At first glance it is confusing as to what agency is responsible for this Web site, although its purpose is clear: "improving the scientific basis for making decisions on environmental issues." Further investigation reveals that this site is a product of dual efforts. The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), formerly The Committee for the National Institute for the Environment (CNIE), is responsible for the site, which also is entitled the National Library for the Environment. The content of the site, however, is provided by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a division of the Library of Congress and provider of these reports for the United States Congress.
Explained on the main page, the NCSE examines CRS reports for accuracy and objectivity, and, since the reports contain nontechnical information, they provide useful information in the area of environmental policy. Furthermore, CRS reports are not readily available to the general public nor are they law or copyright protected. Thus, to make vital environmentally related information available to everyone, the NCSE obtains the CRS documents, formats them for the Internet, and loads them on the Web. The Web site is updated once per month, although reports and resources are added or revised as they become available. In April, the update included 11 new and 66 revised reports.
A clean, well-balanced main page offers easy perusal of both the report index and the report search instructions. The index provides 27 categories in the areas of Natural Resources (including biodiversity, forestry, and mining), Environmental Quality (including climate, pesticides, and waste management), and General Information (including agency profiles, legislation, and risk assessment). Searching is simple with capabilities including direct links by category via the index, by keyword, by report title, by CRS code #, and by author. Soon free-text searching of abstracts will be available.
Documents offered from this site cover a wide array of timely environmental topics and issues, from the Wireless Communication and Public Safety Act of 1999 and Federal Grazing Regulations, to Stratospheric Ozone Depletion and Military Base Closures. Access to this plethora of valuable information should prove quite useful for research and instruction, especially for students, educators, researchers, and consumers who are interested in such topics such as Renewable Energy, Civilian Nuclear Waste Disposal, Methane Hydrates, and Immigration Legislation and Issues.
An appropriate disclaimer is provided to inform visitors of the usual material liabilities and warranties. Links are provided to make suggestions and ask questions via e-mail, and information is provided for contact via snail mail, as well as telephone and fax.
Cynthia E. Saylor
Instructional Services/Reference Librarian
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke
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