Expert Advice

Defense center's portal taps databases of technical documents and scholars

DIG DEEP: The Defense Technical Information Center's search site goes where Google isn't likely to tread, finding documents and experts for defense users.

The Defense Technical Information Center has added a scholar search feature to its Web portal that lets users find experts and documents that could assist everyone from researchers to warfighters in the field.

The portal ( lets federal employees and contractors dig into DTIC's repository of scientific, engineering and technical documents ' classified and unclassified ' after registering online. Contractors need a government sponsor to vet them, said Carlynn Thompson, DTIC's chief information officer.

The site receives 15,000 to 35,000 visitors each week, 'depending on what's going on in the budget world,' Thompson said. 'The beginning of the fiscal year is always a real popular time for the portal.' The portal captures information about the Defense Department's budgets, and visitors use that data to create trending charts and spreadsheets.

The portal differs from Web-based search tools that access whatever Web pages their spiders can get, she said. It is a selected set of resources of special interest to the defense community.

'A lot of people use Google, and that's what they want,' Thompson said. 'But I'm a librarian, and I know that's not always what they need.'

The portal uses two search engines. One is a more generic spider, Fast Search from Fast of Norway, that does full-text searching. The other is Convera's Retrievalware, which lets users pull summaries of the science and technology databases that DTIC hosts.

'It lets us sift through the information to let users navigate the massive amount of data,' Thompson said.

The site, which crawls about 7 million information resources and 12 major databases, serves only the defense community. 'We have our own universe that's bounded,' she said. 'We can try to be everything to all people, but usually you don't do a very good job when you try to do that.'

The portal is also available to warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. 'We don't want to put barriers in front of warfighters,' she said. 'A lot of times they need immediate answers real fast, and they can get into this fairly easily.'

A warfighter might use the portal to research chemical warfare agents, she said. 'Or something like soil stability ' could they drive tanks in an area?'
DTIC has 30 librarians who support the Pentagon in providing information resources to meet its needs, she added.

DTIC recently began subscribing to ProQuest-CSA's COS Scholar Universe, a research tool that lets registered users search for academic and subject-matter experts. Scholar Universe includes people who are faculty members at an accredited university or authors of scholarly publications.

To populate the database, researchers scoured accredited universities in all disciplines to find relevant faculty members ' including junior ones, because 'they're the up-and-comers creating the research of the future,' said Marie Linvill, vice president of content development at the COS Division/
Scholar Universe of ProQuest-CSA.

Scholar Universe uses a unique algorithm that can link a Roberta Robertson who teaches at Marquette University to an R.S. Robertson who wrote a particular article while she was on the faculty at Duke University.

Academics and researchers sometimes publish articles under their maiden and married names, Linvill said, but Scholar Universe can track those threads.
The database runs on CSA's Illumina platform and has about 1.1 million scholars, mostly in the United States, England and Canada.

The tool has many uses. 'You can put in 'Alzheimer's disease,' and get a list of scholars working on this topic,' Linvill said. 'Or graduate students, before they submit a paper [for] publication, can find a subject-matter expert to review it.'
It differs from Google's Scholar in that it is 'person-focused, not publication-focused,' she added.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.


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