While I’m all for “streamlining the collection and distribution of government information” as the title of S. 2206 “Let Me Google That For You Act” and it’s companion House bill H. R. 4382, doing away with the National Technical Information Service will do the opposite of that.
As we noted in our analysis of the GAO’s 2012 NTIS report and in our post in January 2014 when Senator Tom Coburn first floated the idea of getting rid of NTIS, Senator Coburn — and now Senator McCaskill along with him — “fundamentally misunderstands the Internet and misrepresents the case by stating that “elsewhere” to him is google and usa.gov, *internet search engines*! Doesn’t he realize that Google and USA.gov are simply pointing to NTIS, so if NTIS goes away, the reports that his staff found there will go away too.” Additionally, Federal agencies — not to mention the public! — sometimes need to pay for these reports because they’re copyrighted!
NTIS operates on a cost recovery basis because CONGRESS created it that way. It should also be noted that GAO’s conclusions — along with NTIS comments about the conclusions — are that 1) first and foremost, NTIS offers a valuable service of access to the federal scientific literature but 2) their current fee-based cost-recovery model is not sustainable. GAO did NOT conclude that NTIS should be dismantled.
As we said in our original analysis of the GAO report, We’ve got some better suggestions for how to handle critical technical reports published by the Federal government:
- FUND NTIS so they don’t have to work on a cost-recovery basis.
- put NTIS under the umbrella of the OSTP directive on public access to federally funded research.
- Make technical reports OPEN ACCESS!
- Institute a digital preservation plan for NTIS reports so that NTIS not only streamlines access, but assures their LONG-TERM preservation and access.
- Distribute NTIS metadata so that technical reports can be more easily found (another goal of this legislation!)
- Partner with FDLP libraries for long-term preservation and widespread access!
S. 2206, the Let Me Google That For You Act, would eliminate the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), which is charged with trying to sell government report that are available online for free.
“This is the ‘let me Google that for you’ office of the federal government,” Coburn said. “Nearly all of the reports being sold are already available for free on other government websites, including my own.”
The senators cited a Government Accountability Office report saying the NTIS has lost at least $1.3 million during the last decade and runs a deficit on its document production.
“This agency has clearly outlived its usefulness,” McCaskill said. “I find it staggering that the agency is selling government reports both to the public and to other federal agencies that are widely available for free and easy to find with a simple Google search — and the agency is still losing money.”
McCaskill and Coburn said it should be a top priority for Congress to reduce spending and eliminate the unnecessary agency.