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Transparency in Government and Transformative Science


Transparency in Government and Transformative Science

I recently had the opportunity to speak with members of DOE's Scientific and Technical Information Program (STIP) at their annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a collaboration that works and is critical to OSTI's success. It is supported by a DOE Order, but there is no compulsion in the order. This is an "order" only insofar as it sets out an expectation that the National Labs will share their R&D output, in whatever form, with OSTI for its free and open distribution. There are no penalties attached to failing to meet this expectation. None are needed. The system works smoothly. The Order does make the point that spreading scientific knowledge is important; it announces an important intention and frames how that intention is to be carried out. And the whole process is working well.

This practice of making R&D results as freely available as possible has roots extending back long before there was a Department of Energy and indeed before there was an Atomic Energy Commission. The historic grounding for STIP and for OSTI is worth thinking about as we consider what transparent science might mean today.

Near the end of the Second World War - November 17, 1944, to be exact - President Roosevelt asked Vannevar Bush, then the Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, to apply the experience of our R&D war efforts - most of which was done in utter secrecy - to the "days of peace ahead". Roosevelt asked for guidance on four major points. Let me share with you the very first issue he addressed to Bush.

"First: What can be done, consistent with military security, and with the prior approval of the military authorities, to make known to the world as soon as possible the contributions which have been made during our war effort to scientific knowledge. The diffusion of such knowledge," Roosevelt goes on to say, "should help us stimulate new enterprises, provide jobs for our returning servicemen and...

Related Topics: Scientific and Technical Information Program Website, stip, transformative science