by Tim Byrne on Fri, June 20, 2008
In the first part to this post, Forms of STI, I talked about how there are different forms of scientific and technical information and how each is published and disseminated in its own way. OSTI has different search tools to access the different types of STI. In the last post I discussed technical reports. Now I will cover journal literature, conference proceedings and papers, and e-prints, defining each and pointing out the OSTI search tools that covers each.
The publication of research in scientific journals started in the mid seventeenth century. Before that and for some time after, scientific and technical information was circulated via letters, printed tracts and books. Journals became a preferred medium because journal publishers worked to achieve wider dissemination and faster publication. Today, however, even with the tremendous growth in scientific journals in the later half of the twentieth century, publishing in scientific journals is most often not a speedy process. It can often take a year of more for an article to be published once it has been accepted by a journal. For this reason, many scientists and engineers also utilize other means to share their research. Options include technical reports, conference papers, pre-prints and a growing use of e-prints.
From 1948 to 1976, the Atomic Energy Commission published Nuclear Science Abstracts, providing comprehensive indexing of the international nuclear science literature, including journal literature on a worldwide basis. This literature can now be found using Energy Citations Database. ECD also indexes articles written by DOE employees and contractors since 1977. So while OSTI does provide some coverage of journal literature, for the most part, scientific and technical journal articles are extensively covered in discipline related databases produced by commercial publishers or scientific societies. Preprints of journal articles can be found using the E-Print Network and Information Bridge. Journal literature is also covered in databases searched by Energy Files and Science.gov.
Conference proceedings and papers:
An excellent way for researchers to share their ongoing or completed projects is by delivering papers or making presentations at scholarly conferences. Thus, conference proceedings are excellent sources of STI. They are also the bane of librarians everywhere. Identifying libraries owning specific proceedings volumes can be exceedingly difficult. This is due to limited dissemination, poor citations, conference title variations, and changes in publishers, locations and funding organizations. In the past, the problems with locating conference papers often dissuaded people from pursuing the information. Today, conference proceedings and individual conference papers are often available on the web, greatly improving access. Still there are a lot of challenges to providing bibliographic control of this material.
OSTI addresses the problems with finding and accessing conference proceedings and papers by providing Science Conference Proceedings. This search tool seeks out the conference proceedings and papers on websites and in databases hosted by scholarly societies, institutes and national labs with a strong interest in the physical sciences. Full text coverage varies, depending on the publishing organization. Conference papers are also found as e-prints using the E-Print Network. In addition, the Information Bridge and Energy Citations Database will also include energy related conference proceedings and papers.
E-Prints also encompass a wide variety of publication types. Basically, e-prints are scientific or technical documents that are disseminated electronically by the author. This may include technical reports, conference publications, presentations, journal articles and preprints, and other electronic documents. Pre-prints are an important category of e-prints. Making the text of a journal article available electronically prior to its eventual publication in a journal allows the research results to be available much sooner. This electronic dissemination is done to facilitate peer exchange and scientific advancement.
Many researchers are placing copies of all their publications and reports on their personal web pages, mixing published articles with unpublished reports and presentations. Government agencies are also collecting the publications and reports from their employees and contractors and making them accessible through databases or web pages. Private companies and research organizations are doing the same with their own employees, although they don't always make the documents publically accessible. These efforts have resulted in an enormous amount of full text STI being available via the web that is extremely difficult to bring under bibliographic control.
The standard web search engines work best for e-prints when you are searching for a specific title. If the document is on the web and is not in a database or buried too many levels down on a web page, you should have some success finding it. Searching for a specific author is much more challenging due to variation in how names are presented. If you are seeking scientific or technical e-prints on specific topics, web search engines will usually overwhelm you with non-relevant results.
OSTI has created a very specialized search engine for e-prints that searches web sites and databases. The E-Print Network searches over 25,000 web pages. It also searches over 3000 professional societies in the sciences and engineering. These societies may also be browsed by discipline and/or by one of eleven languages. Over fifty institutional repositories and multidisciplinary collections are also searched using technology specifically developed for OSTI that reaches into the deep web.
My next post, Forms of STI - pt. 3, will finish up this discussion by touching on patents, project summaries, and theses and dissertations.