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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

OSTI: collecting AND connecting scientific govt information

Did you know that the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) has a blog? The OSTI blog turned 1 year old last month but has only been in our In other news… section for a short time.

I’m really impressed with the work that OSTI is doing to build digital collections of scientific and technical information as well as to push the boundaries of access by building databases, federated search tools, being an OAI node, distributing bibliographic records and generally finding unique and innovative ways to make scientific and technical information available on the Web (I just love the idea of an adopt-a-doc program!!).

In particular, a blog post entitled Beyond Collecting: Connecting from a few weeks back (yes my feedreader is bursting at the seams 🙂 ) caught my eye. They’ve basically gone out and built a digital infrastructure along the lines of what we at FGI have been advocating for lo these many years. That is, they’ve realized that they can’t possibly collect it all. Instead of building one big central repository, they’re relying on many agencies and actors to host content and standards-based metadata of interest to them. OSTI can then use increasingly robust digital tools to aggregate and provide search mechanisms for vast amounts of information — to “connect users with the highest quality science information without collecting or hosting it.”

THAT’S what I envision for the Federal Depository Library Program: a collaborative network of libraries (a technical and social P2P network!) hosting content of interest to their local communities, creating and maintaining standardized metadata, connecting up with each other to create powerful search tools across the network. This is the many-hands-make-light-work digital model to which we in the documents community should be espousing.

–that is all.

OSTI has embraced a new paradigm for sharing scientific and technical information (STI). Historically, OSTI has fulfilled its mission of providing STI to scientists, researchers, and the public by hosting, or collecting, documents and/or metadata. OSTI’s new paradigm is to make content searchable that is often hosted by others; today, OSTI connects those seeking the content with the organizations that host it.

Beginning in the late 1940’s, with OSTI’s production of the Nuclear Science Abstracts – which was to go on for nearly 30 years, OSTI entered into the business of collecting information. Beginning in the 1990’s, OSTI began creating web application to make the collected content openly accessible and conveniently searchable. ETDE Web, DOE Information Bridge, the Energy Citations Database, and DOE R&D Accomplishments are some of the successful applications.

In the last several years, OSTI’s approach to disseminating STI has evolved. Recent applications such as the Eprint Network, Science.gov, DOE Science Accelerator, and WorldWideScience.org connect users with the highest quality science information without collecting or hosting it.

How does OSTI move beyond collecting to connecting and what does connecting mean? OSTI’s new applications search content that is housed in document repositories owned by a number of government agencies and government-sanctioned organizations. OSTI applications search a number of these repositories on the fly and they aggregate the content from the sources they search and present the most relevant of the search results to the user. This simultaneous and real-time search of multiple repositories is called federated search. OSTI’s federated search applications serve as portals to specific subjects. In being subject-specific, they connect users to the highest quality STI in their fields of interest.

Why is OSTI embracing the connection model? Quite simply, OSTI can far better achieve its mission by making great quantities of content openly accessible and conveniently searchable, but it is impossible to collect and keep current such quantities of content from multiple content sources. “Connecting” to content is doable, while “collecting” is not. (My emphasis added!)

We believe that by connecting users to content, we provide a more comprehensive and authoritative search. In doing so, we accelerate the advancement of science.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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