly a dozen at ORNL.

Another former ORNL director, Alvin Trivelpiece, sometimes referred to the Laboratory as “a knowledge factory.” CDIAC and the other data centers at ORNL are carrying on a proud tradition of delivering the products of this knowledge factory to the world.

Bonnie Nestor, manager
Institutional Planning

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