Remarks by Jeffrey Salmon
Associate Under Secretary for Science
U.S. Department of Energy
WorldWideScience Alliance Ceremony
June 12, 2008
It is an honor to be here today and to join all of you in celebrating the establishment of the WorldWideScience Alliance.
On behalf of Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and Under Secretary for Science Raymond Orbach, let me express my appreciation to our Korean hosts and the senior staff of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information. KISTI conceived this ceremony and has played a critical role as a founding member of the Alliance itself. KISTI also developed a groundbreaking English-language database called KoreaScience, which allows for Korea's scientific output to be more accessible and visible than ever before, and it is a great addition to the search features in WorldWideScience.org.
Some 18 months ago Ray Orbach and British Library head Lynne Brindley signed a bilateral statement of intent to create WorldWideScience. Here was the culmination of years of work, across many continents, to deploy the kind of federated search technology that broad openness to the international scientific enterprise would really require.
I can best reflect on our own experience in the United States. As with many countries, scientific research in the U.S. is carried out by more than one agency. Each has a natural interest and in most cases a legal requirement to provide broad availability to their scientific output though publicly accessible databases and websites. And this leads, inevitably, to a proliferation of websites.
This is as it should be. Not only does diversity of funding sources have many advantages for the progress of science, but research funded by taxpayers must be open to taxpayers, observing, of course, the proper bounds with respect to security. But the default position should always favor openness, transparency, and accessibility.
That said, an abundance of websites from a variety of agencies presents researchers and the average interested citizen with a dilemma. Where to start, might be the simple way to state the problem.
So in 2002, 13 federal agencies joined together and created Science.gov, a single portal offering searchable access to all the major science databases and websites of these agencies – about 50 million pages of R&D information. These agencies represent 98 percent of the U.S. government's science spending. It is an incredible tool for scientists and science-attentive citizens to have this kind of access to their government's R&D outputs, and it fulfills beautifully our commitment to openness, transparency, and accessibility.
Many of the agencies involved in this effort are here today, and I want to thank them for their commitment to opening scientific communication. In particular, I want to acknowledge the co-chairs of the Science.gov Alliance, Eleanor Frierson of the National Agricultural Library and Tom Lahr, from the Department of Interior's U.S. Geological Survey.
Federated searching, which permits the user to go beyond traditional Google-like searches probing multiple databases at once, is a prime reason for the success of Science.gov and indeed will be a foundation for the success of WorldWideScience.org. For the first time in the history of the Internet, scientists and citizens alike can search distant and remote national scientific databases in real time and receive precise, relevance-ranked results in seconds. No other search engine can do this because these databases reside in the "deep web" where traditional search engines generally cannot reach.
Indeed, the pace of growth and progress with the global gateway idea has been remarkable since the bilateral agreement was reached between Ray Orbach and Lynne Brindley in January 2007. Then the parties committed to launching a prototype within 12 months. Instead it was completed in half that time and was debuted at the 2007 conference of the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information in Nancy, France.
WorldWideScience was embraced by ICSTI and the Council became the first strategic partner. I want to particularly thank the ICSTI president, Herbert Gruttemeier, and the ICSTI executive Board for their leadership and vision.
When it started last year, WorldWideScience.org searched 12 databases from 10 countries. In the year since, those numbers have grown to 32 databases in 44 countries. These 44 countries cover all six inhabited continents and nearly half the world's population. The amount of information open to a search here is comparable to the amount of science searchable on Google. It represents some 200 million pages of R&D results … and again, little of this material could be found by Google. To find it, you need WorldWideScience.org.
Already a tremendous tool for scientific communication, WorldWideScience.org is clearly on a path for comprehensive searching of national scientific output for the entire world.
It will become, if you will, the Alexandria Library of the 21st Century.
Now, this is all interesting background, but what brings us together today is more than a celebration of a successful technology. It is, in fact, a celebration of a shared idea and a shared commitment to that idea. The idea, simply put, is that spreading scientific research and data will speed up the pace of discovery.
This is not a new idea. What is new is its wide acceptance and the means which are now at our disposal to realizing the acceleration of science. Indeed, as the end of the Second World War approached President Roosevelt charged a high-level group to … among other things, see "What can be done, consistent with military security, and with the prior approval of the military authorities, to make known to the world as soon as possible the contributions which have been made during our war effort to scientific knowledge. The diffusion of such knowledge," Roosevelt goes on to say, "should help us stimulate new enterprises, provide jobs for our returning servicemen and other workers, and make possible great strides for the improvement of the national well-being."
"Great strides for the improvement of the national well-being", that was the President's goal back in 1944. Today, here in Seoul, we can revise that goal to read, "Great strides for the improvement of the international well-being."
And in fact, this is rather close to what the authors said in their report to Roosevelt. "International exchange of scientific information is of growing importance" they wrote. "In addition," the authors note, "a flow of scientific information constitutes one facet of general international accord which should be cultivated." And finally they concluded that "the government should take an active role in promoting the international flow of scientific information."
This was something of a revolutionary assertion at the time. But the idea took hold and has led us to where we are today – an international gathering celebrating transparent science and the diffusion of scientific knowledge.
This cannot help but benefit all who participate.
And I think this view is widely held. And given the significance of the milestone we celebrate today, I want to mention these founding WorldWideScience Alliance members individually:
These national organizations and ICSTI have shown great leadership as founding members of this Alliance. I hope that other nations will also join in this Alliance to accelerate science through an acceleration of openness, transparency and accessibility. I also hope that other major science-producing nations who are not represented on the WorldWideScience.org map will offer their own scientific databases to be included in its searches. This would be a way to enhance the scientific enterprise for any nation.
On behalf of the United States government, I want to congratulate all of you on this momentous achievement and offer you our continued support and commitment to your efforts.