Let’s call it creative destruction, borrowing from a popular term in economics. The idea is that the very essence of capitalism is the destruction of old structures and the building of new ones that inevitably face the same pressures as the structures they replaced. It’s the reason the buggy whip industry fell on hard times. The information management business of the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is in constant flux too, where the next big thing can soon become the next big flop. OSTI cannot be immune to these disruptive forces, nor would we wish it to be. Here, I would like to focus on just one of many disruptive forces in the information management and information technology worlds compelling OSTI to change, the push for greater public access to federally-funded R&D results. Frankly, it’s a disruptive force we welcome.
Increasingly the legislative and executive branches of government have emphasized public access to federally-funded scholarly publications (i.e., journal articles and accepted manuscripts) and digital datasets. OSTI will lead the implementation of public access to scholarly publications for DOE, just as the organization has offered public access to other forms of scientific and technical information (STI) emanating from DOE and its predecessor agencies for the past 67 years.
To this end, OSTI is re-focusing and re-balancing its resources, operations, and priorities. For OSTI, this means looking first and foremost at the STI produced by DOE and serving DOE R&D interests. OSTI is working to be as comprehensive as possible in its processes to collect, preserve/curate, and disseminate all forms of STI from DOE. This means that the DOE Scientific and Technical Information Program , or STIP, is of paramount importance. STIP is a robust and effective collaboration across the DOE complex  working to ensure that the results of DOE-funded R&D and other science and technology activities are identified, disseminated, and preserved.
OSTI continues to make tremendous progress in the identification and collection of STI. Through the STIP network, OSTI increased the volume of STI collected from the DOE research community in the 2013 fiscal year (FY13) by 50 percent over FY12, and OSTI and DOE STIP are on a solid pace for further increases in FY14. This includes STI from Headquarters, DOE National Laboratories, site offices, and procurement offices. Still, unfortunate gaps remain in this collection, and there are emerging forms of STI (e.g., multimedia and metadata for datasets) in which OSTI is just beginning to make inroads. OSTI’s re-focusing will address these gaps aggressively.
To be successful with the public access opportunity and better focus on the DOE mission, we will need to engage in some creative destruction. OSTI will re-allocate resources -- people and money -- to the front-end of operations, where OSTI acquires DOE’s STI. As a first, but certainly not last step, the product portfolio will be streamlined by discontinuing the following products/services:
- DOE Green Energy
- Science Conference Proceedings
- Science Open Access Journals
In some cases the content will be easily available through another product (e.g., DOE Green Energy content can be found in SciTech Connect). In others we will simply no longer curate the content (e.g., ScienceLab, with its science education focus, is not part of OSTI’s core STI focus).
OSTI will also eliminate ScienceAccelerator. Its contents are being consolidated in SciTech Connect, the DOE STI flagship product, and they also are available through the National Library of EnergyBeta. (The NLEBeta offers federated search of information across DOE, just as two other OSTI federated products, Science.gov and WorldWideScience.org, provide information respectively from 15 U.S. federal science agencies and more than 70 nations worldwide.)
All of these products have filled important niches for diverse audiences, and OSTI will continue to serve these communities through existing products, such as SciTech Connect and our pending public access tool. But we have to make room for a greater emphasis on access to scholarly publications. And again, these changes are just first steps.
What will be most obvious at first is a new look to OSTI’s main homepage. This redesign will reflect OSTI’s rebalancing to focus on core DOE R&D results, making way for access to scholarly publications and will provide for simplified searching across the OSTI collection. Expect to see this redesign rolled out in mid-March.
As always, we seek your input. As the mayor of New York, Ed Koch used to ask everyone, ““How’m I doing?” ?” We are asking the same question, and we would like to hear your answer.
Dr. Jeffrey Salmon is Deputy Director for Resource Management in the Department of Energy Office of Science.