Harvard Sussex Program
on chemical and biological warfare armament and arms limitation


The Sussex Harvard Information Bank (SHIB)


Through its co-directors, HSP has been continuously engaged in CBW-policy research since the 1960s. The documentation and other materials accumulated in the course of this work now constitute a major research resource not only for HSP but also for others outside HSP, and for the future. So HSP has built the collection into a organised and accessible archive to which it allows supervised access. This is known as SHIB, for Sussex Harvard Information Bank, and is open to anyone who can demonstrate a worthwhile need for access to what it contains. To enhance access, searchable electronic data-bases are used to register certain categories of information entering SHIB. Web interfaces are currently being developed for two of these data-bases in order to enable access to them via the HSP website.

SHIB is a living archive in the sense that its structure is always being developed so as to suit the changing requirements of researchers in the field. And its holdings are continually growing, under several influences:

  • Deposit of private papers
  • Release of state papers, some of which are copied into SHIB by HSP researchers or associates

  • Completion of new research projects

  • Systematic monitoring and scanning of new sources by HSP researchers, associates or correspondents.

  • Electronic publication.

SHIB is chiefly held at Sussex where it now occupies nine bays of archive stacks and other space at the Freeman Centre, about 230 metres of shelving in all. Some specialized parts of the collection are held at Harvard, mostly with copies at Sussex. Literature-monitoring efforts of several types keep SHIB up to date, and a network of correspondents and collaborating literature-scanners worldwide ensures that the monitoring is broad in its international coverage. SHIB holdings, which by now must number many hundreds of thousands of items, are organized so that people outside HSP, as well as those within it, can gain access to the information contained in SHIB. Development, aimed particularly at improving remote access, is in progress.

The fundamental purpose of SHIB is to facilitate and empower policy-orientated research in the field of CBW disarmament, antiproliferation and associated international regime formation and implementation; research which in the past has suffered from the poor quality of available information. This objective directs the emphases in SHIB's holdings and in the way in which the holdings are organized. Thus, there is a particular emphasis on acquisition of uptodate political information, a current-awareness function which supports the News Chronology section of the HSP quarterly journal, The CBW Convention Bulletin. Scientific, technical, military and historical information also enters SHIB. The holdings are organized into a fine-grained storage system organized by date and/or by subject and also, in particular cases, by author or originating agency. This enables browsing by visiting researchers. In some areas of SHIB more active methods of processing incoming information are also applied, through the use of registers and computerized data-bases.

Within the SHIB storage system, there are some 3000 separate storage locations, each one with a different alphanumerical label. These labels, which serve as locators for each item of stored documentation and are inscribed on each such item, also serve as subject-matter descriptors in the computerized records of stored documentation-items. A single item of stored documentation may bear more than one such descriptor, though in hard-copy form it will generally be stored in only one location; duplicates, or copies of its title page, may be held in other possible locations. Subject-matter searching is thus made relatively easy.

Associated data-bases

Three searchable computerized data-bases are being developed and maintained so as to increase the utility of SHIB. The most advanced is the CBW Events Data-Base, which is a systematic record of events back to 1987 in and around the world of CBW. It is from this data-base that the 'News Chronology' section of each issue of The CBW Conventions Bulletin is excerpted. Each record in the data base -- one record per event or cluster of associated events, currently about 15,000 in all -- is fully referenced with citations of SHIB-held documentation. The records are held in a powerful text-oriented data management programme that enables different types of search to be run through the records. The data-base is continually updated, corrected as necessary, and added to retrospectively as new documentation comes in. It is being extended backwards in time (to 1945) as well as forwards.

The second database is a continually updated register of substantial new publications in the field since 1987. It is called the CBW Publications Data-Base. Its records, of which there are now some 4,500, are held in EndNote, so as to facilitate searching and manipulation.

Every three months, the latest additions to the Events and Publications data-bases, including prior records that have been introduced, revised or expanded from late-received information or that were for some reason excluded from the Bulletin, are published in hard-copy form as the HSP CBW Chronicle, which is distributed to a small number of specialist libraries and HSP collaborators.

The third data-base, still at an early stage of construction, is the CBW Archives Data-Base. SHIB has substantial holdings of photocopies of British, American and other state papers addressing CBW matters, mostly copied by HSP or collaborating researchers from national archives or, in the case of some of the American ones, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act or from personal papers. The research value of such documentation is very much dependent upon its indexing; the bibliographical records initially used in SHIB for this purpose were manual ones on index cards. These records, which are necessarily far more detailed than those of the CBW Publications Data-Base, are now being replaced by computerized records. As this proceeds, the data-base is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for further archival and other research.

Access to SHIB

By prior arrangement with the HSP Sussex Administrator (click here), visiting scholars and researchers may consult SHIB and its associated databases. For people who have not yet visited, the account given in SHIB Coarse Structure of how hard-copy (as opposed to electronic) material is stored in SHIB may be useful.