"Under Construction: The Information Bridge to the New Millennium"

"Under Construction: The Information Bridge to the New Millennium"


presented at the Hampton Inn, Germantown, MD






Walter Warnick

Director, Office of Scientific and Technical Information


U.S. Department of Energy



Good afternoon. It is an honor for me to be invited here today.

Here is a view of our facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. We have a building of 130,000 square feet which has recently been renovated inside. OSTI has 127 employees, 124 are at Oak Ridge; three are in the Washington vicinity.

OSTI has been collecting the scientific and technical information from DOE and predecessor organizations for 50 years. We take the DOE collection and trade it for that of certain other federal agencies. We then take the total U. S. collection and trade it with other countries. We have over 3 million documents on file.

Two recent developments have affected OSTI significantly. The first is the advent of the Information Age.

The Promise of the Information Age

No technology promises to affect our world more profoundly than the rapid sweep of digital technology.

President Clinton has stated, "We live in an age of possibility. A hundred years ago, we moved from farm to factory. Now we move to an age of technology, information, and global competition. These changes have opened vast new opportunities for our people, but they have also presented them with stiff challenges." President Clinton mentioned the Internet six times in the State of the Union address. He mentioned the Information Age twice.

When I was appointed OSTI Director in January, I found an organization poised for the challenges of the Information Age. Together with our partners across the DOE complex, we envision and will implement a new digital environment for scientific and technical information.

The other recent development that has affected OSTI is that OSTI is now part of the Office of Energy Research. See ER ORGANIZATION CHART. That move encourages OSTI to focus on researchers as direct customers of OSTI's information. OSTI reports throught the Office of Computational and Technology Research headed by Dr. Dave Nelson.

The Department of Energy is one of the top four science agencies in Government in terms of funding research. In some disciplines, DOE is first. The number of Nobel prizes awarded to researchers supported at least in part by DOE funding is evidence of the important role our agency plays. Within the Department of Energy, the Office of Energy Research is responsible for funding over $2 billion in basic research each year. OSTI's alignment with ER complements the basic ER science mission, so that now the research effort and the stewardship of the output of the research effort -- STI -- can be coordinated to make both functions more effective.

While OSTI is now part of the Office of Energy Research, Dr. Martha Krebs, the Director, recognizes and supports the notion that OSTI has a cross-cutting mission. While, we will have a greater emphasis on support of the DOE scientist and researcher, it is important to stress also that the new emphasis will be in addition to, not in place of, our responsibilities to all the program and staff offices within the Department. See picture.

All across the complex, we want researchers and program managers to become so familiar and so dependent upon the electronic information services we'll provide that our customers will feel they can't get their work done successfully without these services. Becoming integral to the Department's research activities is the best way we can help DOE and, at the same time, ensure our future by demonstrating our value.

An Opportunity for Re-invention

This new Information Age presents opportunities for us to reexamine how we have been doing business. Here is a prime example:

The Department of Energy is spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually supporting the creation and publication of research articles in scholarly journals. DOE funds the writing, creation of figures and tables, editing, and internal review for release of information created as a result of research. Additional DOE funds support the publication of these articles, through the payment of publisher page charges and through subscriptions or licenses to journals.

DOE has traditionally borne these expenses because journal articles have been a primary channel through which DOE-funded research results are disseminated. With the coming of the Information Age, however, those channels are changing, and these changes offer to both DOE and publishers an opportunity -- and an impetus -- to reinvent this particular way of disseminating STI.

Scholarly publishers are discovering that their traditional role, as information reviewers and disseminators, is being eroded. Subscriptions are way down. Internet-based information systems have improved the exchange of information among researchers, to the point where some suggest that traditional journals will become unnecessary.

Preprint archives, such as that established for physics by Paul Ginsparg of Los Alamos, can fulfill key functions of journals for a particular community. These archives provide timely announcement of research results, and they support review and discussion. Ginsparg's system is widely used. Traffic is very heavy. Testimonials about his system have been written by the who's who in high energy physics. Physicists tell me that they do the bulk of their professional reading on the Ginsparg system. Ginsparg himself says that it is only a matter of time until traditional journals either radically change, or disappear.

Publishers are flirting with electronic publishing. They recognize the need to compete in the new electronic information environment. At least one publisher has approached us to support the R&D necessary for its transition to an electronic publishing environment.

While Ginsparg's vision of paperless and very cheap publishing seems compelling, the path toward that future is very unclear. As a first step, one of the things we want to accomplish is to bring full-text journal articles on line to the DOE complex. Working with and through libraries and information centers across the complex, we want to make scientific journals available and searchable. The technology is already here to make journals available via the Internet, but problems with copyright have so fur prevented anyone from assembling and presenting a truly comprehensive collection of journals. OSTI is currently investigating what might be required to negotiate and implement DOE complex-wide licenses for access to electronic journals.

Recent OSTI Initiatives in the Information Environment

Rapidly advancing information technologies make it much easier for us to make scientific and technical information available to all.

OSTI has developed an information system, called InfoBridge, which brings to the desktop the full text of the reports stemming from DOE R&D projects. See InfoBridge. By this summer, the InfoBridge will have the sum total of DOE R&D output since January 1996 available at the click of the mouse. Compared to traditional methods of getting information out, InfoBridge will be cheaper, faster, more complete and more convenient. Let me explain. Compared to journals, InfoBridge will be faster. We will get a DOE report on-line within one week of the time we receive it. We will be cheaper; user's will not be charged. We will be more complete in that full reports of any length will be accommodated. Unlike journals, there are no page limitations. We will be more convenient in that the information will be at the desk top of every DOE researcher and program manager. The InfoBridge is also more convenient because it is entirely searchable, unlike journals. See full text example.

InfoBridge is one of the first major tools to provide access to STI via the Web at no cost to DOE end users. As for public access, the Government Printing Office plans to make the DOE InfoBridge available to the public as part of their electronic depository library program. If GPO plans are successful, then the sum total of DOE research results will be available by the end of 1997 ti anyone in the U. S. who has a modem.

To date, we have scanned over one million pages of information to support the full-text delivery capabilities of InfoBridge, a volume of information which, if printed to paper and stacked one on top of another, would be taller than the Washington Monument. By this summer, the InfoBridge will have over 13,000 reports available online. We'll continue to add the full text of all documents as we receive them at OSTI, and -- as resources permit -- we'll retrospectively scan older materials and add them to InfoBridge as well. The InfoBridge has been beta tested and will be up and running this summer.

Two weeks ago, I told Dave Cheney about the InfoBridge. He immediately took me by the arm to meet with Bob Hanfling, head of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board. Hanfling, after hearing about InfoBridge, invited me to come and address the Advisory Board as soon as the InfoBridge is rolled out. It's through products and services like InfoBridge, which take advantage of Information Age technologies, that we will be able to make an even greater impact on the Department's successes than we have in the past.

We have also developed a prototype system which makes DOE project summaries and other selected information from the R&D Tracking System available on the Web. Right now, only DOE and contractor employees have access to this project information, but on June 1, we're going to make these project summaries available to the general public. This is another example of our renewed emphasis on getting information out to users.

These two new systems will be only part of our concept of electronic information delivery to DOE. That concept is called "EnergyFiles: The Energy Science and Technology Virtual Library Environment." EnergyFiles was demonstrated at our Inforum meeting last week. EnergyFiles is not just an OSTI system. It will take full advantage of the resources, technologies and expertise throughout the complex. We want to identify, gather, organize and make available for reuse all of the STI created by or acquired for the Department. To achieve such an end -- in fact, even to envision and plan for such a system -- all of us -- OSTI, the Labs, field offices, and IM Council organizations -- federal personnel and contractors alike -- will need to continue to work together. Opportunities for collaboration abound.

We have a number of ideas we're currently exploring. For example, we're investigating machine translation which, when integrated with foreign full-text databases which we already have, could make literally additional continents of STI available to our researchers. We're looking at so-called push technologies, which could allow OSTI to deliver -- in essence -- a customized Current Awareness Publication to each customer.

Scientific and Technical Information Program Planning

Implementing any of these new capabilities will require resources. However, we think we can show that -- across the complex -- more scientists and researchers can be served with these capabilities, at a lower cost per person served. That's the message we need to take to our resource managers. That is the justification for short-term increases in total funding -- to get over the hump to the new environment.

From June 24 through June 26, OSTI will be hosting a complex-wide Scientific and Technical Information Program Planning meeting in Washington, DC. At that meeting, OSTI will facilitate a discussion of the requirements for our electronic future and jointly we will decide who can contribute what to that end. We'll be sending out invitations to that DOE-wide planning meeting in the next couple of weeks. We're inviting a cross section of Departmental representatives -- from all parts of the complex, including information end users, information intermediaries, and program managers.

At the June meeting, we will address issues of interest to the IM community: formats for electronic exchange of STI, processes for getting DOE reports to OSTI on the InfoBridge more quickly, adoption of a metadata standard as a first step toward distributed searching, and establishment of a virtual library through linkage of dispersed sources of STI.

Departmental STI stewardship is not something OSTI can do on its own. While OSTI has particular functions it performs for the community, an important mission is facilitating the planning across the complex. We can't lead the Department through command and control. We CAN lead by promoting the discussion and consensus-building required to ensure that we're all working in the same direction. OSTI's role in the Department is one of planning, coordination and advocacy, with little reliance on mandating and regulating.

When we meet together in June, we hope to develop a strategic direction for the Department in the stewardship of information. That direction will be based on some principles on which I hope we all agree:

  • That scientific and technical information is a critical resource that contributes to the nation's well-being.

  • That STI content is the focus of the program, whereby users are equipped with the information needed to do their jobs.

  • That programs that fund R&D need to actively support management of the information throughout its life-cycle.

  • Having STI identified, collected and disseminated is in the self-interest of researchers individually, as well as the interests of the Department as a whole.

  • That while program coordination is provided centrally, management and implementation of the program are distributed across the various funding programs and field and laboratories involved in STI.


In support of the implementation of the complex-wide strategy, we're proposing to reconstitute the Scientific and Technical Information Coordinating Group.

To make these collaborative concepts work, OSTI hopes to depend less upon orders, and more upon encouraging the adoption of new processes and procedures that serve both our individual and collective interests. We hope to demonstrate real value through Information Age systems, and let the results themselves argue for continuation and expansion. In place of enforcing compliance, we'll encourage cooperation.

Remember, we want researchers and other DOE personnel to become so dependent upon our electronic information services that they will encourage -- or even demand! -- that their organizations join up. If a researcher, for example, sees STI created by his colleagues available full text on the InfoBridge, then he, too, will want to use our tools, so that his own research findings are there with that of his peers. If a scientist working in EnergyFiles finds non-DOE information of interest -- say, full text articles from a particular scholarly journal -- we hope he will encourage his organization to fund licenses to other on-line information systems.

Here are several examples of the role that OSTI hopes to play. See STIP Paradigm shift image 1 and image 2.

Many STI managers at the Labs have already established or are establishing online information resources. We want to establish hyperlinks to make resources available across the DOE complex.

Some of the labs have scanned their own legacy files of STI and have full-text available within the individual labs. We want to see those efforts leveraged and coordinated to make the on-line files comprehensive and available throughout the complex.

Some sites are looking at ways to make electronic journals available to their respective user groups. We want to explore how we can build on these separate achievements for the benefit of DOE as a whole.

The electronic information environment which can result from pooling our respective contributions will be greater than the sum of its parts.


So those are our plans for DOE Scientific and Technical Information Program. We want to see many of our objectives realized by the end of Fiscal Year 99.

Of course, we are planning all these advances while experiencing a budget climate tighter than any I have seen in my 26 years in Government. OSTI's budget will remain flat -- with no increase even for inflation -- for fiscal year 98. That will require some tightening of a belt that is already tight. If we are going to continue our transition into the Information Age, we must work together to find cost effective ways to make that happen. See IM Chart.

I can usually be reached by phone or E-mail. I invite you to let me know about your hopes and your concerns about our shared responsibilities and our plans for the future.

Thank you.

Last updated on Friday 29 April 2016