Our Environment, Part 3: The Science and Technology

Article excerpt

Continuing our discussion of Web-based resources on the environment, the last of the "Our Environment" series focuses on environmental science (and those responsible for scientific research projects). It will cover the collection and analysis of data, as well as the final reports that influence national and international environmental policies. Since much environmental research is conducted under the auspices of the government, searching repositories of scientific research can begin with government portals.

* Instead of using general search engines, use UncleSam [http://www.google.com/unclesam]. Powered by the Google search engine, it restricts your search to U.S. government sites. The UncleSam service encompasses a larger set of URLs than limiting a Google search by "URL contains .gov" does.

* While divine, Inc. [http://www.divine.com] has acquired Northern Light and cut its staff to the barest of bones, at press time USGovSearch continued to operate in both the fee-based and "public library access" mode [http:/usgovsearch.northernlight.com and http://usgovsearch.northernlight.com/publibaccess]. This Special Collection consists of over 7,100 "premium" publications (full-text journals, books, magazines, newswires, and reference sources) plus reports from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). That's over 25 million documents, with an average of 250 unique sources added each month. Most documents cost between $ 1-4. USGovSearch collects millions of Web pages from government and military sites, providing authoritative information by and about the United States.

* Aside from the government agency and publication locators mentioned in Part I of "Our Environment," you can employ others, such as Firstgov.gov or FedWorld.gov. The government has developed several science-specific portals and, though some such as PubSCIENCE, have closed ["News Breaks Weekly News Digest: Department of Energy Discontinues PubSCIENCE," November 18, 2002, http://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/wnd02l118.htm], some remain open:

* SciTech [http://www.scitech.gov], also known as SciTechResources.gov [http://www.scitechresources.gov] provides easy access to key government science and technology Web sites.

* GrayLit [http://graylit.osti.gov] is self-described as "a science portal of technical reports" from the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC), the Department of Energy, and NASA.

* The National Service Center for Environmental Publications [http://www.epa.gov/ncepihom/] maintains and distributes Environmental Pollution Agency publications in all formats. Current inventory covers over 7,000 titles, including the EPA National Publications Catalog.

In the summer of 1999, initial steps were taken for closing NTIS [http://www.ntis.gov], transferring its vast holdings of over 2.5 million government products (more than 750,000 searchable records) to the Library of Congress. Early discussions revealed the limited awareness of those in Congress charged with making decisions regarding the future of NTIS as to the activities performed by the Service or the feasibility of transferring all those activities to one entity, and, in fact, an entity not set up for the sale and distribution of research reports. Further investigation was warranted and NCLIS, the National Commission on Libraries and Information Service [http://www.nclis.gov], was charged with the task of evaluating whether and how NTIS should be discontinued without too much disruption in essential services.

The fate of NTIS appears no longer questionable-- interestingly enough, funding for NCLIS has now become the issue. NTIS continues to add items to its database and to make them available for purchase. "Best sellers" include three CD-ROMs (Stream Corridor Restoration, Methods & Guidance for the Analysis of Water, and Test Methods for Evaluating Solid Waste); purchasers can order other items from the Gov.Research_Center [http://grc. …