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About the

"Strengthening the Public Information Infrastructure for Science"
Workshop

Federal agencies, academic experts, and other information professionals gathered April 18–19, 2001, at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to explore the means for improving public access to science information of the Federal agencies. Pursuant to the vision expressed at the May 2000 workshop on “Future Information Infrastructure for the Physical Sciences”, this Workshop was convened to examine strategies and options in light of recent developments and emerging new concepts affecting science communication. Over 60 participants from 35 different organizations participated in the Workshop sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE) and organized by the CENDI Information Managers Group, the University of Maryland Center for Information Policy, the DOE, the NIST, and the National Science Foundation.

Information technology has had a profound effect on the conduct and communication of science. It has invigorated and broadened discourse and collaboration. It has made resources available to researchers, teachers, and learners wherever they are located. The transformation of scientific enterprise is still in an early stage, but a rich, distributed infrastructure is already coalescing around the World Wide Web.

The first day of the workshop was an open meeting that examined strategic issues in extending, expanding, and bridging existing infrastructures and reviewed recent developments in the changing context for science information. Developments discussed include the National Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education (SMETE) Digital Library (NSDL) Program at the National Science Foundation, the organization of private-sector resources around SMETE.ORG, the new Administration’s policies on e-government, the success of FirstGov, the growth of open archives within the academic research community, and the emergence of technologies for improving access to materials on the Web.

The second day of the workshop was an interagency meeting to identify strategies for strengthening the information infrastructure within and across existing science agency programs. A significant gathering of representatives from over 20 government organizations and 13 different agencies, all of which had a stake in the public information infrastructure for science, participated in the forum. Participants acknowledged that the Federal agencies are important sources of science information and that agencies have a tremendous opportunity for making their science information more accessible using today’s technologies. The agencies also agreed there are benefits and value to working collaboratively to make the government’s science information resources more visible and accessible.

Participants endorsed the concept for “Science.gov” as an interagency science portal or gateway whereby the agencies will collectively serve the science-attentive citizen. The agency representatives formed the “Science.gov Alliance” to work on this collaborative interagency initiative. As a result of the workshop, the formation of the Science.gov Alliance is a first step toward achieving the goal of a unified navigation path to science done by the government.


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