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Overview  

The National Technical Information Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Technology Administration, serves as a public clearinghouse for scientific and business information primarily acquired through government-funded research. According to the agency’s web site, the NTIS maintains some 3 million publications in more than 350 subject areas, with many documents created after 1997 available for download. It currently receives no appropriations from the federal government, covering expenses by charging fees for most products and services.

 
History  

The precursor to the NTIS was the Office of the Publication Board, an agency created by President Harry S. Truman during World War II to collect, review and transmit to the public formerly classified technical information. In 1950, Congress passed the Technological, Scientific and Engineering Information Act, instructing the commerce secretary to establish a repository for technical information “from whatever sources, foreign and domestic, that may be available,” and to make “the results of technological research and development readily available to industry and business, and to the general public.” The Office of the Publication Board became the Office of Technical Services, which in turn became the Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information. Finally, an act of Congress established the NTIS on Sept. 2, 1970.
 
Over the past two decades, there have been occasional grumblings about the NTIS’ future. Some have asserted that there isn’t sufficient oversight on the agency, while others say the NTIS faces insurmountable competition from private-sector information sources, the Internet and even other government agencies. Still others say the way the NTIS functions is inefficient and unfocused—an apparent reflection of the organizational legacy of its incarnations prior to 1970.
 
For more information, see:
 

U.S. Code, Title 15, Chapter 63, § 3704b: National Technical Information Service

(Cornell University Law School)

 

What it Does  

The NTIS sells a wide variety of publications. Some examples include:
 
 
 
Oral LD50 Testing in Fasted and Non-Fasted Rats (1981: $25 for a one-page report)
 
The Effects of Home Video Games on Television Receivers (1977: $27.50 or $33 depending on medium)
 
 
 
Parliamentary and Municipal Elections in Montenegro (1998: $15, $27, $30 or $33, depending on medium)
 
In addition to serving as a public clearinghouse for information, the NTIS forms partnerships with federal agencies to help process and store technical data. It also operates the National Audiovisual Center, a repository for training and educational materials developed by the federal government.
 
The NTIS Advisory Board, comprising five members appointed by the secretary of commerce, reviews agency policy. The current chairman is Dr. John Regazzi, dean of Long Island University’s College of Information and Computer Science.
 
For more information, see:
 
National Audiovisual Center, from the NTIS Web site
 
Services for Federal Agencies, from the NTIS Web site
 
Products We Offer, from the NTIS Web site
 
The NTIS Advisory Board, from the NTIS Web site
 

Search NTIS

 

Where Does the Money Go  

Any business or individual involved in any scientific or technical industry—such as software, biotechnology, engineering, health care, energy production, etc.—is a stakeholder. Government agencies that rely upon the NTIS to process technical data are also stakeholders, as are academics, librarians and information-science associations. The National Federation of Federal Employees represents NTIS employees.
 

Some of the Contractors Associated with NTIS

 

Controversies  

Many people expect government information to be free. This expectation has been reinforced by the Internet, as more and more government entities post press releases, statistics and publications online, where they can be accessed without charge. Those opposed to fees also point out that taxpayers have already paid for information produced by the government.
 
It was therefore controversial in 1999 when the NTIS announced a partnership with search-engine company Northern Light, which would allow paid subscribers to comb through their combined government databases. That the Clinton administration had pledged to make government information more accessible to the public only intensified the controversy. The search engine, dubbed usgovsearch.com, ended up launching as a private venture after the NTIS announced a change in its relationship with Northern Light. Instead of sharing the subscription revenue, the NTIS charged Northern Light to link its databases to usgovsearch.com. The NTIS also received the proceeds from any its documents that were sold. In 2001, that arrangement was terminated, as well.
 
Government Pulls Out of Search Venture, (by Jeri Clausing, New York Times, June 14, 1999)
 
Information wants to be free, (USA Today opinion piece by Sam Vincent Meddis, May 24, 1999)
 
NTIS drops from participation in disputed site (by Frank Tiboni, Government Computer News, June 28, 1999)
 

USGOVSEARCH: The Federal Web, NTIS Database and More, (from the personal Web page of Montana State University librarian Greg R. Notess, January 2000)

 

Debate  

 

Suggested Reforms  

Many people expect government information to be free. This expectation has been reinforced by the Internet, as more and more government entities post press releases, statistics and publications online, where they can be accessed without charge. Those opposed to fees also point out that taxpayers have already paid for information produced by the government.
 
It was therefore controversial in 1999 when the NTIS announced a partnership with search-engine company Northern Light, which would allow paid subscribers to comb through their combined government databases. That the Clinton administration had pledged to make government information more accessible to the public only intensified the controversy. The search engine, dubbed usgovsearch.com, ended up launching as a private venture after the NTIS announced a change in its relationship with Northern Light. Instead of sharing the subscription revenue, the NTIS charged Northern Light to link its databases to usgovsearch.com. The NTIS also received the proceeds from any its documents that were sold. In 2001, that arrangement was terminated, as well.
 
Government Pulls Out of Search Venture, (by Jeri Clausing, New York Times)
 
Information wants to be free, (by Sam Vincent Meddis, USA Tioday)
 
NTIS drops from participation in disputed site (by Frank Tiboni, Government Computer News)
 

USGOVSEARCH: The Federal Web, NTIS Database and More, (from the personal Web page of Montana State University librarian Greg R. Notess)

 

Congressional Oversight  
Former Directors  

Comments  
Greg Volk - 10/20/2010 12:32:00 PM              
I came to this website seeking the same document, AD 625706 (1960), as Dr. Thomas Phipps above. It appears that no action was taken in response to his complaint, so I suppose I should expect a typically bureaucratic response from mine, namely none. For what it's worth, though I'm no huge fan of Bill Clinton, I agree with his intent to publicize public information, particularly scientific information paid for with tax dollars. However, as a practical consideration, I do not object to subscriptions or fees levied to pay the expense of scanning and uploading information from pre-computer days. At this point, however, information like the above document apparently isn't available in any way, shape or form at any price. This is definitely unacceptable. As a first step, efforts should be made to catalog government documents, and list repositories for each document type, at least making it possible to find such documents. Any efforts in that direction will be greatly appreciated.

Thomas E. Phipps, Jr. - 9/19/2009 2:10:44 PM              
In the old days, around 1960, the U. S. Department of Commerce had a Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information. It had a numbering system for identifying documents, and I seek the document identified as AD 625706. Putting this information into your new system nets no response. I gather you felt no need to carry over legacy information capabilities from the earlier era. I don't feel that the public is well served by such a policy. Government sponsorship of scientific and technical research existed before 1970, and you have a responsibility to account for it. Your existing search engine is worthless for that purpose.

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Table of Contents

Founded: 1970, with forebears dating back to the 1940s
Annual Budget: Fee-supported
Employees: 138 (2006)

National Technical Information Service
Borzino, Bruce
Director

 

Appointed by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke on November 9, 2009, Bruce E. Borzino took over as director of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) after working in the public and private sectors designing, acquiring and modernizing business management information systems.
 
Borzino’s parents, Eddie and Doris, worked at the footwear division of Uniroyal, and Borzino grew up in Connecticut. He graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1972 and was a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve.
 
Borzino holds masters degrees in management and information and computer science, although it is unclear from which institution he obtained them.
 
He served in the U.S. Army in the early part of his career, retiring as a lieutenant colonel and certified as a Level III Defense Acquisition Program Manager.
 
Borzino then held a number of management and consulting positions with the Anteon Corp., now part of General Dynamics.
 
His first post in the federal government was with the General Services Administration, where he was director of electronic business systems. During his time there he helped introduce several new Internet-based public services.
 
He moved over to NTIS to serve as deputy director and chief operations officer, a position he held until his selection as director.
 
Borzino’s wife, Jong, is a real estate agent.
 
Bruce Borzino Biography (National Technical Information Service)
 
Herbst, Ellen
Previous Director

Ellen Herbst received a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and accounting from the University of Delaware in 1979, and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 1995. She spent a great deal of time after receiving her undergraduate degree in various management positions at E.I. DuPont De Nemours and Company, before moving on to Giesecke & Devrient, a producer of secure documents and banknotes. She also worked for Spectra Systems Corporation, which, according to her NTIS profile, is “a supplier of security materials.” She became NTIS director on July 11, 2005.


 
 


 
 
 
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