Newsletter for Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Usability 101: A Pilot Test of DOE PAGESBeta

The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is committed to developing science search tools that meet the needs of users and support the dissemination of DOE research and development (R&D) results.  In August 2014, the Department launched the DOE Public Access Gateway for Energy and ScienceBeta (DOE PAGESBeta), a portal to journal articles and accepted manuscripts resulting from DOE-funded research that was developed and is maintained by OSTI.  Soon after the launch of DOE PAGESBeta, OSTI invited a group of key stakeholders to provide what proved to be valuable feedback about the resource.  In November 2015, as part of OSTI's efforts to continuously improve our scientific and technical information offerings, a team of OSTI librarians conducted a more formal pilot usability study of DOE PAGESBeta to gauge user satisfaction.  The study included evaluating current search features, ease of navigation, and the overall site experience, with the end goal of identifying usability issues to inform enhancements. 

So what is usability testing?  It is essentially making sure something works well – that a person of average experience can use the product for its intended purpose without excessive hindrance and frustration.  Products created with usability in mind are helpful to the target audience and easy to learn and navigate, and they guide the user efficiently and effectively to the information they need.  Our goal is to ensure that DOE PAGESBeta meets all those criteria.  To that end, we defined our target audiences and asked selected members of those audiences to participate in a guided exploration of DOE PAGESBeta while OSTI staff observed.  We also invited feedback regarding their needs and expectations of the product.  We recorded our observations and their feedback to help identify needed improvements to DOE PAGESBeta.

The pilot usability test was conducted at the University of Tennessee College of Communication and Information-Oak Ridge National Laboratory User eXperience Laboratory in Knoxville.  We recruited volunteer participants with backgrounds and abilities representative of our target audiences:  researchers and the scientific community, librarians, and the general public.  The test was based on the "think aloud" methodology, a technique designed to elicit spontaneous thoughts, impressions, and suggestions from participants; they were instructed to complete tasks on DOE PAGESBeta and to "think out loud" as they interacted with the product.  They were given basic instructions and then left alone to complete the tasks.  Software was used to record both the participants' on-screen actions as well as audio and video of the individuals as they completed their tasks. 

Participants were asked to complete six tasks aimed at determining the ease of use of some of the basic search functions as well as some of the more specialized features of DOE PAGESBeta.  These included having a participant find articles by a specific author, generating a citation for a specific record, and finding and downloading an accepted manuscript.  Finally, participants were given a short post-test questionnaire to elicit feedback about their overall impression of the site, with questions such as "How easy was it to navigate the site?" "What did you like most about the site?" and "Is there anything you would change?"

Overall, the results of the test were encouraging, with all six participants able to complete the six assigned tasks with little to no difficulty.  Most of the participants expressed satisfaction with the navigation of DOE PAGESBeta, stating that it was easy to search and retrieve relevant records.  There was also constructive feedback from the participants, a very important component to any usability study; these comments are being addressed and will help direct enhancements and improvements to DOE PAGESBeta – and OSTI's other science search tools. 

Usability studies are iterative processes—soliciting feedback, making changes, then going back to the users to invite responses to these changes.  This pilot study has been a great learning experience for OSTI, and it will be used to inform future usability studies on other search tools such as SciTech Connect, OSTI's primary repository for DOE science, technology, and engineering research information.  Meanwhile, OSTI encourages users to provide feedback about our science search tools via the contact link at each of our product sites.  Comments and suggestions are always appreciated and will help contribute to ongoing improvements to OSTI's collections.

OSTI Launches DOE Data ID Service Microsite

Since 2008, OSTI has been helping DOE researchers and the public find DOE scientific research data collections through the DOE Data Explorer (DDE).  Then, in 2011, OSTI began offering a service enabling DOE researchers to obtain digital object identifiers (DOIs) for individual datasets, and the DDE database began including those individual items as well.  But, until recently, the DOE Data ID Service that assigns and registers those DOIs to datasets did not have an OSTI web page of its own.

In November 2015, to increase the DOI registration service's visibility and utility, OSTI launched a new DOE Data ID Service microsite.  The site provides information on how the DOE Data ID Service came into existence, the benefits of registering datasets for DOIs, and a full explanation of how the registration process works.  The microsite is accessible on the OSTI homepage under the "Science Search Tools" menu tab, and it also is highlighted on a slide in the homepage carousel featuring OSTI's products and services.

Through the DOE Data ID Service, OSTI assigns DOIs to datasets submitted by DOE and its contractor or grantee researchers and registers the DOIs with DataCite to aid in citation, discovery, and retrieval.  OSTI is an active member of DataCite, an international organization that supports data visibility, ease of data citation in scholarly publications, data preservation and future re-use, and data access and retrievability.

The Data ID Service is a useful tool for increasing access to digital data, as the DOE Public Access Plan noted:  "The Department's Office of Scientific and Technical Information can provide digital object identifiers to datasets resulting from DOE-funded research.  To improve the discoverability of and attribution for datasets created and used in the course of the research, DOE encourages the citation and identification of datasets with persistent identifiers such as DOIs."

The most prolific data submitter to OSTI during the 2015 fiscal year was the Materials Project at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  Professor Gerbrand Ceder and Dr. Kristin Persson founded the project, which allows experimental research depending on in-depth knowledge of the properties of materials to progress much more quickly.  Using the power of supercomputing and state-of-the-art electronic structure methods, the datasets in the Materials Project repository provide 3-D structural models and detailed analyses.  More than 16,000 of these datasets were registered with DOIs through the DOE Data ID Service in FY 2015.

The DOE Data ID Service is available to DOE lab and grantee researchers, and it accommodates both manual and automatic submissions.  OSTI provides this free data registration service to enhance DOE's management of this important resource.  OSTI, the only U.S. government member of DataCite, also can assign DOIs to other federal agencies' datasets on a cost-reimbursable basis.  Please check out the new DOE Data ID Service microsite, and let us know if you would like to see your data become more visible, cited in scholarly publications, and easier to identify and access for tomorrow's future researchers.

DOE R&D Accomplishments Offers Mobile-Friendly Display

OSTI recently enhanced the DOE R&D Accomplishments website with a responsive design that enables users to view its content across a range of devices, from desktop computer monitors to tablets and smart phones.  The website can now automatically adjust to fit specific screens, regardless of size, displaying information in an optimal format, with user-friendly navigation.  Other changes to the site include an updated structure to mirror the layout of other OSTI information products, larger font sizes, a magnifying glass to indicate searching within the database, and the addition of links to videos and blog archives. 

DOE R&D Accomplishments is a central forum for information about the outcomes of past DOE research and development that have had significant economic impact, improved people's lives, or been widely recognized as remarkable advances in science.  While not intended to be comprehensive, DOE R&D Accomplishments highlights important scientific advances made possible by past R&D and provides access to additional resources and information.  The database contains over 500 specially selected and searchable landmark, legacy, and historically significant documents that can be accessed in full-text format and/or as bibliographic citations.

Individual scientists and important areas of research are spotlighted in the Featured Scientists/Topics pages, which provide information about Nobel Prize-winning researchers associated with DOE or DOE predecessor agencies.  Featured accomplishments include everything from the first self-sustaining nuclear reactor, Manhattan Project, and carbon dating to radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) developed to support space exploration, creation of the first video game, and decoding the genetic information on three human chromosomes. 

DOE R&D Accomplishments provides context and perspective to the scientific and technical information resulting from DOE-sponsored R&D.  Why is this information important, and how has it impacted the world?  Who are the men and women who have researched and developed these scientific breakthroughs?  Visit the newly mobile-responsive DOE R&D Accomplishments with your desktop, tablet, or phone to learn more about these advances in science.

What Is E-Link?

The DOE Scientific and Technical Information Program (STIP), a collaboration from across the DOE complex, works to ensure that the results of DOE-funded research and development activities are identified, disseminated, and preserved.  Led by OSTI, DOE STIP members, including liaisons from program, field, site, and procurement offices, national laboratories, and research facilities, have long been working together to increase the availability and transparency of various types of scientific and technical information (STI).  In 1998, their efforts produced a new DOE STI processing system, DOE Energy Link or E-Link, an innovative tool for online submission of DOE reports and other R&D results.  For the first time, producers of STI could provide Internet addresses for the STI posted at their sites, streamlining the process for making the reports available to users. 

Today, E-Link serves as the DOE corporate system for STI announcement, facilitating the electronic transmittal of STI between DOE and its client community; E-Link is used by DOE funding recipients, the STIP community, OSTI, and researchers within the DOE system.  STI deliverables provided to DOE through E-Link are published, as appropriate, on web products maintained by OSTI, where they become searchable and publicly accessible. 

E-Link accommodates the myriad forms of STI produced with DOE funding with a set of dynamic, customized forms, and electronic harvesting methods that allow uploads of multiple records simultaneously.  Technical reports, videos, datasets, software, conference proceedings, and program documents, among other types, are submitted via E-Link, and financial assistance recipients and DOE researchers are guided to the forms by following links on the homepage.

The submission of accepted manuscripts has also been incorporated into E-Link.  Citation information for journal articles, as well as uploads of the accepted manuscripts or links to those files in institutional repositories, are received, processed, and made available in DOE PAGESBeta, the public access portal to scholarly literature resulting from DOE funding.  Existing processes in E-Link were modified to facilitate the receipt of accepted manuscripts, and a new, more intuitive submission form has also been developed, with easy-to-follow directions and wizard-like functionality.  One key feature of this new form is the option to auto-populate metadata using DOIs. 

E-Link is more than the vehicle for STI submission.  Many data curation, reporting, and analysis activities are conducted internally using the E-Link interface.  OSTI’s commitment to innovation and creativity is driving the evolution of E-Link, no longer just a processing system but the technical means to ensuring long-term preservation of DOE research and development results. 

Search Tip: Find Scientific and Technical Software in SciTech Connect

Scientific and technical software resulting from DOE-funded research is now searchable via SciTech Connect, which employs simple tools and intuitive functionality to make it easy to find what you are looking for.  The new "Software" tab, available directly above the search box on the homepage, is a direct route to software results.  You can also conduct your search across all product types and then use the software search filter on the results screen to limit to software only.  The advanced search screen, accessible by the "Advanced Search" button under the search box, can be used to refine your results, particularly if you know the creators or the title of the software.  The "Software Package Number" is a metadata field unique to software and can be searched using the "Identifier Numbers" field.  You can order software, request consultation services, or receive further information using the link provided in the upper right corner of each citation screen. 

SciTech Connect is a portal to free, publicly available DOE-sponsored R&D results, including technical reports, bibliographic citations, journal articles, conference papers, books, multimedia, software, and data information.  SciTech Connect was developed by OSTI to increase access to science, technology, and engineering research information from DOE and its predecessor agencies.

Meet Jannean Elliott

Jannean Elliott

Jannean Elliott is one of the team leaders in OSTI's Office of Acquisition and Information Programs.  She provides oversight of the automated ingest tools that feed E-Link with submissions from across the DOE complex and works closely with DOE national laboratories in support of the DOE Scientific and Technical Information Program.  She serves as project lead for the DOE Data ID Service, which assigns DOIs to datasets and registers them with DataCite, and also as project lead for the Interagency Data ID Service, a cost-recovery system which provides DOIs to customers at the Departments of Treasury and Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health.  She is a member of DataCite's Metadata Working Group and of the U.S. DataCite Group. 

Before joining DOE/OSTI in 1988, Jannean taught for nine years in the Chattanooga Public Schools, then spent seven years supervising information groups at TVA's Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Alabama and Sequoyah Nuclear Plant in Chattanooga.  She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and English from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a Master's in Library and Information Sciences from Brigham Young University in Utah.  

Retiree Tribute: Julia Hopper Daniel

Julia Daniel

Julia Daniel's warm personality and enthusiasm were ideally suited for her work at OSTI, first in the library collecting journals and later as an information services specialist and liaison with DOE program offices, a job she retired from after 35 years of service.   

In retirement, Julia and her husband Julian live on her family's farm.  Julia is a caregiver to her 91-year-old mother and lends a helping hand when needed to their two children and five grandchildren.  Julia also devotes much of her time and energy as a community leader and notable historian.  She has served as a board member of the Oliver Springs Historical Society, chairperson for the October Sky Festival, and Little Leaf Missionary Baptist Church chairperson for the Edgar Fritz Memorial Scholarship.  

Julia is also president of the Mayme Carmichael School Organization, Inc., which was set up to preserve the heritage of the African American community, promote education, and support the development of the historical black school location, which is now Carmichael Park, in Oliver Springs, Tennessee.  A five-acre park has been dedicated, and a museum is planned in the future.  In April 2012, the Senate of the One Hundred Seventh General Assembly of the State of Tennessee issued a resolution to honor and commend Julia for her efforts to preserve the history of her community, state, and its citizens.  

This retiree tribute is intended to help our OSTI community keep up with former colleagues and friends.  Look for additional tributes to OSTI retirees in upcoming issues.

In the OSTI Collections: Stirling Cycle

A parabolic solar dish utilizing a
Stirling engine Courtesy Western
Area Power Administration

The Stirling engine's basic principles are simple but ingenious; in contrast to internal combustion engines, its only requirement to run is a heat source.  Stirling engines have great potential for quiet operation, efficient use of renewable energy, and increased reliability over other kinds of engines.  DOE databases provide a myriad of free DOE research project reports and publications about how Stirling engines are being used in applications such as thermal storage, solar-only electrical generation, and spacecraft power generation.  Read more about Stirling engines in William Watson's white paper, In the OSTI Collections: The Stirling Cycle.

Check out the In the OSTI Collections to see other featured topics, including Microbes for Production and Cleanup, Bent Crystals, Quantum Chaos, Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS), and Lithium-Ion Batteries.

The Latest from OSTIblog

OSTIblog features the technology, services, people, and policies that are crucial to OSTI’s role in increasing accessibility of DOE-sponsored research.  Here are some of the most recent OSTIblogs:



DOE Science Resources 


research and other 
energy-related STI

DOE-funded accepted

Data from 
DOE-funded research

DOE research videos

DOE-sponsored patents

DOE Nobel Prize winners 
and more

DOE-sponsored scientific 
and technical software

E-prints in basic and
applied sciences

Science resources and other 
information from across the 
DOE complex


SciTech ConnectSciTech Connect

Science, technology, and
engineering research
information from DOE


Scholarly scientific
publications resulting from
DOE-funded research

DOE Data ExplorerDOE Data Explorer 

Scientific research data
resulting from
DOE-funded research


Scientific videos featuring
leading-edge research from DOE


Patents resulting from
DOE-sponsored research

 DOE R&D AccomplishmentsDOE R&D Accomplishments

Remarkable outcomes in science
resulting from past
DOE research and development

 Energy Science & Technology Software CenterEnergy Science & Technology Software Center

DOE-sponsored scientific
and technical software

 National Library of EnergyNational Library of Energy

Science resources and other
information from across the
DOE complex


OSTI Mission: To advance science and sustain technological creativity by making R&D findings available
and useful to Department of Energy (DOE) researchers and the public.

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