UNISIST model of information dissemination

The original UNISIST model of scientific communication was proposed in 1971 in a report UNISIST (1971). It is a model of the social system of communication, which consists of knowledge producers, intermediaries and users. These groups of people (or actors) are different kinds of professionals. The social system also contains institutes such as research institutes, publishers and libraries. The actors and institutions perform information services such as writing, publishing, storing and retrieving documents and information. The actors are communicating in both formal and informal ways and they are producing different kinds of documents such as journal articles, books, book reviews, proceedings, bibliographies and catalogues, dictionaries, handbooks, encyclopedias and review articles.


Fig. 1 shows the original model (1971, p. 26).





The UNISIST model also implies a time-model of dissemination of information. Empirical data were given by Garvey & Griffith (1972), who designed the following figure:



(This time-model is in obvious need to be updated, but no newer model has so far been published)


The original UNISIST model has been updated by Fjordback Søndergaard; Andersen & Hjørland (2003). The two most important reasons for the updated version have been 1) to emphasize differences between different domains and 2) to reflect the changes in scientific and scholarly communication caused by the Internet.


The revised UNISIST model includes the figure shown below (Fjordback Søndergaard; Andersen & Hjørland, 2003, p. 303):






The UNISIST model has been valuable as a basis for providing a typology of scientific and scholarly documents.







Björk, B-C. (2007). A model of scientific communication as a global distributed information system. Information Research, 12(2) paper 307. Available at http://InformationR.net/ir/12-2/paper307.html


Garvey, W. D. & Griffith, B.C. (1972). Communication and information processing within
scientific disciplines: empirical findings for psychology. Information Storage and
Retrieval, 8
, 123-136.


Fjordback Søndergaard, T.; Andersen, J. & Hjørland, B. (2003). Documents and the communication of scientific and scholarly information. Revising and updating the UNISIST model. Journal of Documentation, 59(3), s. 278-320. http://www.db.dk/bh/UNISIST.pdf


Hjørland, B.; Fjordback Søndergaard, T. & Andersen, J. (2005). UNISIST Model and Knowledge Domains. In: Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. New York: Marcel Dekker. Pp. 1-14. Online:
http://www.dekker.com/servlet/product/DOI/101081EELIS120024989 (Only available for subscribers).


Radford, N. A. (1971). [Book review of] UNISIST: Synopsis of the Feasibility Study on
a World Science Information System by the United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organization and the International Council of Scientific Unions.
Paris, UNESCO. Bull. Med. Libr. Assoc. 59(4), 643-644. Available at: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?artid=197669&blobtype=pdf


UNISIST (1971), Study Report on the feasibility of a World Science Information System, By the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Council of Scientific Unions. Paris, UNESCO.



See also: Model (Epistemological lifeboat); Scientific communication.





Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 31-08-2007