U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science Office of Scientific and Technical Information

OSTI History

Born in 1947 of General Leslie R. Groves' 1945 mandate to tell the American people about the formerly secret Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb, the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, or OSTI, rapidly became home to one of the world's most comprehensive collections of energy-related information.


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. Located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 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.


Today, OSTI is nationally recognized for contributions to the sharing and exchange of science information, specifically through a suite of web tools and services designed to deliver science information to desktops everywhere. OSTI is one of the few Federal facilities in the United States with a “.gov” street address, 1 Science.gov Way, named for one of its projects of national import – Science.gov.



Whether by print or by pixel, OSTI has long been committed to ensuring appropriate and ready access to government research. OSTI is dedicated to the principle that, to advance science, research must be shared. OSTI works to accelerate discovery by speeding access to knowledge.



Statutory Authority: Established in 1947, the DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) fulfills the agency’s responsibilities related to the collection, preservation, and dissemination of scientific and technical information emanating from DOE R&D activities. This responsibility has been codified in the organic, or enabling, legislation of DOE and its predecessor agencies and, more recently, was defined as a specific OSTI responsibility in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

  • Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58), Section 982, called out responsibility of OSTI: “The Secretary, through the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, shall maintain with the Department publicly available collections of scientific and technical information resulting from research, development, demonstration, and commercial applications activities supported by the Department.”
  • Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-91) provided for maintaining a central source of information and disseminating information (42 U.S.C. Sec. 5916, 7112).
  • Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-438) defined responsibilities for developing, collecting, distributing, and making scientific and technical information available for distribution (42 U.S.C. Sec. 5813, 5817).
  • Atomic Energy Acts of 1946 (P. L.79-585) and 1954, as amended (P.L. 83-703) established a program for the dissemination of unclassified scientific and technical information and for the control of classified information (42 U.S.C. Sec. 2013, 2051, and 2161).
  • America COMPETES Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-69), Section 1009, required that Federal agencies that conduct scientific research develop agency-specific policies and procedures regarding the public release of data and results of research.
  • America COMPETES Act of 2007 ((P.L. 110-69), Chapter 5, Section 3191, “National Energy Education Development, (a) The Secretary [of Energy]… in consultation with the Director of the National Science Foundation shall establish a program to coordinate and make available to teachers and students web-based kindergarten through high school science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education resources relating to the science and energy mission of the Department, including existing instruction materials and protocols for classroom laboratory experiments.”


Pre-Internet Chronology: The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which was created by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 [1.74-MB PDF], began the Technical Information Program in 1947. At first, the Technical Information Division (TID) was managed locally by the predecessor of Oak Ridge Operations. In 1948 the reporting relationship was changed, and the function, though still physically located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, began reporting directly to Washington, DC, as it does today.


The advantages of having a centralized information dissemination function, as opposed to separate functions at the labs, were recognized from the beginning. In the late 1940s and 1950s, the programmatic mission of TID was to "plan, develop, maintain, and administer all services and facilities required to accomplish the dissemination of scientific and technical information for the encouragement of scientific progress and to promote the ultimate sharing on a reciprocal basis of information concerning the practical industrial application of atomic energy, as provided for in the Atomic Energy Act of 1946." This called for three basic STI functions to be established that continue today: collection, preservation, and dissemination, with separate operations for classified information.



In the beginning, announcement journals of bibliographic information and abstracts were the state-of-the-art for disseminating information about declassified and unclassified reports. An abstracting service and a printing plant were established. An announcement journal Nuclear Science Abstracts (NSA), begun in 1948, soon became world famous. NSA broadened the type of literature announced (adding journal articles, books, international literature, etc. – not just material produced by AEC) so that it became comprehensive in its coverage of nuclear science.



In addition to the bibliographic information and abstracts in the announcement journal format, OSTI used the technology of that day to deliver full text of documents. In 1952, TID initiated document miniaturization (microcard/microfiche), a program designed to facilitate rapid and inexpensive dissemination of the full text of reports to Government Printing Office (GPO) depository libraries.

Information was a central component of the "Atoms-for-Peace" Program called for under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. On the domestic side, this effort ensured accessibility of nuclear science information to U.S. industry. On the international side, this effort involved negotiating bilateral agreements for cooperation between the United States and other nations which included the exchange of information and drafting of an organizational structure that would establish the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).



In the mid-1960s, OSTI (then the Division of Technical Information Extension) began using computers to store and exchange information to enable rapid and dependable searching of bibliographic information.



OSTI personnel were instrumental in the creation of the International Nuclear Information System (INIS) in 1969 by the IAEA. Today INIS promotes information exchange among 110 member states and 19 international organizations. In mid-1976, NSA was discontinued after 30 years and IAEA/INIS shouldered primary responsibility for publishing a printed nuclear announcement journal product known as Atomindex.



In the 1970s, the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 abolished the AEC and established the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA). The Department of Energy Act of 1977 abolished ERDA and established the Department of Energy (DOE). These acts broadened OSTI's [then known as Technical Information Center (TIC)] role in the collection, preservation, and dissemination of non-nuclear related energy information. Building on the international cooperative relationships already in place, exchanges were expanded into non-nuclear areas and began involving the newly formed International Energy Agency (IEA). In 1974, OSTI initiated the building of the Energy Science and Technology Database (EDB) encompassing the full scope of energy, all literature types, and with worldwide coverage. Microfiche was still the norm for full-text distribution and archiving. Along with GPO, OSTI was the only other public outlet for DOE information dissemination.

During the 1980s, OSTI was instrumental in establishing the international Energy Technology Data Exchange (ETDE), an implementing agreement under the IEA. OSTI has served as the Operating Agent for this agreement since its inception.. ETDE was established for the purpose of sharing non-nuclear energy information.



The 1980s also saw the establishment of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) as an additional public outlet for all Federal report information, including that provided by OSTI, as required by the American Technology Pre-eminence Act. Throughout its history, OSTI has maintained responsibility in the policy areas of STI management, ensuring that the Department has strong, centralized leadership in a decentralized information environment. However, OSTI has been de-emphasizing command and control. In 1997, OSTI coordinated the Scientific and Technical Information Program (STIP) Strategic Plan, which promotes more mutually beneficial collaboration with STIP partners at the labs and Operations Offices.



Internet Age: Although OSTI's name and chain of command have shifted several times, its core mission to collect, preserve, and disseminate scientific and technical information continues. With forward-thinking and agile leadership, OSTI made significant strides into the Information Age: 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.

In 1994, OSTI created the first DOE home page, and in 1996 entered the Internet era full force with digitization of report literature. In 1997 the microfiche process and the printing plant at the facility were ended. With the evolution of the web, it has become possible for OSTI to serve the DOE researcher community directly, in addition to serving information intermediaries.

In 1997, OSTI coordinated the Scientific and Technical Information Program (STIP) Strategic Plan, which promotes more mutually beneficial collaboration with STIP partners at the labs and Operations Offices.


In 1997, Energy Files: Virtual Library of Energy Science and Technology was unveiled as the first web-based virtual library providing easy access to over 500 widely diverse collections of both DOE and worldwide energy-related STI. This award-winning system assimilated databases and websites into an energy information environment available to researchers and the general public from a single source.

The DOE Information Bridge was the first system to provide searchable full-text and bibliographic records of DOE-sponsored research report literature. Originally made available to DOE and DOE contractors, Information Bridge was introduced to the public in April 1998. Also in 1997, DOE Research and Development Project Summaries was introduced as the first free web-accessible product to provide access to R&D projects ongoing within DOE. In January 2000, OSTI released the PrePRINT Network, a gateway to preprint servers, which provided access to over 1,500 preprint servers and their 340,000 preprints.



In August 2000, OSTI added two new products to its vast collection. The GrayLIT Network provided a comprehensive portal to over 340,000 full-text technical reports from various Federal agencies. Federal R&D Project Summaries provides full-text Federal R&D information from over half-a-million project summaries. With a single query, users may search individual databases residing at different agencies. Both products are early successes stemming from the Workshop Report on a Future Information Infrastructure for the Physical Sciences.

In 2001, Energy Citations Database was launched, providing bibliographic citations for DOE energy and energy-related research from 1948 to the present. (In 2013, Energy Citations Databases was consolidated with DOE Information Bridge and a new semantic search added. Read more here about SciTech Connect.)


In December 2002 the interagency Science.gov was launched. This web portal, the Federal government's FirstGov for science, is hosted at OSTI. Science.gov provided for the first time single query search across the governments vast stores on scientific and technical information.

In July 2003, the PrePRINT Network was expanded and renamed E-print Network, which provides single query searching of e-print manuscripts, scholarly papers, and other scientific documents residing on scientific websites, as well as a deep web search across major e-print databases.


In May 2004 Science.gov 2.0 was launched, introducing relevancy ranked searching to government science web information. In addition, OSTI opened government databases to commercial search engines, greatly expanding public access to DOE research results.

In May 2005, OSTI launched Science Conference Proceedings, a portal for searching conference papers and proceedings in various fields of science and technology from conferences of interest to DOE.

In June 2006, OSTI introduced the concept of an international science gateway, which would draw on the success of Science.gov and the Energy Technology Data Exchange to expand distributed searching of science resources, building a one-stop "shopping source" for worldwide science information.


In April 2007, OSTI introduced scalability in federated government search through the development of the initial version of the Science Accelerator. The Science Accelerator demonstrates the capabilities that will eventually yield the technology to search at least 1,000 scientific databases in parallel.


In June 2007, DOE and the British Library, along with eight other participating countries, opened a searchable online global gateway to science information from 15 national portals. The gateway, WorldWideScience.org, introduced federated searching across science sources on a global scale. WorldWideScience.org gives citizens, researchers and anyone interested in science the capability to search science portals not easily accessible through popular search technology such as that deployed by popular search engines such as Yahoo! and Google. WorldWideScience.org was developed and is maintained by OSTI.


On September 18, 2007, OSTI introduced a searchable collection of more than 20,000 patent records resulting from U.S. Department of Energy and predecessor-agency funding. The DOepatents collection represents a growing compilation of patents resulting from research supported by DOE, and demonstrates the Department's considerable contribution to scientific progress from the 1940s to the present.


In November 2007, OSTI launched a weblog to increase transparency and open additional communications channels with citizens. The OSTIblog, a key part of OSTI’s Web 2.0 outreach initiatives, provided to the public for the first time the ability to comment on OSTI products and services. Multiple content threads were incorporated describing not only the large suite of free information products made available by OSTI and the ground-breaking technology behind OSTI services, but also the personal perspectives of OSTI staff and our community of users.



In June 2008, OSTI introduced the DOE Data Explorer for discovering Department of Energy scientific research data wherever they reside. This data discovery tool was developed as a way to guide users to scientific research data - such as computer simulations, numeric data files, figures and plots, interactive maps, multimedia, and scientific images – generated in the course of DOE-sponsored research in various science disciplines. It is intended to be particularly useful to students, the public, and to researchers who are new to a field or looking for experimental or observational data outside their normal field of expertise.



Also in June 2008, the WorldWideScience Alliance was established, formalizing a multilateral alliance on June 12 in Seoul, Korea, to govern WorldWideScience.org, the global science gateway. The WorldWideScience Alliance was established to serve as the permanent governance structure of WorldWideScience.org. WorldWideScience.org introduced federated searching across global science sources and gives citizens, researchers and anyone interested in science the capability to search science portals not easily accessible through popular search technology. The Alliance consisted of 13 founding member organizations representing 38 countries. OSTI conceived of the global science gateway and developed the application. In October 2008, the People's Republic of China joined the WorldWideScience Alliance.



In November 2008, Adopt-A-Doc  was launched to help the often resource-demanding process of digitization of scientific documents for online access. Many DOE technical reports from the 1940s to 1991 are still only available in hard copy or microfiche. The public can help make important research available via the web by adopting documents that are not yet in digital format.

OSTI established the OSTI YouTube channel in June 2009, broadening awareness of research and development results and better educating the public about Office of Science and Department of Energy R&D projects and activities. This Web 2.0 outreach initiative provides a format for OSTI videos to disseminate and preserve legacy information through staff interviews as well as to discuss and visually exhibit the latest innovative breakthroughs in information technology.



In September 2009, .EDUconnections was launched to help university research departments and libraries find tools and resources from DOE. Specialized tools and services were made readily available and a spotlight page displayed examples of universities supporting and advancing scientific research and discovery. Quick links to DOE grants, internships, fellowships and scholarships, and a widget were provided.



In March 2010, OSTI contributed various tools and data sets to Data.gov, as part of the Administration-wide Open Gov Initiative. Five were designated high value data sets by DOE: DOE Research and Development Project Summaries (data services), Energy Citations Database (data services), Information Bridge (data services), Geothermal/Geothermal Legacy Data (data services), and DOE Patents Database (data services). These tools have made DOE R&D results more transparent and have made scientific information access more convenient than ever before.



OSTI launched Community College Connections in April 2010. Community College Connections spotlights community colleges across the nation committed to supporting and advancing science. The page is linked from the OSTI .EDUconnections website which connects university libraries and research departments to valuable DOE scientific research.



DOE Green Energy was launched on the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, April 21, 2010, to provide the public with access to technical documents from thousands of R&D projects conducted at DOE National Laboratories and by DOE-funded awards at universities. The DOE Green Energy portal is part of the DOE Open Government Plan, which furthers the Administration’s Open Government Initiative. It contains bibliographic citations, technical reports and patent information on different types of renewable energy resources and energy conservation, including solar, wind, bioenergy, hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave power, and energy storage.



In June 2010, Multilingual WorldWideScience.org BETA was launched making possible real-time searching and translation of globally-dispersed collections of scientific literature. This capability will benefit the English-speaking science community, enabling searching and translation of non-English sources. It will also benefit native speakers of other major languages (Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian) by translating search results into the user's language of choice.



In February 2011, scientific videos highlighting the most exciting research and development sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) were made available through ScienceCinema. It is anticipated that scientific videos, animations, interactive visualizations, and other multimedia will become an increasingly prominent form of scientific communications. ScienceCinema uses innovative, state-of-the-art audio indexing and speech recognition technology from Microsoft Research to allow users to quickly find video files produced by the DOE National Laboratories and other DOE research facilities.



Science.gov, known for its groundbreaking search and retrieval of government science information, celebrated its 10th Anniversary in December 2012. Through federated one-stop search of U.S. government science information, the portal offers free access to research and development results from 17 organizations within 13 federal science agencies. Science.gov was the first government science search engine to rank results for relevancy in real time and was a pioneer in precision searching across full-text documents. In addition, over the past 10 years the number of pages available at Science.gov has grown from 47 million to over 200 million; the number of scientific databases made accessible has increased by 30 percent; and the annual page views now top 34 million, a 45-fold increase from the earliest days. Science.gov continues to grow and evolve to serve users even better. In 2012 alone, Science.gov added multimedia content, an updated interface with enhanced navigation, visual representations of topical information in an easy-to-use touch and dial format. And Science.gov Mobile made two Top Ten federal government applications lists in June 2012.



February 2013 saw OSTI launch the National Library of Energy (NLE). NLE is a virtual library and open government resource to advance energy literacy, innovation and security. The NLE search feature provides one-stop, easy access to information about DOE and its work in four broad mission areas - science and R&D results; energy and technology for industry and homeowners; energy market information and analysis; and nuclear security and environmental management. The NLE is a new search tool designed to make it easier for American citizens to access information about the Department from across the DOE complex nationwide, without knowing DOE’s organizational structure. The NLE virtually integrates information from Energy.gov (the DOE website) and all DOE program offices, national laboratories and other facilities.



SciTech Connect, launched in March 2013, is a new portal to free, publicly available DOE research and development (R&D) results. SciTech Connect incorporates the contents of two of the most popular core DOE collections and employs an innovative semantic search tool enabling scientists, researchers and the scientifically-attentive public to retrieve more relevant information. OSTI gradually phased out its current DOE Information Bridge and Energy Citations Database products and replaced them with the improved search interface of SciTech Connect (more information on the consolidation can be found here). OSTI developed the new resource to help increase access to science, technology and engineering research information from DOE and its predecessor agencies. SciTech Connect represents one of the largest deployments of semantic search by a federal agency to date. Semantic search is a way to enhance search accuracy contextually. Rather than relying on search algorithms that identify a specific query term, semantic search uses more complex contextual relationships among people, places and things. It is an especially effective search approach when a person truly is researching a topic (rather than trying to navigate to a particular destination). SciTech Connect employs a semantic search technique known as keyword-to-concept mapping. It accepts keyword-based queries and returns concept-mapped queries as in a taxonomy; a search term is mapped to other associated terms, including narrower and related concepts.


OSTI is well-positioned to meet customer needs by defining the next generation of information access and dissemination.