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A Joint Venture to Create Federal Science Agency Repositories
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Posted On October 20, 2011
The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) and Information International Associates (IIa) formed a joint venture to develop an institutional repository (IR) service for federal agencies. The institutional repositories are collections of digital scientific and technical information documents and other content. The repository will be hosted by NTIS and supported by content managers and technical experts from IIa and NTIS. This program will enable federal agency content to be made available, providing users with increased ease of access and agencies with cost savings.

Bruce Borzino, director of NTIS, stated, “There is a huge demand coming from national laboratory and federal research communities to dramatically update the way scientists publish, share, and archive information. Through selected partnerships such as this one with IIa, NTIS can attain its e-science development goal of creating new levels of transparency for scientific, technical, and engineering content.” The demand for better access to science information is shared by researchers, librarians, and students around the world.

The president and founder of IIa, Bonnie Carroll said, “The Institutional Repository Service will provide content management and information dissemination, making it easier for agency personnel and the public to find and receive better access to information resources. The IR will support a wide variety of content types including images, audio, video, and traditional text.”

Prior to formation of the joint venture, the National Records and Archives Administration (NARA) and the NTIS announced an agreement to ensure long-term preservation and access to NTIS science, technical, and engineering information. The goals of the agreement are to focus on a total electronic solution to the collection, distribution, long term access, preservation, and other archival processes of scientific information and create a joint dissemination and long-term archival environment that support future NTIS collections and the future development of NARA’s Electronic Records Archives system. In order to fulfill preservation and archival requirements NTIS and agency content needed be digitized with appropriate content management support and services needed to handle video, images, and other formats.

David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, said, “The opportunity for the National Archives and NTIS to innovate and collaborate in the stewardship, access, and long term archival preservation of the NTIS digital scientific collections represents major step forward in preserving America’s scientific heritage. This agreement will help assure that the NTIS collection of scientific, technical, engineering, and business information documenting unclassified federally funded researched is preserved for the long term benefit of future generations of researchers around the world.”

In 2009, NTIS issued a request for information for a joint venture partner to work with NTIS to deliver innovative solutions that increase the performance and effectiveness of NTIS and its current providers in the dissemination of government sponsored scientific, technical, and engineering content. In addition, the joint venture partner would assist NTIS in supporting other federal agencies with their information, preservation, and dissemination missions brought about by digital and networking technologies. The joint venture required investment by both parties and will provide revenue sharing.

In order to learn more about the how the joint venture is working I spoke with Donald Hagen, associate director of NTIS and Gail Hodge, Advanced Informatics Group Leader, IIa.

I asked Hagen about his expectations for the joint venture. He said that he wants to provide repository and science information support to NTIS clients, the federal agencies. He added that the first client of this venture is the National Technical Reports Library (NTRL), which has been reinvented. NTRL contains 2 million titles and is available to technical information users.

NTIS wants to deal with thematic as well as agency collections. NTIS and IIa are working on the Deep Water Horizon Archive with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is a thematic program that crosses agency lines. The objects vary from PDFs to images and video.

Hagen offered the idea, “If we can have the capability to handle content in this object oriented environment then as long as core metadata is consistent across departments we can link up across groups and perform federated search.” Each agency is doing something different. There is no consistency or coherence, making it difficult to search across agencies. The IR services include the ability of agencies to go beyond the core metadata and add their own metadata and access points for a variety of users. NTIS wants to ensure that there is standardized environment. “It is not a matter of centralizing, it is decentralizing.” Hagen pointed out that all agencies are trying to do more will less money. As agencies come on board with the program they will benefit from all the previous work NTIS is mandated by law to finance the agency through cost recovery. Clearly, more clients will help. Hagen indicated, “We need. They will not be starting from square one.

I asked Hodge for her perspectives. She said, “It truly is a joint venture. We have done a lot of cross training to make a collaborative team with NTIS.” Since NTIS must recover costs and operate in a more business like environment than other federal agencies there is a better understanding.

I asked Hodge about the specifics of IIa’s role. She pointed out, “IIa is doing a lot of design and development work, working with the client on their metadata schema. Part of what we are trying to do is to focus in on the epicenter core leading to capabilities for federated search. We work with the client to take whatever they have and map it to the core as well as any metadata extensions they need.” NOAA’s Deep Water Horizon project is a prototype. “In our view NOAA is an on-going development. Some of the things we have done for NOAA include the ability to handle multimedia including large videos, images and all kinds of other things.” Hodge echoed Hagen in pointing out that each customer can take advantage of “where we have taken the infrastructure to that point.”

This program will help agencies manage their content, make it more accessible to the public while preserving it for NARA and future generations. The agencies also benefit because they do not have to begin at square one to build a repository and metadata. Doing more with less may be possible because costs will be shared.


Miriam A. Drake is professor emerita at the Georgia Institute of Technology Library.

Email Miriam A. Drake

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