Information Functions of an International Meeting

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Science  31 Mar 1967:
Vol. 155, Issue 3770, pp. 1648-1650
DOI: 10.1126/science.155.3770.1648


In spite of a number of difficulties and shortcomings, this international meeting was relatively effective for this group of respondents. They benefitted from the informal interaction of participants, from information that pertained to current and planned work, and from the prospects of continued exchange with colleagues in other countries. That the meeting could have been even more valuable was also the consensus. Additional data on another such meeting reinforce these findings and suggest that the results obtained are probably not peculiar to one social science or to this specific meeting. Reports of a small group of sociologists, who received grants from the National Institute of Mental Health to attend the Sixth World Congress of Sociology at Evian in September 1966, showed marked concurrence with those of the psychologists who attended the Moscow congress. For both groups there was the same preponderence of United States and Russian presentations on the program, informal interaction was more productive of useful information than were formally scheduled events, and the main type of information obtained was a broader knowledge of research activity and effort in various countries. The sociologists emphasized even more than did the psychologists the importance of acquiring new points of view and perspectives. More than half the sociologists planned to use information obtained in their current or future work, and a fourth planned international collaborative research efforts; in both these respects they surpassed the percentages found in the data on the psychologists. Finally, all the criticisms voiced by Moscow respondents appeared also among the Evian group, though not in sufficient numbers to constitute a trend. These data suggest that international meetings can and do fill certain information needs in spite of organizational difficulties and the problems attendant upon any large gathering in an environment unfamiliar to most of those who participate.

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