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Information Market Observatory (IMO)


Luxembourg February 1993
IMO Working Paper 93/1 final

Table of Contents


1. Division by Region and Target Group
2. Division by Type of institution and Target Group
3. Division by Region and Type of institution (Chemists and Information specialists)
4. Division by Function and Target Group

Table 1. Size of budgets of Chemical Information Departments 1992 (% of the total number
Table 2. Division of budgets (% of the total budget for information acquisition) 1992
Table 3. Holdings of CD-ROM Drives and Databases on CD-ROMS in Information Departments (%) 1992
Table 4. Comparison of the importance of future information needs (%) response
Table 5. Division of budgets 1992 (% of the total budget for information acquisition)
Table 6. Size of budgets of Chemical Information Departments 1992 (% of the total number)
Table 7. Comparison of Hosts and Databases by usage of password holder % response 1992 - Chemists
Table 8. Comparison of Hosts and Databases by % response 1992 - Information Specialists


This IMO Working Paper provides details of a survey co-financed by the European Commission during the course of 1992. The survey examines the need, availability, use and judgement of electronic information systems, as well as expectations concerning future developments, in the area of chemical information. Two separate questionnaires were developed and sent to nearly 21,000 chemists and information specialists in Europe, North America (USA/Canada) and Japan. The analysis presented in this paper is based on returns from 1104 chemists and 206 information specialists. Information specialists are defined as those employees in research positions, and chemists, who describe themselves as information scientists in chemical research. Similarly, many chemists who carry out searches for colleagues function also as information specialists. Details of the panel structure are contained in the Annex.
Because of the inherent problems of this kind of research work it should be noted that the results presented may not be exactly in line with what may be the reality of the information behaviour in the chemical industry. However, the findings do give a good indication of the proportions and trends about the information user behaviour in the chemical industry.

The views expressed in this report are those of the IMO secretariat and do not engage the Commission of the European Communities

1. Introduction

By way of an industry sector perspective, some key facts concerning the European (defined as EEC + EFTA) chemical industry are as follows. In 1991, Europe accounted for 34% of world chemical production and was represented by some 10,000 companies. The sector employs 2.1 million people, or 8% of the total European working population. More significantly, the sector accounted for 20% of total industry research, equivalent to 17 BECU. Of the top 25 Chemical companies, 16 are located in Europe, 7 are in the US and 2 in Japan. Sales by region in 1991 were, Europe 64%, US 28% and Japan 8%.

Although this working paper focuses attention on a specific segment of the electronic information services market, it is nevertheless considered that the findings present an interesting insight into some general trends relating to the use of information in the Chemical industry sector, and may therefore form the basis for comparison with other industry sectors.

Given the level of detail, and the specific nature of the report, the results which are presented in this working paper, for the most part reflect the findings of both questionnaires, that is for the information specialist and chemists. However, since it has not always been possible to combine the results of the two questionnaires used in the survey (since to some extent they are different), selected results from the individual questionnaire are also given separately. The analysis presented in the paper is confined to the results at the European (EEC + EFTA) and North American level. This is because the results obtained from Japan and other non-EEC/EFTA countries, are not considered to be representative of those countries, and have therefore not been included in the analysis of this working paper.

Lastly, the following definition of terms used in the paper are given in order to offer further clarity:

2. General comparisons between Europe and North America

2.1. Budgetary aspects

Information departments in North America compared to Europe, are responsible for a much larger number of chemists, and consequently deal with a greater number of searches. It is also the case that in North America, there is a higher proportion of information departments which have annual budgets of more than 38,500 ECUS (see table 1).

Table 1. Size of budgets of Chemical Information Departments 1992 (% of the total number)

ECUS            EUROPE        NORTH AMERICA  ---------------------------------------------------    Under

7,700        42.9             42.9    7,700 -  19,250        17.0              8.2   19,250 -  38,500        

10.2              8.2   38,500 -  77,000         8.8             10.2   77,000 - 192,500         6.8             
12.2  192,500 - 385,000         2.7              4.1  385,000 - 770,000         1.4               

-     Over   770,000          -                -  

In North America, 26% of information departments have budgets of over 38,500 ECUS, compared with 20% of information departments in Europe. Despite the fact that Europe has recently experienced higher rises in budgetary expenditure than North America, it nevertheless still has a much lower level of on-line budgetary expenditure. The percentage of the total budget for information acquisition used for on-line searches is 29% in Europe and 41% in North America. The proportion of the budget for in-house systems is higher in Europe at 9% than in North America at 6%. Table 2 below gives details of how budgets are divided between printed information, on-line searches and in-house systems.

Table 2. Division of budgets (% of the total budget for information acquisition) 1992

EUROPE     NORTH  AMERICA  ----------------------------------------------------  Printed Information

62.0         53.0  On-line Searches             28.8         41.4  In-house Systems              9.0          5.6  

Although information department budgets have risen over the last two years in both Europe and North America, the rise was significantly higher in Europe. By comparison with 1990, around 37% of budgets are unchanged. 44% of budgets increased and 11% of these showed an increase of more than 20% in 1991, compared with 4% in 1990. Generally speaking, the largest budgets are found in industrial firms employing more than 1,000 employees. In 1992, 43% of information departments had a budget of less than 7,700 Ecus.

2.2. Information systems and databases

Compared to North America, a significantly larger proportion of firms in Europe have electronic in-house systems available. In terms of managing internal data banks, the use of other commercial non-relational database systems and non-commercial in-house developed systems is proportionately much higher in Europe with 47% of respondents, compared with 35% in North America. In Europe, patent information, physical properties and structural data play an important role in those databases developed in-house, whilst in North America this is not as important.

The number of respondents with CD-ROM drives and databases in Europe, is considerably higher than in North America (see Table 3). On the other hand, the proportion of chemists who have direct access to on-line external information systems is much higher in North America (75%), than in Europe (58%). It is also true that many more chemists in North America can search directly from their workplace than in Europe.

Table 3. Holdings of CD-ROM Drives and Databases on CD-ROMS in Information Departments (%) 1992.


--------------------------------------------------------------- 0 55.1 75.5 0 58.5 75.5 1 18.4 8.2 1 6.1 6.1 2 - 3 11.5 4.1 2 - 3 12.9 4.0 > 10 6.3 6.0 > 10 15.2 8.1

2.3. Aspects related to organisational size

In respect of firms (not university/research institutes), the provision of information materials increases with the size of the organisation. It appears that there is a certain "threshold value" reached when firms have more than 100 employees, thus:

2.4. Future Trends

Between the chemists and the information specialists, there is a fair amount of agreement about the areas in which there will be the most growth. If anything, chemists are foreseeing stronger increases across the complete spectrum of media, and subject categories, than their information specialist counterparts. However, both groups emphasise the importance of CD-ROM databases, and the use of on-line databases in general. A comparison of future information needs between Europe and North America, as well as between industry and university/research institutes are indicated in the Table 4 below.

Table 4. Comparison of the importance of future information needs (%) response.

 EUROPE     NORTH  AMERICA  -----------------------------------------------------------------  ------  
   Importance of data on CD-ROM
   76.8         57.2  Importance of electronic in-house databases     70.8         52.1                             

   Industry     Univ./Res.Inst.  -----------------------------------------------------------------  --------  Need for
   patent information
   66.0        42.7  Need for structure related information           45.5        64.0  Need for bibliographic information  
   48.4        65.2  Importance of electronic in-house databases      72.1        58.4  

3. General comparison between Industry and Universities

The use of information departments is more common in industry, where searches relating to patent information are also much higher. Not surprisingly, in the universities and research institutes, document and literature related searches are much more important.

Although the proportion of budgets which have remained at the same level is similar, the proportion of budgets which have increased for on-line searches is in fact much higher in industry. Of this expenditure, industry spends around 35% of its information budget on on-line searches and 13% on in-house databases. The corresponding figures for universities are 25% and 5% (see table 5 below).

Table 5. Division of budgets 1992 (% of the total budget for information acquisition).

  Universities     Industry  -------------------------------------------------  Printed Information         

    70.8             52.1  On-line Searches            24.7           35.1  In-house Systems             4.5           12.8
A comparison of budgets between universities and industry clearly shows how much more money information departments in industry have available to them, compared to their university equivalent (see Table 6).

Table 6. Size of budgets of Chemical Information Departments 1992 (% of the total number).

  ECUS            Universities     Industry  ---------------------------------------------------------------    Under
    7,700          58.4           28.9    7,700 -  19,250          15.7           14.4   19,250 -  38,500           6.7
    15.5   38,500 -  77,000           2.2           15.5   77,000 - 192,500           3.4           11.3  192,500 - 385,000
    1.1            4.1  385,000 - 770,000           2.1             -     Over   770,000            -              -  
69% of chemists who work in industry have internal electronic databases, whilst for universities, the figure is much lower at 44%. However, chemists in the universities and research institutes have more CD-ROM systems compared to industry. For its part, industry has a larger proportion of commercial databases on main-frame computers as well as in-house databases. Database management systems such as MACCS, REACCS/ORAC and ORACLE each have more than 25% of the industrial market, whereas they have for practical purposes, no importance in the universities.

4. Selected replies from Chemists

4.1. Information departments and requirements

In both Europe and North America, around two-thirds of respondents have an information department available to them. Within Europe, Italy had the lowest value for organisations with on-line information departments, whilst Benelux and Germany had the highest values.

With regard to staffing levels, in Europe 60% of all information departments are staffed by either 1 or 2 people, compared with only 31% of cases in North America. The highest staffing levels are found in the UK, Benelux and Italy (between 56-64% of information departments have more than 6 staff), with the lowest in France and Germany (60-70% of departments have less than 2 staff).

4.2. Electronic in-house databases

4.2.1. Availability

The availability of electronic in-house databases, is around 50% for all European institutions and 60% in North America. Availability is higher in industry at 60%, than in research institutes with 40%. Within selected research areas, over 90% of those institutes in the field of agricultural chemistry have an in-house electronic database. There is also a marked relationship according to the size of the firm, with 90% of firms employing more than 10,000 people having in-house databases.

4.2.2. Type of Databases used

Where commercial in-house electronic databases exist (that is systems which are acquired externally), North American firms house them on main-frame computers in around two-thirds of cases, whereas for European firms this figure is only 50%. Non-commercial in-house databases (that is systems which are developed internally) are more common in Europe (56%) than in North America (33%). The European breakdown shows that commercialised in-house databases are most often found in France (60%) and UK (54%). Germany has one of the lowest values at 36% for commercial databases, but the highest for non-commercial systems at 65%.

Commercial CD-ROM databases are available for nearly half of universities, compared with only 37% in industry. In terms of research areas, the pharmaceutical and agrochemical sectors have the highest level of ownership (80% of commercial databases), compared with around 65% in other specialist areas.

With regard to the media used, the UK has the highest percentage of main-frame users, while Germany and France have the lowest. Main-frame users are more frequently found within the universities (58%) and research institutes (42%). Interestingly, 63% of chemists who conduct in-house searches admit that main-frames are indispensable. For CD-ROMs, the equivalent value is 34%.

4.3. Databases and hosts

Of all the databases, CAS/Registry is the most popular, with 66% of European respondents holding a password, compared with North America 72%. Beilstein appears as the next most popular database. With regard to the hosts, STN is overall the most popular, followed by Dialog (although Data Star is second most popular in Europe). Details are given in Table 7 below.

Table 7. Comparison of Hosts and Databases by usage of password holder % response 1992 - Chemists.

Databases        EUROPE TOTAL       NORTH  AMERICA  --------------------------------------------------  CAS/Registry
  66.1             71.9  Beilstein              27.9             22.3  Derwent/WPI            10.0              7.7  Medline
  19.5             21.9  Biosis                 15.7             11.0  Other Database         35.8             20.0    Hosts
                                                      --------------------------------------------------  STN
  52.8             59.0  Dialog                 14.4             30.0  Maxwell/Orbit           6.8              
  4.2  Darc/Questel            9.5              2.6  Data Star              15.2              0.3  Other Hosts            
  18.7              8.7  
The proportion of respondents who carry out searches on external databases is quite low, with around 16% of chemists in both Europe and the USA indicating that in the last twelve months they never made a search themselves. However, when such searches are made, then they are regarded very highly in terms of usefulness.

5. Selected replies from Information Specialists

5.1. Information department and requirements

The information specialists confirmed the finding of the chemists, that in general, staffing levels of information departments with searchers is lower in Europe than in North America. Contrary to the finding from the chemists survey, the information specialists indicate that the proportion of unstaffed departments, that is those which are available for personal searching, is three times higher in North America (15.3%) than in Europe (5.4%). The chemists on the other hand indicated about 16% as the proportion for unstaffed departments in both Europe and North America.

5.2. On-line databases

Searches undertaken in Europe by information specialists fall into three basic categories; chemistry (74%), business (6%) and other (20%). CAS databases are the most often searched database across all regions and institution type. Notably in North America, Derwent/WPI is second placed, whereas in Europe Beilstein is next most popular. The distribution of searches among hosts, shows that the STN host is the most popular for all databases, with STN used in over 80% of respondents for CAS, and 92% in the case of Beilstein. Dialog, which takes second place overall, is first choice host for Derwent/WPI. The remainder of Derwent/WPI is split evenly between Maxwell/Orbit and Darc/Questel. Further details concerning the databases and hosts used by information specialists are given below in Table 8.

Table 8. Comparison of Hosts and Databases by % response 1992 - Information Specialists.

Databases       EUROPE TOTAL     NORTH  AMERICA  ------------------------------------------------------  CAS/Registry
  68.0            71.2  Beilstein                    8.7             5.6  Derwent/WPI                  6.4             
  8.0  Other Database              16.9            15.2    Hosts                        CAS         Beilstein       
  Derwent/WPI  -----------------------------------------------------------------  --  STN                         
  80.3            91.7             -  Dialog                       9.2             4.9           48.7 
  Maxwell/Orbit                0.2             1.2           26.4  Darc/Questel                 2.5              -
  24.9  Data Star                    4.0              -              -  Other Hosts                  3.8             n.a. - 
Analysing the distribution of these searches according to subject area, shows that the proportion of structure and compound related information is about 41% in Europe and 37% in North America. Searches for document/literature related information in Europe is about 43% and North America 45%. For patent related information there is also a similar level of consistency between Europe and North America (16%).

These results also show some differences from those replies received from the chemists. Thus, structure/compound related information is searched more often by chemists personally, while the search for patent information is more often with the information specialists. This applies equally to document/literature information.

5.3. Electronic in-house databases

5.3.1. Availability

Amongst the information specialists, there is within Europe, a fairly even split between the kind of electronic in-house databases that are available: commercial in-house databases on mainframe computers, commercial in-house CD-ROM systems, non-commercial/self developed systems. This also confirms the results obtained from the chemists. For comparison between industry and the universities, industry is much more inclined to have these databases on a mainframe system, and is also more strongly inclined to use self-developed systems.

5.3.2. Type of database used

According to the media type used, the area of information most often sought according to information specialists is as follows. Structural data, reactions and bibliographical information, appears as the most sought for commercial in-house databases located on a mainframe. Least sought are patent information and spectra. With commercial CD-ROM systems, bibliographic information is the most popular, followed by patent information. Non-commercial databases emphasise the use of bibliographic information, followed by structures and patent information.

The most important commercial in-house databases on mainframe computers in industry are those with structural data (36%), reaction (33%) and bibliographic information (28%). In the universities, bibliographic and reaction information dominate.

For CD-ROM systems in industry, patent and bibliographic information are most often quoted (16% each), which in the university sector, bibliographic information (26%), physiological/toxicological information (14%) and physical properties (12%) are the most important. Non-commercial databases are used most often for bibliographic information in both sectors.

5.3.3. Use of CD-ROM

More than 60% of information specialists indicate that they have no CD-ROM drive or databases on such drives. The proportion of organisations without CD-ROM drives and databases is higher in North America at 75%, compared to Europe which is around 55% of respondents. In addition, the proportion of institutions which have stocks of CD-ROM drives and databases is higher in Europe compared to North America. For example, the proportion of organisations with 2-3 CD-ROM drives in Europe according to the information specialists is 11.5% compared to 4.1% in North America. With regard to the number of databases, 12.9% of organisations in Europe have 2-3 such databases, compared to 4% in North America. At the more than 10 database level, the proportion of European organisations holding more than 10 such databases is 15.2%, compared to 8.1% in North America. These findings appear to indicate that the use of CD-ROM is more concentrated and more intense in Europe than in the US.


With 20% of total industry research in budgetary terms, the European chemical industry sector is clearly an information intensive one. It is also the case that by comparison with other industry sectors, for example, steel and automobiles, the European chemical sector has not as yet suffered badly in terms of economic recession. Whilst this statement may also hold true for North America, the survey does nevertheless highlight some differences in user behaviour between chemical information users in Europe and their American counterparts.

By comparison with North America, European information departments still suffer a relative amount of underfunding, even though there has been some narrowing of the funding gap over the last two years. One important difference is the greater propensity for Europeans to develop their own internal "non-commercial" information systems than in North America. This may be explained by the lower budget available to European researchers, which necessitates the development of lower cost ''in-house' systems (although it is not always the case that in-house systems are necessarily the cheapest), as well as for historical reasons and concern about data protection. It could also be the case that given a heterogeneous European market, commercialised information systems are not always as readily available as in the more homogeneous North American market.

Budgetary considerations may also explain the differences in CD-ROM usage. The fact that in North America there is greater access to external on-line databases, lessens the dependency on other information sources such as CD-ROMs. Typically, for the European user with an apparently lower information budget, the use of CD-ROM based information systems (when available) on a cost basis, may be a more attractive option. This seems to be particularly true in the case of universities/research institutes. However, the future importance of CD-ROM does not appear to be at the expense of commercial databases, especially in the industry sector. Both systems are according to the findings, considered to have a secure future amongst the European users of chemical information.

One final observation concerns the American databases from CAS and its quasi-monopolistic status for on-line chemical information. For the moment this fact may not be of too much significance given that printed information is still the most important information source. However, the growing importance of on-line searches may aggravate the current position of dependence upon a non-European information source.


1. Division by Region and Target Group
                                  TOTAL     Chemists        Information                                              
Specialists  -----------------------------------------------------------------  -----  Europe
788         641            147  North America                      462         
413         49    Japan                               29          24              5  Other Countries
31          26              5 

 -----------------------------------------------------------------  -----  Totals 

1310        1104            206  
=================================================================  =====  

2. Division by Type of institution and Target Group
  TOTAL     Chemists         Information                                              Specialists  
-----------------------------------------------------------------  -----  University/Research                
  624         535             89  Industry/<100 employees             88          79                
    9   101 -    500 employees            129         106             23   501 -   1000 employees            
   67          54             13  1001 -   5000 employees            122          93             
   29  5001 -  10000 employees             48          42              6    >     10000 employees            
   130         112              18  Patent Offices                       7           3              
   4  Ecological Agencies                 19          18              1  Other institutions                  
  81          68             13  
-----------------------------------------------------------------  -----  University/Research                
 624         535             89  Industry total                     584         486             98  Other tota
  l                        107          89             18  
-----------------------------------------------------------------  -----  Totals                           
 1315        1110            205  =================================================================  =====  

3. Division by Region and Type of institution (Chemists and Information specialists)
                                 University/   Industry         Other                                 Research  
-----------------------------------------------------------------  -  Europe                             416         
294             81  North America                      180         264             21  Japan           
14          17              1  Other Countries                     20           8              2  
-----------------------------------------------------------------  -  Totals                             
630         583            105  
=================================================================  =  

4. Division by Function and Target Group
                                                                             Chemists     Information      
Specialists  -----------------------------------------------------------------  ----------------------------------  
Chemists  University/professor/lecturer                                                   288            
-  University/non-academic scientific employees                                    155            
-  Head of research department in industry or a research institute                 109            
-  Member of staff of research department in industry or research  institute      390            
-  Other functions                                                                 150            
-  -----------------------------------------------------------------  ----------------------------------  
Information Specialists  University/professor/lecturer  

-            31  University/non-academic scientific employees                                     
-            35  Head of research department in industry or a research institute                  
-            40  Member of staff of research department in industry or research  institute       
-            67  Research chemist                                                                
-            27  Other functions                                                                  
-            54

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