Information work, as practised by intermediaries such as librarians and information specialists, among others, is a communication function within a social context, the facilitation of a social act which, in information jargon, is sometimes misleadingly described as information flow. Out of, and around, the complex of social issues associated with ‘information transfer’ or ‘flow’ there has developed a cluster of research and investigative activities, fundamental and applied, which have come to be labelled, loosely, it must be admitted, information science. Although no agreed definition of the scope of this science has emerged most contributors to the debate accept the social significance of information concepts and phenomena and, hence, that information science is a social discipline. Strangely, this level of agreement is not reflected in the many proposals intent upon shaping a separate, distinguishable, identity for information science. There appears to be a reluctance to accept the intellectual consequences of the obvious. This reluctance manifests itself in a number of forms. Three of these are important enough for the future development of information science to deserve extended analysis. They are (a) prescriptive restrictions of the areas of investigation thought proper to information science (b) the adoption of limited, theoretically refined, definitions of information as a basis for information science and (c) the insistence that the scientificity of information science may be protected only by divorcing its study from the practical concerns of information work. The state of affairs represented by these modes of thinking probably owes much to the origin of information science in science, science information and telecommunications and the strong, directional, influence which these beginnings continue to exert upon a developing area of study still searching for an individual identity.
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