There is a United States federal agency that specializes in collecting and cataloguing scientific research papers of all kinds. The NTIS — National Technical Information Service — will serve up files or paper copies of these records for $25 or $73, respectively. The issue, as pointed out by NPR, is that most of these records are available for free elsewhere, and are easier to find with Google than with the NTIS’ outdated website. And so, ever the enemy of a wasteful budget, Tom Coburn has introduced the Let Me Google That For You Act of 2014 to abolish the NTIS.
Many of these studies are freely available online on other government or university websites. However, given that the NTIS is required to be self-sustaining by the law that created it in 1950, the actual fiscal impact isn’t going to be major. As of this writing, the bill has yet to be passed, though it does have fairly widespread support. It has currently been referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
Considering the current political climate of Washington, it’s unclear whether this bill will ever be passed.
In an interview with NPR, a member of the NTIS’ advisory board states her support for the agency’s mission, but questions whether the founding piece of legislation is still relevant in today’s world:
I think they do have a valid and important mission, but a clumsy piece of governing legislation.
The issue she brings up is that the bill that created the NTIS requires it to be self-sustaining, and that therefore they must charge for access to the records they keep.
Regardless, it’s obvious that something needs to change — the NTIS is outdated, though its mission (arguably similar to that of Google’s) remains relevant: to collect and archive the information of the world.
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