European Research Centres Longman, Harlow, 6th ed., 1986. 2 vols., 2,453 pp. £240. (Distributed in North America by Gale Research Company, Detroit, MI. $430.)
Medical Research Centres Longman, Harlow, 7th ed., 1986. 2 vols., 1,080 pp. £230. (Distributed in North America by Gale Research Company, Detroit, MI. $395.)
Time was when anyone trying to trace scientific organizations in countries such as Belgium, Italy or Yugoslavia had to cope with a series of national guides that were incomplete and always seemed to be seriously out of date. Even during recent times (I note from my obsessional habit of poring over other peoples' bookshelves) some of these highly unsatisfactory tomes remain "in use." There really is no excuse anymore for being so poorly informed. Longman's European directory is quite superb, and indeed an essential tool for anyone wanting to keep abreast of the fabric of the Continent's science, technology, agriculture and medicine. Lacking only the Soviet Union (but with other Eastern bloc countries comprehensively covered), the two volumes cover territory ranging from Malta with its lone university, and Albania and Liechtenstein with two centers apiece, to France, West Germany and the United Kingdom, whose institutions occupy over 300 pages each. The principal criterion for inclusion is an annual R&D expenditure set as low as £50,000. In updating a previous version of the directory, the editors have scavenged some 20,000 laboratories and other centers. The vast majority of these have provided not only information about their staff, organization and publications (and of course details such as telephone and telex numbers) but also write-ups covering their fields of interest. Gaps (such as Amstrad's perfunctory sell-description as "an industrial company") are rare. And while many of the synopses of current research activities are surprisingly detailed, a significant number of departments within large organizations have unhelpfully failed to explain themselves. The listings include a host of bodies (the British Medical Association, for example) which one would not expect to find in a reference book with this title, and the subject index is a valuable innovation for tracking down the unknown. The International Astronomical Union and other global organizations appear under the countries in which they are headquartered.
Equally useful for scientists, administrators, conference organizers and other fraternities is the two-volume world directory of medical organizations and programs. Covering not only research centres but also bodies that finance biomedical science, the guide embraces about 9,000 laboratories, industrial and pharmaceutical firms, medical schools and academic departments, providing in each case key facts about personnel, annual expenditures and summaries of current interests. The Soviet Union does appear, though perplexingly its listing is restricted to four organizations—less even than appear under Portugal or Korea. Stylistically uniform with European Research Centres (and with Longman's reference works covering agricultural, electronics, engineering and other R&D institutions), the world directory is impressively up to date. Indeed, the only inaccuracies I have noted in either work are those resulting from very recent economies in research funding. Let us hope that this failing does not continue to hamper future editions of these invaluable compilations.