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For over 50 years, the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) has been collecting, preserving, and disseminating scientific and technical information for DOE. From the beginning, the fundamental purpose of OSTI was to ensure that research results were reported and made available to the agency, to researchers in the physical sciences community, and to the broader scientific community.

As described on the "About PubSCIENCE" section of the web site, PubSCIENCE is a natural evolution of OSTI tools dating from the late 1940's, the Nuclear Science Abstracts and the Energy Science and Technology Database. DOE/OSTI distributed the Nuclear Science Abstracts to our Nation's federal depository libraries at no cost "in order to ensure maximum public access and dissemination of the results of research and development projects of interest to the federal government program. PubSCIENCE continues that tradition. In essence, PubSCIENCE is a modernization of Nuclear Science Abstracts and the Energy Science and Technology Database." ( Accessed August 29, 2002)

OSTI's mission continues to this day to provide access to national and global STI for use by DOE, the scientific research community, academia, U.S. industry, and the public. PubSCIENCE is the culmination of the agency's lifetime tradition of providing scientific and technical information by bringing that information to the desktop. PubSCIENCE was created in 1999 to give physical scientists the capacity to search across the journal literature at no fee in response to the evolving opportunities presented by web-based technologies. Indeed, the Department of Energy in early 2001 recognized the importance of PubSCIENCE as an outstanding resource, stating that: "The DOE Web Council selected the PubSCIENCE Web site as the featured site on the DOE National Library page for the February 2001 edition of, the Department's new homepage. This work was a valued example of DOE's commitment to build a rich Web site for the American public."(, August 29, 2002)

The DOE posted a notice on the PubSCIENCE homepage in August, with a September 8, 2002 deadline for comments on its eliminations. PubSCIENCE was targeted in 2000 by a handful of publishers and the information industry who have declared that it competes with two private sector indexes that are currently provided at no cost to the public. However, both publishers could at any time change the no-fee status of these two services, Scirus (owned by Reed Elsevier) and Infotrieve, to fee-based subscriptions. AALL has joined other library associations in preparing joint library and public interest group comments. The following talking points explain the crisis further and may be useful in your comments to the agency and to your legislators:

  • The Federal Government has a responsibility, recognized by the Paperwork Reduction Act and OMB Circular A-130, to disseminate information about its work products, services, and information sources for the public benefit. Today, the Federal government funds most basic research in physics, matter, chemistry, and energy. Government agencies such as DOE have an affirmative obligation to the public to make information collected through taxpayer dollars available for public review and use.

  • There is a need for multiple channels for information and for a diversity of sources. PubSCIENCE provides information to DOE, other agencies, federal contract research, the research community and the general public. It serves a real and legitimate public need, and should not be discontinued because two private sector organizations have developed similar but not identical services. PubSCIENCE is a relatively small resource focusing on the needs of researchers and scientists in energy-related fields. PubSCIENCE has agreements with only 35 publishers, among who are many smaller publishers whose literature is important to scientists but who are not included in the databases of the other two commercial resources.

  • The discontinuation of PubSCIENCE will disable the indexing of a portion of the literature of the sciences (energy, matter, physics, etc.) relevant to private, not-for-profit, and public sector markets. PubSCIENCE provides a critical and voluntary service to 35 publishers in the public, private and not-for-profit communities by offering increased visibility for the journals of small to mid-sized publishers whose titles do not appear in ScienceDirect nor are they covered by the Scirus search engine. PubSCIENCE provides these publishers with an effective, no fee public awareness mechanism that helps these journals to remain competitive in their disciplines.

  • PubSCIENCE is valuable to the scientific and research communities and important for progress in scientific inquiry, as well as for the continued competitiveness of our Nation. The elimination of PubSCIENCE will have a negative impact on scientific research as it will impede the sharing of information in the scientific community. Tools such as PubSCIENCE, Scirus, Infotrieve, and many fee-based commercial services that provide access to scientific information for which our Nation's libraries spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year, combine to facilitate the process.

  • The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) recently concluded that a greater government investment in the physical sciences is required. Eliminating an information resource that supports access to physical sciences literature contradicts this recommendation. The DOE should be providing additional resources in this arena, not reducing those that promote access to government-funded scientific literature.


The current crisis demands immediate action by as many librarians and members of the scientific and research communities as possible. If a small but powerful segment of industry succeeds in eliminating PubSCIENCE, they may be energized to attack more government databases on the basis of so-called "competition." AALL and many other groups are submitting joint comments by the deadline of September 8, 2002, and it is very important that the DOE and members of Congress, particularly those on the Science Committees, hear from as many libraries and individuals as possible.

Using portions of the background information and two or three of the talking points above as your guide, please submit comments on your own behalf as soon as possible. In addition, please discuss this crisis with your director and ask if she/he might be very willing to sign a short letter on behalf of your library. I will also be working with our chapters to have comments submitted by as many chapters as possible.

Other important information,

  • If your browser accepts forms, please submit your comments by September 8, 2002 to: Be sure to enter your e-mail address if you would like a response.

  • If your browser does not accept forms, please send your comments to the following e-mail address: Be sure to enter your e-mail address if you would like a response.

  • And, please help us to educate your representatives in Congress by faxing them a copy of your comments along with a brief note about why this is so important to you, your library, scientific researchers and the public. If your representative(s) are members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, it is even more important that they hear from you. You'll find their names and contact information at either of the following URLs:

  • Finally, if you have a good relationship with your members' offices, please pick up the phone and call their staff after you have submitted your comments to DOE and to your members. Reiterate why the elimination of PubSCIENCE is bad for the tax-paying public, for library users, for the publishers who voluntarily partner with PubSCIENCE, for the research and scientific communities, and for all Americans.

Thank you very much.
Mary Alice Baish
AALL Associate Washington Affairs Representative