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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.

DOE’s OpenNet database of declassified documents

ON a recent Govdoc-l thread about searching for technical reports (which I *love* as a member of the TRAIL network!), someone mentioned the OpenNet database. I hadn’t heard of this resource, so went searching. Turns out that OpenNet is a database of declassified documents and records from the Department of Energy, very handy for technical and scientific information. Here’s how they describe it:

The OpenNet database provides easy, timely access to over 485,000 bibliographic references and 140,000 recently declassified documents, including information declassified in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. In addition to these documents, OpenNet references older document collections from several DOE sources. This database is updated regularly as more information becomes available.

Well, that piqued my interest, since I thought my library might get OpenNet documents into our catalog as part of OSTI’s MARC records batch downloads of ScitechConnect materials. I contacted OSTI to see and here’s the response I got:

Technically, OpenNet is not an OSTI resource. OSTI produces the product on contract for the DOE Office of History and Heritage Resources. OSTI’s products contain scientific and technical information and OpenNet’s content is declassified material. There is some overlap between the two. If an STI report was initially classified and later declassified, it should appear in both. However, there is a lot of correspondence, notes, and other “unpublished” stuff in OpenNet and some of it might contain STI that won’t appear in SciTech Connect due to the format of the material. So there are declassified reports that appear in both databases and will have MARC records. The majority of the OpenNet records are not considered STI and will not be in SciTech Connect and have MARC records.

So there you have it. I recommend that all libraries catalog OpenNet for their databases pages!

Letter in support of the NTIS

Things seem to be coming to a slow boil with the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). We wrote about Senate Bill 2206 the “Let Me Google That For You” Act on April 11, 2014, and again earlier this month to report about how the American Library Association and its Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) were dealing with NTIS’ proposed demise. On July 23, 2014, the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight held a hearing “A More Efficient and Effective Government: The National Technical Information Service” (video and testimony included).

This morning, a docs librarian friend sent me the letter he was writing to his Senator. He graciously agreed to let me print it on FGI, which I’ve done below. Please feel free to copy/paste all or portions of this letter when you contact your Senator about supporting and maintaining the NTIS. I know all of our readers are going to do that asap right?!

Dear Senator ________________,

I am writing to urge you to oppose S. 2206, the Let Me Google That For You Act, which would abolish the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). As a librarian and a government information specialist who serves the government information needs of your constituents every day, I have concluded that the intent of this bill grossly undervalues the role NTIS plays in providing researchers, businesses, and the American public with access to technical research conducted at public expense.

The text of the bill observes that many reports available from NTIS can also be found through publicly searchable websites, such as Google and usa.gov, but fails to appreciate that this availability is often precisely because NTIS had a hand in collecting and publicly distributing them. In fact, many of the federal agencies which publish through NTIS have neither statutory responsibility nor the resources to provide permanent access to their own reports, and depend upon NTIS to provide them to other government agencies and the public. The availability of a technical report on an agency website today therefore provides no assurance that it will still be there tomorrow. A 2013 survey by the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group, which collects and preserves selected online publications of federal, state, and local governments, found that 51 percent of the dot-gov URLs from their earliest survey in 2007-08 broke over the ensuing six years.

Furthermore, many of the agencies which published reports in the NTIS collection no longer exist, leaving NTIS as their only surviving source. In fact, over two million of its reports exist only in paper or microform, and are not available in digital form from any source. Alarmingly, this bill makes no provision for the preservation of these reports or the cataloging data which facilitates access to them.

Rather than elimination of the agency which serves these critical functions, transparency would be better served by legislation to:

• Fund NTIS so it does not have to operate on a cost-recovery basis
• Place NTIS under the umbrella of the Office of Science and Technology Policy directive on “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research,” announced by the White House on February 22, 2013
• Institute a digital preservation plan for NTIS reports so that NTIS not only streamlines access, but assures their long-term preservation and availability.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.



[Thanks Infodocket for keeping track of this issue as well!]

GPO Suspends Public Access to Some NASA Records

[Editor’s note 5/23/13: Several people have contacted FGI and asked for clarification. The title of our post, which we borrowed from Steven Aftergood, is a little misleading. The decision to suspend access to NASA technical reports was purely the decision of NASA administrators. GPO’s news item makes it clear that GPO is only announcing that some of the purls to NASA technical reports in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) “may not link to the documents that the catalog record describes.”]

Steven Aftergood reports that The Government Printing Office is blocking public access to some previously released records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. PURLs may not link to the documents that the catalog record describes.

  • GPO Suspends Public Access to Some NASA Records, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (May 16, 2013).

    The Government Printing Office is blocking public access to some previously released records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, while the records are reviewed to see if they contain export-controlled information. The move follows the controversial disabling and partial restoration of the NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) (NASA Technical Report Database Partly Back Online, Secrecy News, May 9.)

  • NASA Technical Reports Server Has Limited Content Availability Until Further Notice, FDLP (May 16, 2013).

    Affected classes are:

    NAS 1.15: 0830-D
    NAS 1.26: 0830-H-14
    NAS 1.2/2-2: 0830-H-26
    NAS 1.60: 0830-H-15

See also our earlier comment on this issue.