TITLE: Science.gov

ACCESS: http://science.gov

Librarians often struggle to convince users that there is more to research than searching Google. One of our strongest arguments is that commercial search engines generally do not capture information resources hidden in databases, commonly known as the "Deep Web." Much of the scientific information produced by the federal government falls into this category, and a collaborative effort among 12 agencies to address the accessibility problems of this information produced Science.gov.

Federal agencies participating in the Science.gov Alliance ask their information managers and librarians to select authoritative science Web sites and databases to serve as the content of Science.gov. More than 1,700 science sites and 30 databases, covering subjects such as health, defense, the environment, and science education are currently included. The site assists researchers in navigating the federal government's research activities, allowing searches by topic rather than requiring knowledge of each agency's research programs. Additionally, the content in agency databases, normally hidden from commercial search engine indexing, can be located in a single, federated search.

A browse feature presents the agencies' science Web pages by topic, including "Agriculture and Food," "Computers and Communication," "Math," "Physics and Chemistry," and "Natural Resources and Conservation." The listing is updated every six weeks by participating agencies.

The search option focuses on the 30 databases chosen for Science.gov, including PubMed, AGRICOLA, NTIS, and lesser known databases, such as the NASA Technical Reports server and the USGS Water Resource Reports. An advanced search feature allows limits to specific subject categories.

Search results can be displayed by relevance or by source. The relevancy ranking is a relatively new feature and is based on the placement of search terms within the documents or metadata.

Science.gov demonstrates the value of searching across diverse resources. For example, a search on the phrase aquifer restoration returns diverse results, such as book and article citations, a patent document describing a specific restoration process, and EPA documents recounting chemical analysis methods for restoration activities.

The site should also be complimented for its clean organization and easy navigation. Clear links to lists of sources, a site map, contact information, and help screens are provided.

Science.gov is an excellent example of how federal agencies can collaborate and harness the power of technology to provide easier access to their rich information resources. It is a model that librarians should encourage and embrace as they fight against the perils of the "Deep Web."

Arlene Weible
University of North Texas Libraries
aweible@library.unt.edu


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