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The Secret City Is Emerging from Its Past
by Dr. Walt Warnick on Fri, 9 Nov, 2012
OSTI

Oak Ridge is rapidly emerging from a secret city into the hub of open science information.  How did this happen? It’s an amazing story. 

In 1942, deep within the quiet farm hills of East Tennessee, a secret city called Oak Ridge was created seemingly overnight.  Approximately 75,000 workers worked tirelessly to refine uranium ore into fissionable material. When the first atomic bomb was dropped in Japan and World War II came to an end, their work for the Manhattan Project was revealed to them and to the world. Their secret is still commemorated today. Oak Ridge, Tennessee has much to be proud of:  Science created its beginning and science continues to be vital to its future.

Just 5 years after the birth of Oak Ridge, the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) was established to manage the atomic information.  Since then, OSTI has become one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of information about energy science and technology.  It is a little known fact – even around Oak Ridge – that OSTI is mandated by law to maintain and make available science and technical information from research, development, demonstration, and commercial applications activities supported by DOE and its predecessors. OSTI not only collects and preserves research reports from nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Y-12 and labs and weapons facilities across the country, the Office is DOE’s mechanism for spreading the word about the results from its $10 Billion investment in annual research and development. OSTI’s creation 65 years ago signaled a sea change from the Secret City of the Manhattan Project toward openness to share R&D knowledge with the public. 

Since its beginning, OSTI has known that shared knowledge is an enabler of scientific progress. And sharing it does.

I recently spoke to the East Tennessee Economic Council about OSTI’s ongoing efforts to advance science.  In that presentation, “OSTI…Celebrating the Secret City…Creating the Open Science City,” I detailed how OSTI has helped Oak Ridge evolve into the “go to” resource for scientific information and research results. OSTI pioneered federated search, a unique search engine capability that allows users to search multiple data sources simultaneously; DOE web resources have been created that specialize in U.S. government and global science information.  Multilingual translation, audio indexing of video and mobile delivery tools have been incorporated.  Interagency and multilateral agreements chisel out web resources that benefit everyone. Collaboration with tech companies such as Google and Microsoft keep us innovating.

Latest attractions from OSTI include a Sematic Search technology that makes our search engines “think like you think”.  Our search tool on the DOE Technology Transfer Resources website aids in commercialization and job creation.  A digitization project is underway to capture DOE’s total historic R&D output, a value of $400 billion in R&D. And significantly, a vision for a National Library of Energy is underway that would be a national resource to advance energy literacy, innovation and security. Like the National Library of Medicine, it would be a model for open science.

Oak Ridge is emerging from a secret city to an open science city. Nearly all R&D results published by nearly all U.S. R&D agencies are made searchable via a single search in Science.gov, run out of our Oak Ridge facility at 1 Science.gov Way. Nearly all R&D results published by or on behalf of governments of all nations with R&D programs are made searchable via a single search in WorldWideScience.org, also run from our OSTI building on the east end of Oak Ridge.

OSTI’s endeavors most certainly identify and solidify Oak Ridge as the city that is pushing science information to the nation and the world, rapidly and openly. Oak Ridge is the hub of open science information. The secret is out!

Related OSTI Products: Science.gov, WorldWideScience.org (WWS)
Other Related Topics: osti

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About the Author

Dr. Walt Warnick's picture
Dr. Walt Warnick
Former Director, U.S. DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information