A comment I have heard on numerous occasions is that OSTI has a too many databases and search tools and it is difficult to know which to use. Well, I am sure that a lot of people do find the variety of OSTI resources to be a bit confusing, but it really takes different types of databases and search tools to cover all the different types of scientific and technical information (STI). Scientific and technical information has many forms, such as journal articles, technical reports, patents and e-prints. Each has its own publication route which requires its own method of acquisition.
A traditional library is built by compiling a collection of books and periodicals for use by library patrons. In the electronic world, collections have expanded beyond the walls of the library. OSTI is able to create two different types of electronic collections. The first type is more like a traditional library in that OSTI compiles a collection of STI produced by or funded under the provenance of the Department of Energy on an OSTI computer. OSTI controls what goes into these collections and in what format. The OSTI databases that are of this sort include the full text documents in the Information Bridge and the bibliographic citations and summaries created for the Energy Citations Database, DOEpatents, and the DOE R&D Project Summaries. The second type of electronic collection is a virtual collection of STI outside of DOE. These collections contain STI that is of interest to DOE, but, for the most part, is not produced by DOE. The citations and full text documents in these virtual collections reside on the Internet in servers all over the world. OSTI has identified the locations of the STI and provides a means to search these far-flung collections. Searching such virtual collections requires a different type of search engine than searching a single collection. It requires knowing where to search, what to search and how deep to search. This is new technology that OSTI has had a hand in developing. Examples of these search tools are Science.gov, the E-Print Network, Science Conference Proceedings, and Energy Files.
OSTI remedies the uncertainty about which of its various search tools one should use by providing the Science Accelerator, a federated search engine that covers ten OSTI databases. Entering a single query will bring back results from each OSTI produced database containing relevant citations. What I really like about this federated search is that it helps me decide which of the OSTI databases or search tools might be appropriate for more detailed searching.
Perhaps giving a little explanation of the different types of STI will help people understand why their publication routes are different and why this causes OSTI to have a variety of databases.
This is a broad category that includes a wide variety of types of reports. For the most part, technical reports describe the progress or results of scientific or technical research and development. They often serve as a report of accountability to the funding organization. Technical reports fall into two categories: government sponsored or privately funded. Both categories include domestic and foreign reports written under the auspices of universities, institutes, research organizations, private companies, and government agencies and labs. The different types of technical reports include technical background reports, primary research reports, including progress reports and final reports, technical specifications, bibliographies, literature reviews, compilations of statistical data, catalogs, proposals, business plans, instructions, user guides, and reports from government advisory committees and national and international societies.
Discovering and locating technical reports can be difficult. They are usually not included in the standard subject databases covering books and journal articles. Prior to the advent of the web, technical reports were usually produced in very limited quantities with limited dissemination. Government technical reports were often distributed in microfiche. Only some of the larger research libraries have extensive collections of technical reports and usually these collections are uncataloged. Today, most recent technical reports and some older material are accessible via the web, if you know where to look. The lion's share of these reports resides in the deep web and is not discovered by the standard web search engines.
OSTI provides access to full text DOE technical reports through the Information Bridge from 1991 forward, with selected older reports. The Energy Citations Database indexes older DOE, ERDA and AEC technical reports back to the 1940s, as well as energy and nuclear science related reports from other government agencies and foreign governments. Virtual technical reports collections not under the provenance of DOE can be searched by Science.gov, Energy Files, the E-Print Network and Worldwidescience.org.
I will continue this discussion in later posts with descriptions of journal articles, conference proceedings and conference papers, e-prints, patents, project summaries and theses and dissertations.