NEWS FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY
SEPTEMBER 1999

Table of Contents

  1. NTIS Going Out of Business?
  2. To Merge or Not To Merge
  3. PubScience - PubMed for the Rest of Us?
  4. 10 Most Wanted Government Documents
  5. Medicare and You 2000 Campaign
  6. Interactive Government Developments
  7. Marking A World Population of 6 Billion
  8. Letter to the Editor


(1) NTIS Going Out of Business?

Commerce Secretary William M. Daley today announced his intention to work with Congress to close the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) at the Department of Commerce, while preserving public access to scientific and technical reports.

After extensive review and analysis it was determined that the core function of NTIS, providing government information for a fee, is no longer needed in this day of advanced electronic technology. Established in 1950, NTIS' core business -- the sale of government documents in microfiche and on paper -- is rapidly becoming less of the necessity it was as agencies and groups have begun to post their reports on the Internet for free. For example, the Commerce Department recently released a report called, "The Emerging Digital Economy II." This report can be downloaded from the Department of Commerce web site for free rather than for a $27 fee through NTIS. These changes in the information marketplace have made obsolete the need for NTIS to serve as a clearinghouse and, thus have in turn made it increasingly difficult for NTIS to maintain its operation on a self-sustaining basis, as established by Congress.

NTIS' sales have dramatically declined over the last six years with the advent of the personal computer and increased use of the Internet. In fact, NTIS' core clearinghouse business has not operated at a profit since FY 1993. In its March 1999 Semiannual Report to the Congress, Commerce's Office of Inspector General concluded that "even with significant efforts to improve its profitability, NTIS can no longer generate sufficient revenue to remain self-supporting." If this proposal is not implemented, NTIS will be in danger of going bankrupt.

"This was a tough decision to make, but sound management dictates that we cut our losses and recognize the technologically advanced environment we live in," said Secretary Daley. "This is the right thing to do and the best thing for the American taxpayer."

The Commerce Department next month will send to Congress proposed legislation closing NTIS and shifting its paper, microfiche, digital archives and bibliographic database to the Library of Congress. In addition, Commerce will work to ensure that government technical and business information provided by government agencies remains available to the public for long periods of time. The American people could continue to find these technical reports through search engines that currently exist (at, for example, the Library of Congress).

If Congress approves this proposal, Secretary Daley has instructed his staff to work closely with the over 250 employees of NTIS to assist them with job placement within the Department. The Secretary also has sent a letter to Office of Personnel Director, Janice Lachance, requesting the Office of Personnel Management's assistance with both the placement and retraining of NTIS employees.

A fact sheet with additional information is available on the Commerce Department's web site at http://204.193.246.62/public.nsf/docs/EA7BD28117EEF74D852567CB006B7D20.

Source: Department of Commerce Press Release, August 12, 1999. Posted by Andrea Sevetson, University of California - Berkeley, e-mail: asevetso@library.berkeley.edu, GOVDOC-L, August 13, 1999.

NTIS Situation Update: "Commerce Department Agency Up for Grabs", an online article by Kay Saldarini appearing int he September 15, 1999 issue of GovExec.Com at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0999/091599k2.htm.

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(2) To Merge or Not To Merge

Janet Justis from Old Dominion University reports on "To Merge or Not To Merge - What Are the Questions?: Integrating Documents Units into Reference or Technical Services in the July 1999 issue of Shipping List available at http://www.vla.org/pdf/ShippingList/sljul99.htm#ala. This is a summary of a session sponsored by the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) at the 1999 American Library Association Annual Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana on June 28, 1999.

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(3) PubScience - PubMed for the Rest of Us?

By October, if a plan under development at the Department of Energy (DOE) works out, the public will be able to tap into a comprehensive new database of scientific papers in the physical sciences called PubSCIENCE. It will offer Internet access to titles, authors, and abstracts from hundreds of journals, according to Martha Krebs, director of DOE's Office of Science, the project's sponsor. The goal, according to her staff, is to index just about every scientific journal that isn't already indexed in PubMED—the online collection of medical information based at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)--and to link abstracts back to each publisher's Web site. Unlike the E-biosci proposal being discussed by NIH (see previous story), DOE is not asking publishers for free access to the full text of articles.

DOE has already signed up a few major publishers willing to help test the system. The initial participants include the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Science's publisher), The American Physical Society, Elsevier Science, and the Institute for Scientific Information. By October, DOE hopes to make available current information from 400 journals. It aims to increase its coverage to 2000 later.

The project has a history that reaches all the way back to 1947, according to Walter Warnick, director of DOE's Office of Scientific and Technical Information, which is curating the database along with the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Half a century ago, the Atomic Energy Commission created "Nuclear Science Abstracts," a compendium of references for nuclear physicists. When DOE took over the portfolio in the 1970s, it broadened the scope and created the Energy Database. Its clients were chiefly the thousands of scientists who work at DOE research centers. Now, DOE is building on this base to create a digital index of all physical science articles in English, linked electronically to their publication sources. This should allow readers to jump from almost any citation that turns up in a literature search to the publisher's Web site.

Most DOE scientists can use this service now to access many full-text articles, either because physical science journals permit free use of archival material or because DOE has paid publishers for online access. Recently, according to DOE, the Government Printing Office expressed an interest in making PubSCIENCE available to the public as well, through the "GPO Access" Web site.

If a tentative agreement works out as planned, DOE says, anyone with access to the Internet will be able to do simple searches on PubSCIENCE records, retrieve abstracts, and jump directly into an archive. Depending on the conditions set by the publisher, the reader may get immediate access to the full text of articles, or be required to pay a fee or provide a password at an entry gate. "We're not trying to replace publishers; we're trying to make it easier to get to the published material," says Krebs.

PubSCIENCE will overlap a bit with PubMED in the titles it indexes, Warnick concedes. Some topics like bioengineering will get double coverage. Publishers have responded enthusiastically, as PubSCIENCE is likely to bring customers to the door. DOE is preparing for a possible surge of interest. Warnick notes that data requests increased rapidly at PubMED when all barriers to public access were dropped in 1996. The number of searches climbed from a modest buzz of about 7.4 million per year to a torrent of 180 million this year. "We might not get that kind of usage at first," says Warnick, but the machines can handle it if it appears.

Source: A review of "DOE Builds a Web Site for the Physical Sciences", Eliot Marshall, Science, August 6, 1999, Vol. 285, Issue 5429, pg. 811, posted on the Chemical Information Sources Discussion List by Gary D. Wiggins, wiggins@indiana.edu, August 30, 1999; and distributed on GOVDOC-L, August 31, 1999, by Jane Recchio jrecchio@lib.uconn.edu.

PubScience is now available at http://pubsci.osti.gov/.

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(4) 10 Most Wanted Government Documents

The Center for Democracy and Technology, OMB Watch, the administration and Congressional staff asked activists, advocates, watchdog groups, reporters, researchers, librarians, government employees, and ordinary citizens what data should be on the Web and isn't. Here's how they responded. For more information on each of the following government resources, visit the Center for Democracy and Technology Web Site at http://www.cdt.org/righttoknow/10mostwanted/.

  1. Congressional Research Service reports.

  2. Supreme Court Web site, including opinions and briefs.

  3. State Department's Daily Briefing Book.

  4. EPA's Pesticide Safety Database.

  5. Full text of all congressional hearings.

  6. Justice Department court briefs.

  7. Congressional votes in a searchable database.

  8. Interior Department's endangered species recovery plans.

  9. Patent and Trademark Office's Official Gazette of Trademarks.

  10. Circuit court Web sites.
Source: The Center for Democracy and Technology. Also mentioned on The GovSpot.Com Web Page at http://www.govspot.com/lists/documentswanted.htm.

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(5) Medicare and You 2000 Campaign

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In a vast public education campaign, the biggest in the 34-year history of Medicare, the Federal Government is mailing handbooks to 39 million Medicare beneficiaries to try to guide them through the increasingly complicated world of health care.

Backed up by toll-free telephone service at (800) 633-4227, an expanding Internet site at http://www.medicare.gov, and outreach efforts with more than 200 local and national groups, the new campaign is intended to aid an aging population that, experts say, is often ill-equipped to handle the brave new world of health care choices envisioned by Congress.

Medicare and You 2000, which comes in 26 regional versions and is being mailed to 32 million households, features basic information on what the traditional program covers, the options for Medigap insurance to supplement it, and the basics on managed care plans. It also includes information on the managed care plans available in a beneficiary's region, as wll as data on the quality of the plans, for example, mammography rates, and consumer ratings of how well the doctors communicate.

For more information, see Robin Toner's article "Extensive Effort Seeks to Clarify Medicare Maze", in the New York Times, September 27, 1999, page A1 and A15.

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(6) Interactive Government Developments

In San Diego, comments at public hearings can be submitted by E-mail. Boston residents can use the city's Web Site to complain about broken street signs or to pay parking tickets and excise taxes. And in Indianapolis, taxpayers can get electronic copies of the city budget and rework them, then send them back to the mayor just to show him how they would do his job.

The concept is called electronic government, and it means giving people access to a wide range of municipal services and information through the Internet. In cities across the country, it is rapidly changing the way people interact with City Halls.

"For the People, by the Computer: Governments Go On Line to Deliver Services to the Wired" by David M. Herszenhorn discusses the new paradigm shift currently underway related to government services. The goal of electronic government is to go beyond offering information and communication by enabling residents to do business directly with their local governments. By relying more on computers and less on workers, cities hope to save money as well. But the trend also has drawbacks.

For the complete article appearing in the September 30, 1999 issue of the New York Times on pages D1 and D8, see http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/09/circuits/articles/30govt.html.

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(7) Marking a World Population of 6 Billion: A Collection of Online Resources

Although we do not know precisely when the number of humans on the planet will reach 6 billion, it will likely occur some time around the October 12, 1999 date selected by the United Nations Population Fund to commemorate this important milestone. To help you better understand the many issues related to the world's population at 6 billion, the online National Library for the Environment has assembled a number of informational resources at http://www.cnie.org/billion which we invite you to explore and learn from.

Among the resources assembled are :

From the United Nations Population Fund :

Included are numerous articles from such sources as the BBC, PBS, Chicago Tribune, Reuters, Associated Press, Hoover Institute and KTEH, The Edmund Sun, ENN, MSNBC, The Earth Times, National Wildlife Federation, Worldwatch Institute and many more.

Also included are many web-based resources from the sources as the Muséum National d'Histoire in Paris, Population Action International, Population Reference Bureau and National Peace Corps Association, The Population Institute and The Sierra Club, People and the Planet, Zero Population Growth and others.

And the National Library for the Environment's own Population and Environment Linkages service - http://www.cnie.org/pop/pophome.htm -- includes extensive information resources on many subjects such as air & climate, biodiversity, demography, energy, coasts & oceans, development & economics, food & agriculture, forests & deforestation, freshwater, health, land use, population movements, urbanization, wetlands and much, much more . . .

Source: Kevin Hutton, Webmaster, Committee for the National Institute for the Environment, CNIE Update, No. 61, October 4, 1999, http://www.cnie.org/updates/61.htm; passed on by Terry Link, MSU Libraries, October 6, 1999.

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(8) Letter to the Editor

It's not every day that the Red Tape Editor actually receives a letter to the editor. However, on September 30th (1999), Teresa Matsumoto - tml2@axe.humboldt.edu -- sent me an e-mail concerning the "Wash. Biol. Surv." joke that appeared on the cover of the September 1998 issue of Red Tape. [Still available at http://www.lib.msu.edu/harris23/red_tape/frpg9803.htm in case you haven't saved your old issues of RED TAPE!]

She points out that she has been researching the joke and found it in a number of other locations:(ul>

  • http://www.newscientist.com/ns/98114/letters15.html;
  • http://www.newscientist.com/ns/981010/feedback.html#birds; and
  • http://wwwnetfunny.com/hf/jokes/92q4/crow.html. The first one actually appears in The Boys' Own Paper, London, 1932 to 1933. Pretty amazing!

    So if any Red Tape readers want to contribute any additional insights, jokes, news items, meeting notices, etc., please forward them to Jon Harrison at harris23@msu.edu for possible inclusion in the next issue of Red Tape. I would really appreciate someone volunteering to comment on or take notes about the two sessions scheduled for our November 19th Godort of Michigan meeting. The RED TAPE Editor

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