THE PROPOSED CLOSING OF
THE NATIONAL TECHNICAL INFORMATION SERVICE (NTIS)
A Response from the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT)
Prepared for the American Library Association's Washington Office
The Department of Commerce proposal to close the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) provides the opportunity for a reevaluation of how the federal government might best make these information resources readily available to researchers, businesses, and the general public. The American Library Association's Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) is concerned about the consequences of the proposed transfer of NTIS publications and bibliographic database to the Library of Congress and about the expectation that there will be adequate public access to these technical reports and business information if the only source for this information is agency web sites.
- NTIS should not be closed, nor its services transferred, until there is a thorough assessment of the full range of NTIS services, alternatives for providing each service, and the requirement that the program be self-supporting.
- If NTIS is closed, its functions should not be transferred to the Library of Congress without careful assessment of which agencies would do the best job of providing which NTIS functions. No single agency is likely to be best suited to perform all NTIS functions.
- If NTIS is closed, NTIS functions should be transferred to agencies, such as the Government Printing Office (GPO) and the National Archives, that have the appropriate experience and expertise. Agencies taking on the functions should receive additional appropriations so they can adequately provide and improve these services.
- The review and analysis of NTIS functions should not be limited to the transfer of its collections and databases. This review is an opportunity to develop permanent no-fee public access to NTIS information by including its collections and database in the Federal Depository Library Program.
- The review is an opportunity to identify ways to reduce duplication of cataloging and sales functions for government-related technical reports and other publications.
- The review must also address how the many other critical NTIS information dissemination functions would be performed if NTIS were closed.
- Current access to the government-sponsored scientific and technical reports that are on the Internet selectively is not an adequate replacement for the comprehensive NTIS clearinghouse. Most of these reports are not available on the Internet, and many users continue to require hard copy, microfiche, and disc products to meet their needs.
- Retrospective access to government-sponsored scientific and technical reports through decentralized Internet access is not an adequate replacement for the NTIS clearinghouse. Posting some of these reports on individual agency Internet sites will not ensure continuing and permanent access to the reports, because many Federal agencies remove their reports from their web-sites after a relatively short period of time.
- A centrally coordinated clearinghouse for the collection, dissemination, bibliographic control, retrieval, and archiving of federal technical reports must be maintained to insure access by businesses, researchers, and the public.
- There must be both permanent access to government information that continues to be needed by the public and permanent preservation of less needed information. NTIS material should be subject to an agreement, similar to one GPO has now, to transfer masters of older, low-use material to both the Library of Congress (for ongoing access) and the National Archives (for permanent preservation).
- If NTIS is closed, regardless of which agency is chosen to maintain the NTIS database, additional partnerships should be established to provide cataloging and descriptive services to avoid redundancy, save money, and increase access.
- Currently even the NTIS bibliographic database is a fee-based subscription service. Businesses, researchers, and the American public should have no-fee access to NTIS scientific and technical reports as well as to indexing and cataloging and a sophisticated and easy-to-use search engine to make them fully accessible.
This summary is posted at /central/staff/ntissumm.htm.
The full report is posted at /central/staff/ntisfull.htm.
Please send comments to GODORT Chair Larry Romans (email@example.com) and to GODORT Legislation Committee Chair Kevin Reynolds (firstname.lastname@example.org).
August 29, 1999