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Office of Scientific and Technical Information

OSTI's History of Innovation: From the Pages of Nuclear Science Abstracts to DOE PAGES®


The Atomic Energy Commission's (AEC) Technical Information Division (TID), which would eventually become the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI), was founded in 1947 to collect, preserve, and disseminate scientific and technical information (STI) resulting from DOE research activity. Though its methods have continuously evolved and its name has changed a few times, the core functions remain the same, and the innovative work that OSTI does today can be traced back to the work established by TID 75 years ago.

The AEC, predecessor to DOE, was established in 1946 in the wake of the Manhattan Project. Where the Manhattan Project was a highly classified R&D effort directed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, AEC was formed as a civilian agency, positioned to serve the public by both conducting atomic energy research and, through TID, fulfilling the need for public information about that research. As AEC's centralized information hub, TID quickly built one of the world's most comprehensive collections of energy-related information and pioneered new methods of access.

As Manhattan Project and then AEC reports were made publicly available, TID initially followed standard library practice - creating sets of catalog cards for each document and distributing copies to all national laboratories and contractors. The long-term infeasibility of this method of dissemination quickly began to show as backlogs of unfiled catalog cards grew across AEC sites. TID transitioned to a monthly current awareness tool containing an index of abstracts, and by 1948 that tool became the world-renowned Nuclear Science Abstracts journal, a first-of-its-kind publication. Nuclear Science Abstracts greatly expanded public access to nuclear science information through comprehensive coverage of unclassified nuclear science reports, articles, and books. It was distributed globally for over 30 years and was a catalyst for many developments in international nuclear science and international STI management.

Although TID changed names a number of times over the years before becoming OSTI in 1984, the organization's commitment to transforming the ways in which STI is collected, preserved, and disseminated has never wavered. OSTI has driven numerous innovations in public access to federal research results, and the DOE Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science (DOE PAGES®) stands out in recent years as another transformative pathway to STI.

OSTI drafted a Public Access Plan (link is external) and subsequently launched DOE PAGES in 2014, making DOE one of the first agencies to respond to the 2013 White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) (link is external) memorandum directing federal agencies to develop plans for increasing public access to STI products resulting from federally funded research. DOE PAGES makes the best available full-text version of DOE-affiliated scholarly publications freely available within 12 months of publication. It was precisely because of OSTI's long history of innovation and leadership in the federal information management realm that it was able to launch DOE PAGES and meet OSTP requirements so quickly.

DOE PAGES leverages OSTI's long-established infrastructure and systems for collecting, preserving, and disseminating DOE R&D results, and integrates those resources with external public access efforts, including partnerships with publishers through the Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States (CHORUS). This innovative model for increasing public access to federal research results has been adopted by additional federal agencies as well. Like Nuclear Science Abstracts so many years before, DOE PAGES represents a critical expansion of publicly available STI and is a vital publications component in OSTI's broader open science strategies enabling access to scientific data, software, and other research outputs.