by Mark Martin on Fri, July 24, 2009
A typical misconception I face when I tell people that I work within the government is that they think my job, even though it is in the technology arena, must move at a snail's pace relative to the commercial sector. This preconceived notion that our government crawls along relative to technology adoption and innovation - at least in my experience - is way off the mark.
Here at OSTI we can cite several examples where we have been on the bleeding edge of technological development. Not only have we been on the bleeding edge, in some cases we have been on that bleeding edge in cooperation with some of the largest, most innovative technology companies in the world.
For example, OSTI has been a pioneering force in federated search technology since the late 1990s. Federated search, for those of you new to the term, is the simultaneous search of multiple online databases or web resources from a single query. The Wikipedia article on federated search is an excellent resource for more information on exactly how federated search works.
Before the term "federated search" had been coined, OSTI was implementing pioneering technology that would come to be known as federated search. In April 1999, OSTI launched EnergyPortal Search, a product now encompassed in EnergyFiles. EnergyPortal Search was the first federated search application deployed by OSTI and the first product of its kind in the government. In December 2002, OSTI launched Science.gov, the first ever search capability across major science agencies. In June 2007, OSTI introduced the concept of WorldWideScience.org, which searches across national and international science sources spanning six continents. As you can see, for more than a decade, OSTI has been leading the charge related to federated search technology, specifically applying this technology to enhance access to scientific and technical information from government science research agencies at home and abroad.
In addition to the work related to federated search, OSTI has been on the forefront of the development of the Site Map Protocol. In 2003, OSTI began working with Google and Yahoo! to make its research and development findings available through their search engines. As this work progressed, OSTI provided feedback and worked closely with the technical teams from both companies to ensure that our collection was indexed and made retrievable. This work, along with other parallel efforts by the search engine giants, eventually led to Google unveiling the Site Map Protocol in 2005. OSTI was a first adopter of this technology, which was no great leap as our early work was part of the basis for this standard. Our work with Google during this partnership has been touted by Google as well. The testimony of Google's J.L. Needham to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on December 11, 2007, details our work with Google and the Site Map Protocol.
Another example of the ongoing innovative work here at OSTI is a multimedia indexing prototype system being developed with Microsoft. This prototype system aims to make searchable the multimedia content, i.e. video and audio, that is beginning to be developed as part of many scientific research projects in today's Web 2.0 environment. Today, most multimedia content is only searchable via the metadata that is supplied with the content, i.e. the actual spoken content of an audio or video file is not searchable. This prototype extracts the spoken content of these files and makes that content searchable, just as the full-text content of research reports is searchable. While in its infancy, this is a most exciting project and early results have been very promising.
As you can clearly see from these examples, we here at OSTI are constantly engaging in pioneering technological efforts. While I touched on a few of them here, a more complete list of these accomplishments can be found on our milestones list. I can certainly say, being the technology "geek" that I am, I'm never bored or disappointed with the projects and challenges I get to tackle here at OSTI!