Federated search as a transformational technology enabling knowledge discovery: the role of WorldWideScience.org” is by far the best historical paper I’ve read about DOE’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI), and I consult for the agency.

OSTI has created a number of search portals (WorldWideScience.org, Science,gov, DOE ScienceAccelerator, DOE Energy Citations Database, and DOE Information Bridge to name a few) but few know about the history of the agency that created them.

OSTI grew out of the post-World War II initiative to make the scientific research of the Manhattan Project as freely available to the public as possible. On November 17, 1944, President Roosevelt wrote Vannevar Bush, then the Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, to request his counsel on how to capitalize on the experience of the United States’ R&D war efforts — most of which was done in utter secrecy — in the days of peace to come.

OSTI Director Dr. Walter Warnick tells the story of the development of OSTI, its role in advancing science, and how federated search serves that role in ways that Google can’t.

The paper, at 23 pages, covers the subject with a good deal of depth.

More than 60 years ago OSTI began advancing science.

Long before the Internet came along, OSTI advanced science by making research information widely available. OSTI annually responded to upwards of 50,000 requests for information and during the 1977 ?energy crisis? fielded more than 150,000 requests. OSTI operated one of the few federal printing plants in the United States, and in 1948 began an almost 30-year production of the world-famous Nuclear Science Abstracts, which greatly expanded access to nuclear science information. OSTI shouldered a lead role in providing materials to the Atoms for Peace Geneva Conferences, envisioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to pool nuclear information for sharing with peaceful nations. OSTI was instrumental in establishing the International Nuclear Information System (INIS), which promotes nuclear information exchange between 110 countries.

OSTI has capitalized on the power of the Web since the early days of the Web:

In 1994, OSTI created the first DOE home page, and it has made significant strides into the Information Age ever since, defining new electronic exchange formats, creating collections of digitized scientific and technical information, serving researchers directly, and developing an energy science and technology virtual library. OSTI today hosts three major collections of scientific and technical information: Science Accelerator, which features DOE R&D resources; Science.gov, which provides access to STI from federal science agencies through the U.S. government; and WorldWideScience.org, which offers resources from more than 60 nations around the world.

What’s next for OSTI? Here is one direction:

What is next? There is no inherent reason that a single tool cannot rely upon both a crawled index and a live federated search in parallel. Indeed, OSTI?s largest product does just that. It is the Eprint Network (http://www.osti.gov/eprints/). All in parallel, it searches 1.5 million eprints that have been crawled, plus an addition 5 million eprints hosted in 50 eprint databases, comprising in all about 100 million pages. As far as we know, there is no other tool in the world that virtually integrates such a quantity of eprints. Further, we are not aware of another publicly available search tool that searches federated databases and crawled indexes in parallel.

[ Disclaimer: I not only consult for OSTI but also for Deep Web Technologies who sponsors this blog and who built the search engines behind a number of the OSTI federated search applications. ]

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