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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Winter 1998

Book Reviews

Keeping Abreast of Science and Technology: Technical Intelligence for Business.

David Colborne
Head, NRC Information Centre - Winnipeg
Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information
david.colborne@nrc.ca

Keeping Abreast of Science and Technology: Technical Intelligence for Business. W. Bradford Ashton and Richard A. Klavans (editors). Columbus OH: Batelle Press, 1997. 560 p. $44.95 (ISBN 1-57477-018-7)
Competitive technical intelligence (CTI) is "the practice of collecting, analyzing, and communicating the best available information on scientific and technical developments and trends occurring outside one's own company [or organization]". The obvious overlap between this discipline and scientific librarianship, as well as the ever converging missions of private sector and academic scientific research, make this topic of special relevance to S & T librarians. The book's purpose is to remedy the "diffuse and fragmented" nature of the literature on CTI, an area which the editors state is enjoying increasing interest from professionals in many fields.

The book is composed of five parts which cover basic CTI concepts, management of CTI within organizations, CTI production, CTI applications, and contemporary issues in competitive technical intelligence. These are in turn divided up into a total of 17 chapters. There is also an appendix of database vendors, databases, bulletin boards, technology transfer organizations and newsletters, books and directories, and associations. There is a short subject index. Unfortunately a multi authored text is probably not the best way to rectify the problem of a fragmented literature. The chapters reflect their authors' specialties rather than forming the integrated whole that the book's structure would suggest. One of the editors, W. Bradford Ashton, is a contributor to the introduction and the final chapter. These are the highlights of the book, being concise, focused, logical, and best reflecting his editorial intentions. They are also well referenced with current citations from the CTI literature. The book that could truly consolidate the information on this field is the book that Ashton could write himself. There are other chapters that stand out - most notably those on patent analysis, the rationale for CTI, the range of services that CTI can provide, and one chapter which consists of an extended case study on the use of CTI to characterize the field of superconductivity. There are other esoteric chapters on scientometrics and related topics, and four heavily overlapping chapters on setting up CTI services.

Is there anything of interest specifically for librarians in this book? The task of gathering information is dealt with on too rudimentary a level to be of much use. The task of analyzing information is covered too vaguely to offer librarians ideas for enhancing their own services. What IS relevant however, is the model that the concept of competitive technical intelligence presents for using cooperative, multidisciplinary teams to enhance the value of the information that librarians provide. Ashton states that "CTI activities depend heavily on a firm's library or information center resources and systems." Herein lies the value of Keeping abreast of science and technology: it provides an introduction to ways that organizations can make more strategic use of S & T information. Librarians could well be the catalysts for such organizational change and that is why this book warrants our selective perusal.
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