by Tim Byrne on Mon, June 23, 2008
In the first two parts to this post (Forms of STI and Forms of STI - pt. 2), I talked about how there are different forms of scientific and technical information and each is published and disseminated in its own way. OSTI has different search tools to access the different types of STI. I also discussed technical reports, journal literature, conference proceedings and papers, and e-prints. After defining each of these types of STI, I described the OSTI products that searches each. This post will finish the discussion by covering patents, project summaries, and theses/dissertations.
Patents allow the spread of information about technological inventions while protecting the property rights of the inventor. A patent issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office excludes others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention throughout the U.S. or importing the invention into the U.S. for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted. This public disclosure is extremely important in furthering scientific research. Technology moves on, but information remains useful forever
Thomas Jefferson, an inventor himself and appointed by George Washington to the first Patent Board, was, essentially, the first patent examiner. He found that "the issue of patents for new discoveries has given a spring to invention beyond my conception." (As a graduate of the University of Virginia, I always like to work in a Jefferson quote in my writings.)
DOE and its predecessor agencies, ERDA and AEC, are responsible for creating a tremendous amount of new technology. Much of this research resulted in patents. OSTI has created a central collection of DOE patent information from the 1940's to the present. DOEpatents contains bibliographic citations with links to the full text where available. Patent topics range from flexible horseshoes to nuclear power stations. Patents and patent applications can also be found in Information Bridge, Energy Citations Database and Energy Files. The E-Print Network will include patents from other countries. DOE R&D Accomplishments will highlight some of the more significant DOE patents.
Some government agencies try to keep the public and the research community informed of their R&D activities by providing summaries of ongoing or recently completed research projects. The summaries generally provide the project title and abstract, the sponsoring agency, the principal investigator and the start and end dates of the project. Some of these projects will eventually generate a technical report, journal article or other literature, but for many of the projects, the summary is all the public will see. These summaries are very helpful in making connections between researchers working on similar projects.
OSTI has created DOE R&D Project Summaries. The information contained in these project summaries is different than the bibliographic data contained in the Information Bridge or Energy Citations Database and this is why a separate database is required. Since other federal agencies also have somewhat similar databases, OSTI is able to create a virtual collection of federal project summaries with Federal R&D Project Summaries using federated searching to link six federal agency R&D summary databases.
Theses and dissertations written by students in pursuit of advanced degrees in accordance with the requirements of their institutions can be extremely hard to get a firm grip on. There is a commercial publisher that produces a good index to this material, but submission of dissertations and theses is usually voluntary and, each year, a sizable number don't make it into the index. Many universities are now requiring electronic submission of theses and dissertations and maintain institutional repositories. However, many authors choose not to make their dissertation or thesis available via the web, fearing that it will hurt their changes of getting it published as a book. Networking of these digital dissertation repositories has vastly increased accessibility, but it still is not comprehensive.
It is possible to search for theses and dissertations in a number of OSTI resources. Full text copies of dissertations and theses that received funding support from DOE are found in the Information Bridge. Citations to earlier DOE supported dissertations and theses are found in Energy Citations Database. Energy Citations Database also has extensive coverage nuclear energy related dissertations and theses from U.S. and foreign universities between 1948 and 1973. Dissertations and theses may also be included in the results from Energy Files and the E-Print Network, although full text coverage will vary.
This completes my quick run through of the different types of scientific and technical information and the different OSTI search tools that provide access to the STI that is of interest to the Department of Energy. Hopefully, this will be useful to many of you in helping you decide which of the OSTI search stools is most appropriate for your needs.