Current Awareness Services
Current Awareness Services are those services whose primary objective is to keep information users abreast of developments and advances taking place in their fields of specialisation or in areas of research in which they are engaged.
Current Awareness Services play a vital role in the dissemination of information. It is rather difficult to ascertain the first use of the term "current awareness". Suffice is to say that 'current awareness' is derived from the need to keep up-to-date with the progress within a subject field. In specialised professional fields, informal methods are used by researchers for 'current awareness'. Personal contacts, letters, and preprints of papers are used to keep each other aware of significant progress and accomplishments. This method is limited to a few and is not meant to generate comprehensive review of all activities in any subject area. This situation has led to the emergence of what is commonly referred to as 'Current Awareness Service' (CAS).
Definition of CAS
Strauss, et al define "current awareness as the establishment of a system for reviewing publications immediately upon receipt, selecting information pertinent to the program, of the organisation served, and recording individual items to be brought to the attention of those persons to whose work they are related. It involves a combination of processes including the selection of pertinent information from periodicals, books, pamphlets, patents, reports, in fact, anything of serious content that is received." CAS has also been defined as a "Science Information System continually calling the scientist's attention to the newly developed material on topics falling into his long term field of interest, which remains unchanged until further notice".
CAS appears in various forms such as title announcement, contents list, indexing and abstracting services, digests, etc. The 'Information Bulletin' is one of the popular forms of CAS adopted by many libraries and information centres.
The scale of operation of CAS may vary both in terms of number of users served and the volume of literature handled by the service. At one extreme, large services such as BIOSIS, INSPEC, COMPENDEX, etc., are offering services to an international community of users, across a broad discipline, while at the other end, small information units may be serving small groups of users in a relatively narrow and well-defined areas of specific disciplines. The table given below illustrates some of the Current Awareness Services available from Chemical Abstracts Service of American Chemical Society.
Current Awareness and Selective Dissemination are methods by which Information on new material o potential interest to users can be conveyed to those users. This material can range from the bibliographic (new titles added, recent articles, etc.) to the factual (news items noted, forth coming conferences, new product literature). The essence of the service is to keep users up-to-date. SDI may be differentiated, however, in that it is usually supplied to an individual. Whereas current awareness services are aimed at the wider group of users. The distinction is not hard and fast one. For SDI to be selective, it has to be matched against the known subject interests of the individual, that is to say a subject profile, so that the user receives' only that information which is relevant to his research activity. The SDI concept has been propounded by H.P. Luhn.