A Journey to Open Access (5) : Open Access in the USA – The Open Access Policies of the DOE, NIH and NSF

In a previous entry I wrote about the open access policy of the NIH and their PubMed Central repository. While the NIH has set a great example for open access, it is actually another US funding agency that has been the real pioneer in making the results of its non-classified R&D accessible to both researchers and the general public for over fifty years. This is the DOE, the US Department of Energy – not the NSF as one might have expected. The DOE policy was established in the 1940’s by none other than General Groves, who had led the Manhattan atomic bomb project in such secrecy during the war:

It was just over 60 years ago that General Leslie Groves, commanding the Manhattan Engineer District in Oak Ridge, TN, mandated that all classified and unclassified information related to the Atomic Bomb be brought together into one central file. Thus, in 1947, the precursor to the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI, www.osti.gov) was born.

From the OSTI website we read:

‘Established in 1947, DOE’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) fulfills the agency’s responsibilities related to the collection, preservation, and dissemination of scientific and technical information emanating from DOE R&D activities. This responsibility has been codified in the organic, or enabling, legislation of DOE and its predecessor agencies and, more recently, was defined as a specific OSTI responsibility in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.’

The declared mission of OSTI is ‘to advance science and sustain technological creativity by making R&D findings available and useful to DOE researchers and the public’. The Office was founded on the principle that science progresses only if knowledge is shared and the corollary that accelerating the sharing of knowledge accelerates the advancement of science.




The OSTI facility is located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.


Although I had interacted with many of the DOE Labs over the years, I am ashamed to say that I only became aware of the activities of OSTI a few years ago. This was through our work with the British Library on Virtual Research Environments. It was Richard Boulderstone who first told me about OSTI and its leadership of the international consortium called the WorldWideScience Alliance (see http://worldwidescience.org). This is a federation of 70 national science portals giving access to over 80 research databases. OSTI have been instrumental in developing a multilingual federated search tool that allows a user to search all of these individual databases. Microsoft Research was involved in developing the translation service for the search tool using Microsoft Translator. When a user enters a query, it is translated into the appropriate language and sent to all of the WorldWideScience databases. The results are returned in relevance-ranked order, translated back into the user’s preferred language. Ten languages are currently supported: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. (See http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/translator/).

In 2011, OSTI partnered with Microsoft Research again and used the Microsoft Research Audio Video Indexing System (MAVIS) tool to build a multimedia search engine called ScienceCinema. (For details of the MAVIS project see http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/projects/mavis/). This makes approximately 1,000 DOE videos available and searchable by the public. ScienceCinema content continues to grow with the recent initial installment from the multimedia collection of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. ScienceCinema was launched in February 2011 and named as one of six new initiatives in DOE’s Open Government Plan 2.0 (http://www.osti.gov/sciencecinema/).

OSTI are also active in a number of other exciting open access projects such as ScienceAccelerator.gov and Science.gov, which bring together R&D information from 13 federal agencies. In addition, OSTI’s E-print network (http://www.osti.gov/eprints) provides a gateway to 35,000 websites and databases worldwide – including arXiv – and some 30,000 scientific and technical information institutional repositories. The network contains more than 5 million e-prints and its contents are searchable via Science.gov.

Jim Gray, in his January 2007 talk to the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the US National Research Council, called for federal science agencies to ‘establish digital libraries that support other sciences in the same way the National Library of Medicine supports the biosciences’. On February 15th of this year OSTI announced the launch of the National Library of Energy (NLE) as ‘a virtual library and open government resource to advance energy literacy, innovation and security’. The OSTI NLE search tool gives users easy access to all the major DOE information sources on energy – not only R&D results but also relevant information and technology for home-owners as well as analyses of the energy market (http://www.osti.gov/nle/ ).

The latest innovation in open access from OSTI is its development of a portal called PAGES – a Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science. This will be a web-based portal that ensures that scholarly publications resulting from DOE research are publicly accessible and searchable at no charge to readers. The research papers will either be accessible through links to publisher sites for articles that they make publicly accessible or links to a copy of the final accepted manuscript hosted in a repository, after an agreed embargo period.

To conclude, in this post I wanted to highlight the pioneering role that OSTI and its staff have played in fostering public access to non-classified R&D results from the Department of Energy in the US for more than 50 years. More recently, the National Institutes of Health have also played a prominent role in furthering the cause of open access with their PubMed Central repository and other publicly accessible databases in the National Library of Medicine. By contrast, it is surprising – at least to me – that the major US funder of university research, the National Science Foundation, has not played a similarly active role in moving towards delivering open access of the results of its research. However, the NSF is to be applauded for taking the first step towards an ‘open data’ agenda by requiring all research proposals to include a data management plan.

In my last posting in this series on open access, I will discuss the recent announcement on February 22nd from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy on ‘Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research’(http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ostp_public_access_memo_2013.pdf)

To be concluded …

Originally posted in 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s