OSTI History

Born in 1947 of General Leslie R. Groves' 1945 mandate to tell the American people about the formerly secret Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb, the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) rapidly became home to one of the world's most comprehensive collections of energy-related information.


Long before the Internet came along, OSTI advanced science by making research information widely available.  OSTI annually responded to upwards of 50,000 requests for information and, during the 1977 energy crisis, OSTI fielded more than 150,000 requests.  Located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, OSTI operated one of the few Federal printing plants in the United States, and in 1948 began an almost 30-year production of the world-famous Nuclear Science Abstracts, which greatly expanded access to nuclear science information.  OSTI shouldered a lead role in providing materials to the Atoms for Peace Geneva Conferences, envisioned by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as a means to collect and share nuclear information with peaceful nations.  OSTI was also instrumental in establishing the International Nuclear Information System (INIS), which today collaborates with 130 nations to promote nuclear information exchange.   


Whether by print or by pixel, OSTI has long been committed to ensuring appropriate and ready access to government research.  OSTI’s mission is to advance science and sustain technological creativity by making research and development (R&D) findings available to Department of Energy (DOE) researchers and the public.  OSTI is dedicated to the principle that, to advance science, research must be shared.  OSTI works to accelerate discovery by speeding access to knowledge. 



Statutory Authority:  OSTI fulfills agency-wide responsibilities to collect, preserve, and disseminate scientific and technical information (STI) emanating from DOE R&D activities.  This has been codified in the enabling legislation of DOE and its predecessor agencies and in 2005 was defined as a specific OSTI responsibility within the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

  • Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58), Section 982, called out OSTI’s responsibility: “The Secretary, through the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, shall maintain with the Department publicly available collections of scientific and technical information resulting from research, development, demonstration, and commercial applications activities supported by the Department.”

  • Department of Energy Organization Act of 1977 (P.L. 95-91) provided for maintaining a central source of information and disseminating information (42 U.S.C. Sec. 5916, 7112).

  • Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-438) defined responsibilities for developing, collecting, distributing, and making scientific and technical information available for distribution (42 U.S.C. Sec. 5813, 5817).

  • Atomic Energy Acts of 1946 (P. L.79-585) and 1954, as amended (P.L. 83-703) established a program for the dissemination of unclassified scientific and technical information and for the control of classified information (42 U.S.C. Sec. 2013, 2051, and 2161).

  • America COMPETES Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-69), Section 1009, required that Federal agencies that conduct scientific research develop agency-specific policies and procedures regarding the public release of data and results of research.

  • America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 ((P.L. 111-358), 42 U.S.C. Section 6623, Section 103 “Interagency Public Access Committee, (a) ESTABLISHMENT. – “The Director shall establish a working group under the National Science and Technology Council with the responsibility to coordinate Federal science agency research and policies related to the dissemination and long-term stewardship of the results of unclassified research, including digital data and peer-reviewed scholarly publications, supported wholly, or in part, by funding from the Federal science agencies.”


Pre-Internet Chronology: The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), created by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 [1.74-MB PDF], began the Technical Information Program in 1947.  At first, the Technical Information Division, as OSTI originally was called, was managed locally by the predecessor of Oak Ridge Operations.  In 1948, the reporting relationship was changed, and the function, though still physically located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, began reporting directly to Washington, DC.  OSTI has been part of the DOE Office of Science since the 1990s.

The advantages of having a centralized information dissemination function, as opposed to separate functions at the national laboratories, were recognized from the beginning.  In the late 1940s and 1950s, the programmatic mission of the Technical Information Division was to "plan, develop, maintain, and administer all services and facilities required to accomplish the dissemination of STI for the encouragement of scientific progress and to promote the ultimate sharing on a reciprocal basis of information concerning the practical industrial application of atomic energy, as provided for in the Atomic Energy Act of 1946."  This called for three basic STI functions to be established that continue today: collection, preservation, and dissemination, with separate operations for classified information.

In the beginning of the Technical Information Division, announcement journals of bibliographic information and abstracts were state-of-the-art for disseminating information about declassified and unclassified reports.  An abstracting service and a printing plant were established.  The Nuclear Science Abstracts announcement journal broadened the type of literature announced (adding journal articles, books, and international literature, not just material produced by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)) so that it became comprehensive in its coverage of nuclear science.

In addition to the bibliographic information and abstracts in the announcement journal format, OSTI capitalized on technology of the day to deliver full text of documents.  In 1952, the Technical Information Division initiated document miniaturization (microcard/microfiche), a program designed to facilitate rapid and inexpensive dissemination of the full text of reports to AEC depository libraries around the United States.  Depository libraries could receive both paper and microfiche, or choose one format to receive.  However, distribution of printed reports steadily decreased until the mid-1960s, when paper distribution was virtually eliminated.  In 1969, funding for the AEC depository libraries ended, and the free distribution of microfiche STI reports ceased.  However, fifty former depository libraries elected to continue to receive the microfiche reports on a subscription basis.

Information was a central component of the "Atoms-for-Peace" Program called for under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954.  On the domestic side, this effort ensured accessibility of nuclear science information to U.S. industry.  On the international side, the program involved negotiating bilateral agreements for cooperation between the United States and other nations which included the exchange of information and drafting of an organizational structure that would establish the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


In the 1960s, OSTI (then the Division of Technical Information Extension) began using computers to store and exchange information to enable rapid and dependable searching of bibliographic information.


STI from the AEC, Energy Research and Development Administration, and DOE has always been made available to the public.  OSTI’s system of depository libraries was a primary public outlet.  Early on, many AEC reports were distributed by the Office of Technical Services, a predecessor of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS).  The Government Printing Office (GPO) also selected AEC reports to sell and distribute to Federal depository libraries. 


Later in the 1960s, the Clearinghouse for Scientific and Technical Information took over the role of the Office of Technical Services and continued the distribution of all unclassified AEC reports that had been cataloged by OSTI.  In 1971, this service was continued by the NTIS.  In 1991, the American Technology Pre-eminence Act designated NTIS as the public outlet for all Federal scientific and technical reports, including those provided by OSTI.

OSTI personnel were instrumental in the creation of the International Nuclear Information System (INIS) in 1969 by the IAEA.  In mid-1976, the Nuclear Science Abstracts journal was discontinued after 30 years, and IAEA/INIS assumed primary responsibility for publishing a printed nuclear STI announcement journal product known as Atomindex.

The Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 abolished the AEC and established the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA).  Three years later, the Department of Energy Act of 1977 abolished ERDA and established the Department of Energy (DOE).  These acts broadened the role of OSTI (then known as the Technical Information Center) in the collection, preservation, and dissemination of all types of energy related STI, not just the nuclear energy information.  Building on the international cooperative relationships already in place, exchanges were expanded into non-nuclear areas and began involving the newly formed International Energy Agency (IEA).  In 1974, with Energy Research Abstracts as the corresponding print journal, OSTI initiated the building of the computerized Energy Science and Technology Database (EST), encompassing the full scope of energy, all literature types, and with worldwide coverage.  Microfiche was still the norm for full-text distribution and archiving, but computers were gaining headway, making searching of bibliographic data far easier.


In the early 1980s, the establishment of a partnership between OSTI and GPO, in which microfiche copies of all DOE research and development reports were distributed to selected Federal depository libraries, served to increase public access to STI.

During the 1980s, OSTI was instrumental in establishing the international Energy Technology Data Exchange (ETDE), an implementing agreement under the IEA.  ETDE was established for the purpose of sharing non-nuclear energy information, and OSTI served as the Operating Agent for this agreement for over twenty-five years, until the agreement’s dissolution in 2014.  ETDEWEB was later launched to provide information from member countries and world-wide information in nuclear, coal, and global climate change areas.




Internet Age: Although OSTI's name and chain of command have shifted several times, its core mission to collect, preserve, and disseminate STI continues.  With forward-thinking and agile leadership, OSTI made significant strides into the Information Age by defining new electronic exchange formats and creating diverse collections of digitized STI.


In 1994, OSTI created the first DOE home page, and in 1996 entered the Internet era full force with the digitization of report literature.  With shifts in the technology and needs of the day, the microfiche program and the printing plant at the facility ended in 1995.  OSTI’s digitization efforts, along with the evolution of the internet , made it possible for OSTI to serve the DOE science community directly.

Beginning in 1997, OSTI coordinated the Scientific and Technical Information Program (STIP) Strategic Plan, which promoted a more mutually beneficial collaboration with STIP partners at the DOE national laboratories and operations offices.  Within the DOE Office of Science, OSTI has the responsibility for coordinating STI activities, and for leading a collaborative effort across a distributed STI environment.  To that end, OSTI and designated representatives from the headquarters programs, field offices, national laboratories, facility contractors, and other stakeholders make up the Scientific and Technical Information Program (STIP).  STIP and its representatives from across the complex work to facilitate access to STI and to identify best practices, goals, and objectives.  Through the use of innovative technologies and open communication, STIP stakeholders are actively involved in the creation, processing, dissemination, and preservation of STI.  These activities support OSTI’s mission today, and are outlined in the OSTI Strategic Plan for FY 2015-2019.


Energy Files: Virtual Library of Energy Science and Technology was unveiled in 1997 as one of the first web-based virtual libraries, providing easy access to over 500 widely diverse collections of both DOE and worldwide energy-related STI.    Also that year, DOE Research and Development Project Summaries was introduced as the first free web-accessible product to provide access to R&D projects ongoing within DOE.  Since that time, both have been discontinued as OSTI has refocused and rebalanced its efforts.

The DOE Information Bridge was the first online system to provide searchable full-text and bibliographic records of DOE-sponsored research report literature.  Originally made available to DOE and DOE contractors, the DOE Information Bridge was introduced to the public in April 1998.  

A website detailing DOE R&D Accomplishments was launched in 1999 to provide a central forum for information about the outcomes of past R&D and to highlight remarkable advances in science.

In January 2000, OSTI released the PrePRINT Network, a gateway to preprint servers.  This system assimilated databases and websites into an energy information environment available to researchers and the general public from a single source.  In August 2000, OSTI added two products to its electronic collection.  The GrayLIT Network provided a comprehensive portal to full text technical reports from various Federal agencies and the Federal R&D Project Summaries provided project summaries of the full text of Federal R&D information.  Both products were early successes stemming from the Workshop Report on a Future Information Infrastructure for the Physical Sciences [219-KB PDF].

In 2001, OSTI launched Energy Citations Database (ECD), which provided bibliographic citations and full-text links when available for DOE energy-related research from 1948 to the present. 


In December 2002, the interagency Science.gov was launched.  This web portal, the Federal government’s gateway to U.S. science, is hosted at OSTI.  Science.gov provided for the first time a single query search across the government’s vast stores of STI.  Through federated one-stop search of U.S. government science information, the portal today continues to offer free access to R&D results from 19 organizations within 15 Federal science agencies.  Science.gov was the first government science search engine to rank results for relevancy in real time and was a pioneer in precision searching across full-text documents.  Science.gov today offers more than 200 million pages of authoritative U.S. government science information.


In July 2003, the PrePRINT Network was expanded and renamed E-print Network, which provided single query searching of e-print manuscripts, scholarly papers, and other scientific documents residing on scientific websites, as well as a deep web search across major e-print databases.


In May 2005, OSTI launched Science Conference Proceedings, a portal for searching conference papers and proceedings in various fields of science and technology from conferences of interest to DOE.


In April 2007, OSTI introduced scalability in federated government search through the development of the initial version of the Science Accelerator.  Science Accelerator was a federated search tool that allowed users to search all of OSTI search products with a single query.  This saved experienced searchers a great deal of time and allowed less experienced searchers to find DOE STI without having to know which OSTI search tool best suited their needs.


In June 2007, DOE and the British Library, along with eight other participating countries, introduced a searchable online global gateway to science information from 15 national portals.  The gateway, WorldWideScience.org, introduced federated searching across science sources on a global scale.  WorldWideScience.org gives citizens, researchers, and anyone interested in science the capability to search science portals not easily accessible through popular search technology.  WorldWideScience.org was developed and is maintained by OSTI, which also serves as the Operating Agent for the WorldWideScience Alliance.  Formalized in June 2008, the WorldWideScience Alliance provides the governance structure for WorldWideScience.org.  Multilingual translation capabilities were added to WorldWideScience.org in June 2010, making possible real-time searching and translation of globally dispersed collections of scientific literature.  This capability benefits the English-speaking science community, enabling searching and translation of non-English sources.   Multilingual translation capabilities are available for ten languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.


Also in 2007, OSTI introduced a searchable collection of more than 30,000 patent records resulting from DOE and predecessor-agency funding.  The DOepatents collection represents a growing compilation of patents resulting from research supported by DOE, and demonstrates the Department's considerable contribution to scientific progress from the 1940s to the present.


In June 2008, OSTI introduced the DOE Data Explorer to make DOE scientific research data accessible.  This data discovery tool was developed as a way to guide users to scientific research data – such as computer simulations, numeric data files, figures and plots, interactive maps, multimedia, and scientific images – generated in the course of DOE-sponsored research in various science disciplines.


In March 2010, OSTI contributed various tools and datasets to Data.gov, as part of the Administration-wide Open Gov Initiative.  Five were designated high value datasets by DOE:  DOE Research and Development Project Summaries (data services), Energy Citations Database (data services), DOE Information Bridge (data services)Geothermal/Geothermal Legacy Data, and DOE Patents Database (data services).  These tools made DOE R&D results more transparent and scientific information access more convenient than ever before.


DOE Green Energy was launched on the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, April 21, 2010, to provide the public with access to technical documents from thousands of R&D projects conducted at DOE national laboratories and by DOE-funded awards at universities.  The DOE Green Energy portal was part of the DOE Open Government Plan 1.0 [1.7-MB PDF], which furthered the Administration’s Open Government Initiative.  It contained bibliographic citations, technical reports, and patent information on different types of renewable energy resources and energy conservation including solar, wind, bioenergy, hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave power, and energy storage.  The information from DOE Green Energy was consolidated into OSTI’s SciTech Connect search product (see below) as part of refocusing and rebalancing organizational efforts.


Beginning in February 2011, scientific videos highlighting R&D sponsored by DOE were made available through ScienceCinema.  Scientific videos, animations, interactive visualizations, and other multimedia are becoming an increasingly prominent form of scientific communication.  ScienceCinema uses innovative, state-of-the-art audio indexing and speech recognition technology from Microsoft Research to allow users to quickly find video files produced by the DOE national laboratories and other DOE research facilities.


In February 2013, OSTI launched the National Library of EnergyBeta (NLEBeta).  NLEBeta is a virtual library and open government resource to advance energy literacy, innovation, and security.  The NLEBeta search feature provides one-stop, easy access to information about DOE and its work in four broad mission areas – science and R&D results; energy and technology for industry and homeowners; energy market information and analysis; and nuclear security and environmental management.  The NLEBeta is a new search tool designed to make it easier for American citizens to access information about the Department from across the DOE complex nationwide, without knowing DOE’s organizational structure.  The NLEBeta virtually integrates information from Energy.gov (the DOE website) and all DOE program offices, national laboratories, and other facilities.  The NLEBetasearch includes OSTI databases that were formerly searched by Science Accelerator.


In 2013, Energy Citations Database and the DOE Information Bridge were consolidated into the SciTech Connect database, a portal to free, publicly available DOE R&D results.  SciTech Connect is unique among OSTI’s products due to its innovative semantic search strategy to encourage STI discovery.  The portal accepts keyword-based queries and returns concept-mapped queries as in a taxonomy; a search term is mapped to other associated terms, including narrower and related concepts.  SciTech Connect has emerged as a go-to resource, becoming OSTI’s most-visited repository for DOE science, technology, and engineering research information.


In February 2013, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) issued a memorandum, “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research,” [53-KB PDF] that called on Federal science agencies such as DOE to develop and implement public access plans for making accepted manuscripts and peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and scientific data in digital formats resulting from agency research investments publicly available in timely fashion.  OSTI helped draft the DOE plan for providing public access to scientific publications and scientific data in digital formats that was eventually submitted to and approved by OSTP.  On August 4, 2014, OSTI launched the DOE Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science (DOE PAGES), a DOE public access online portal to make scholarly scientific publications resulting from DOE research funding publicly accessible and searchable at no charge to readers. 


2014 was a year of refocusing and rebalancing of resources and priorities to position OSTI for ongoing success.  OSTI reorganized to better meet core mission goals and objectives, focusing first and foremost on STI produced by DOE and serving DOE R&D interests, as well as making the databases as comprehensive as possible in the effort to collect, preserve, and disseminate all forms of STI from DOE.  OSTI streamlined its product portfolio by discontinuing a number of products/services, including DOE Green Energy and Science Conference ProceedingsScience Accelerator was also eliminated, with most of the databases it searched consolidated into SciTech Connect, the DOE STI flagship product.  



Today, OSTI provides access to STI using web-based searchable databases, offering ever-expanding sources of R&D information to DOE, the research community, and the science-attentive public.  The databases offer search simplicity as well as advanced capabilities, such as customized alerts, relevance-ranked results, and downloadable search results from a broad array of scientific information related to the DOE mission.  Through the robust STIP, OSTI continues to work with DOE program offices, field offices, national labs, and grantees to acquire STI from Departmental R&D.  OSTI’s core mission continues to cover all types and categories of STI (i.e., technical reports, patents, conferences, video, unclassified, classified, controlled, etc.).  Besides public access to articles/manuscripts, major efforts are underway to ensure OSTI is comprehensive across this full spectrum.  Through OSTI web products, these R&D results are accessed over 375 million times annually.  OSTI is well-positioned to meet customer needs by defining the next generation of information access and dissemination.




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Last updated on Wednesday 26 July 2017