Thursday, 27th September 2012
The drive toward government transparency increases the amount of data availability to the public. To facilitate research and organise information, governments are creating more information portals. This article is a review of the underutilised portal Science.gov.
In recent years, governments have become more transparent in regards to their technical and scientific information. With hundreds of websites and dozens of databases, the US government is no exception. Many professionals are daunted with this seemingly disorganised collection. If one thinks of US government sources as a pyramid – with the thousands of local, state and Federal sites available at its base - at the pinnacle are the large information portals like Science.gov.
Started in 2005, Science.gov is hosted by the US Department of Energy. It is comprised of 55 databases across 13 agencies. These databases contain 200 million pages of technical reports, websites and scientific articles. The portal consists of a federated search engine, covering 40 databases and three directories of federal scientific websites.
The search engine is simplistic. It lacks many of the unique features information professionals have grown accustomed to using. This is due to searching across many different database designs. The portal does allow users to choose which databases to search and specify a date range. The results are clustered by subtopics, author or date to improve results. To further help users understand results, Wikipedia entries have been attached to entries.
Beyond the search engine there are three directories that can assist searchers. The first is a subject index containing links to hundreds of websites. To facilitate student research, the portal provides a second directory made up of common subjects that students and the general public would find interesting. The third list is for featured websites.
By providing an aggregated science news feed for Twitter and Eureka news bulletins, the portal helps users keep up-to-date with changes in selected subjects. A new image search database allows users to locate needed graphics. There is also a guide to international and super-national science and technical web portals.
While information professionals might find the search engine simplistic, it’s important to realise the site is designed for a diverse audience. Despite the simplicity of the search interface, the portal provides access to information from some of the most advanced laboratories in the world.
Though vast and growing, the world of online government resources need not be complex. One way governments assist users is by creating powerful portals and gateways to information. Science.gov, which facilitates access to the US government's scientific and technical information, is just one example. Outside of the US one can find other portals like Worldscience.org and Resource Discovery of the UK. These sources provide unique access to original research for competitive, technical and business researchers. FreePint subscribers can read more about leveraging US government sources at http://web.freepint.com/go/sub/article/69316.
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