While I have not taken a formal survey, my experience over many years as a Department of Energy (DOE) employee suggest to me that most people have no idea what DOE does. Let me amend that. Many people know exactly what we do. DOE controls the price of gas at the pump; it manages natural gas drilling, builds pipe lines and regulates refineries. As it turns out, people know a great deal about DOE, it’s just that most of it is dead wrong.
Look it up and you’ll find that “[t]he mission of the Energy Department is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.” Hmm. Nothing about gas prices there.
Once you get a bead on the DOE mission you are ready to mine its extraordinary set of resources. And if you are looking for the ultimate search experience in exploring DOE’s vast holdings of diverse types of science- and energy-related information, you will want to use the newly developed National Library of Energy Beta (NLEBeta) search tool. That little “Beta” notation means we are still testing NLE, and it’s an invitation to help us improve the site before we “go live.”
The NLEBeta is an important DOE open government initiative – and an easy-to-use gateway to information in all of DOE’s broad mission areas: science and R&D; energy and technology for industry and homeowners; energy market information and analysis; and nuclear security and environmental management.
It’s an especially handy way to find out more about the Department’s all-of-the-above energy strategy. And you don’t have to know DOE’s organizational structure to use the NLEBeta. Believe me, even people that work here get confused about that.
The NLEBeta operates as a library that virtually integrates and makes searchable the disparate and decentralized information collections across DOE. Via a single search box, the NLEBeta enables you to search 83 DOE websites and 17 databases – fully 25 million searchable pages.
Through the NLEBeta, a user can search websites and extensive databases hosted by:
- The DOE main website (energy.gov);
- all DOE program offices (including ARPA-E, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Environmental Management, Fossil Energy, Nuclear Energy, and Science);
- the National Nuclear Security Administration;
- the Energy Information Administration;
- all DOE staff offices;
- all DOE field/site offices; and
- all DOE National Laboratories and technology centers.
The NLEBeta search tool was conceived and developed and is hosted by our friends at the DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI), who fulfill the Department’s statutory responsibilities to collect, preserve and disseminate scientific and technical information emanating from DOE R&D activities.
The NLEBeta employs two highly effective web tools – federated search, the simultaneous search of multiple web pages and databases in real time via a single query, and relevancy ranking, technology that allows search results to be returned in ranked order relevant to the search query. While this functionality may sound similar to what a user of Google or Bing experiences, the “under the hood” operations are quite different – and the results are more fruitful – because much of DOE’s decentralized database contents (located in the “deep web”) aren’t accessible by these commercial search engines.
With this technology, the NLEBeta retrieves relevance-ranked individual site results verbatim from distributed DOE databases and web pages, with hyperlinks back to the databases/pages where the original content can be viewed. The NLEBeta thus returns results that may cut across organization information holdings and delivers a user to the doorstep(s) of the organization(s) where the information was produced. In this way, the NLEBeta preserves the identities of individual organizations and the integrity and ownership of their information.
Today, the NLEBeta search tool is offered as a training resource on the DOE Virtual University , the Department’s online workforce development and training center. In addition, the NLEBeta is a featured search and developer tool on the DOE resource hub for open energy data , and it also is accessible on the Office of Science  and OSTI  home pages. In due course, we are encouraging other DOE offices to offer the NLE as an enhanced search resource on their websites.
The NLEBeta is the place to go if you’re looking for DOE consumer, energy supply, scientific and technical and programmatic information. It’s also a great resource for information about all facets of the all-of-the-above energy strategy, including oil, gas and coal; wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels and nuclear; energy efficiency, fuel economy, climate change and more.
So if you’re looking for information from DOE, I encourage you to give the NLEBeta a test drive – and let us know what you think of it. You’ll be amazed to learn what DOE actually does.
Dr. Jeffrey Salmon is Deputy Director for Resource Management in the Department of Energy Office of Science.