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OSTIblog Articles in the science communications Topic

OSTI's Contributions Highlighted in DOE Open Government Plan


By Walt Warnick and Peter Lincoln

The Department of Energy Open Government Plan ( published in April 2010 prominently featured the DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) and several of its initiatives, products and services.

On January 21, 2009, his first full day in office, President Barack Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.  The memo was addressed to the heads of all Cabinet departments and agencies, and in it, the President called for “an unprecedented level of openness in Government” and instructed the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to prepare a directive that would serve “to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation and collaboration” throughout the Federal Government.


 On December 8, 2009, OMB Director Peter Orszag issued the Administration’s Open Government Directive, which required agencies to take a number of steps to advance the principles of transparency, participation and collaboration, including preparation and publication of an Open Government Plan by April 7, 2010.

The Department of Energy was one of 29 agencies that has posted its Open Government Plan online, and OSTI’s contributions appeared throughout the 30-page DOE document. 

The DOE plan included a brief profile of OSTI ( and its Science Accelerator ( resource (on page 16), and the plan listed OSTI’s newest product, the DOE Green Energy portal ( (page 17).

The DOE plan also accounted for the many high-value datasets that OSTI has posted to (...

Related Topics: Open government, osti mission, r&d findings


The Benefits of Investments in Basic Research

Long-term investments in basic research produce the major conceptual breakthroughs necessary for creating radically new technologies. To be sure, scientists cannot make specific promises about future advances, and there often are long delays in the applications that arise from basic research. Furthermore, sometimes applied research leads to important basic knowledge, and technologies developed for basic research can lead to broader applications. Throughout history, advances in scientific knowledge have resulted in revolutions in technology that have improved the standard of living and enhanced our way of life.

The economic impact of innovations derived from basic research is substantial. Recent studies have estimated that the average annual rate of return on R&D investment ranges from 28 percent to 50 percent, depending on the assumptions used. While there is some uncertainty in these numbers, there is general agreement that the impact is huge and that past investment has paid for itself many times over.*

The goal of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is to increase this rate of return on research investments both by speeding up the process and by facilitating even better results.

In addition, OSTI maintains the DOE R&D Accomplishments database, an important resource about the outcomes of past research and development investments that have had significant economic impact, improved people’s lives or been widely recognized as remarkable advances in science.

Investments in basic research in the physical sciences have led to countless major contributions to society and commerce. Here are some representative examples:

The Knowledge Investment Curve

Every scientist knows that science advances only if knowledge is shared. Mathematically, this statement implies that the advance of science is a function of both the sharing of research results, as well as doing the original research. In principle, therefore, decision makers face the problem of deciding how much to spend on original research and how much to spend on sharing the knowledge that comes out of research.

Consider the accompanying graph with the x-axis being the fraction of research resources expended on spreading knowledge. The scale would range from 0% to 100%. The y-axis is the pace of scientific discovery. One can imagine a curve plotting the pace of discovery as a function of the fraction of resources expended on sharing knowledge.

When the fraction of resources is 0%, the pace of science advance is zero, as nothing is shared. When the fraction of resources is 100%, the pace of advance is also zero, as nothing is spent on the research itself. In between these endpoints, the plot will have a maximum. The plot is the Knowledge Investment Curve.

While we show a conceptualization of the Knowledge Investment Curve, we know very little about the actual form of this curve, or even how much is currently invested in sharing.  

Most knowledge sharing activities are not funded directly as budget items. These include writing an estimated one million research papers and reports a year worldwide, as well as finding and reading them. It includes preparing for and participating in conferences, as well as writing and reading emails, blogs, etc. It also includes training postdocs and Ph.D. students, plus an untold number of colleague to colleague...

Related Topics: knowledge, Web, world wide web, (WWS)


Surfing the Internet Gets Deep

WorldWideScience provides a one-stop search engine to mine global scientific databases in the deep web

The internet has revolutionized society by changing the way people communicate, find information, and enjoy entertainment. But a standard internet search misses at least 90 percent of the information available. 

The internet is separated into two unequal pools of information. The surface web contains pages of information that are utilized by popular search engines. The second pool of information is locked away in the deep web, which consists of countless databases world wide.

According to Walt Warnick, Director of the DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI), "The deep web is huge."

Common browsers like Google and Yahoo crawl across the thousands of internet pages on the surface web, but are unable to dig into the databases to retrieve information from the deep web.

"Asking a scientist, engineer, or educator to find information in their field using common web browsers is like asking a doctor to diagnose disease without X-rays, MRI, or any other piece of diagnostic equipment" said Warnick.

Information in the deep web can only be mined for data using search engines designed for that particular database. Many of the search engines that are available to mine databases often do not use relevance ranking, making filtering through the information a crap shoot.

"Under the current system, finding information in the deep web is a series of practical impossibilities, placing internet users, especially scientists and science educators, at a severe disadvantage" said Warnick.

To address the global science need, OSTI has launched, a science gateway that accelerates the search for data in national and international scientific databases and portals...

Related Topics: china, doe, osti, (WWS)