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Under Pressure, NTIS Provides Free Access to Technical Reports


Recently, the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) announced that it will now provide a free online database of federal science and technology reports.  Previously, this agency charged a fee for electronic copies of these reports, a practice that has caused some controversy in recent years given that these are government reports, many of which are available for free through other agency websites. 

In 2012, the Government Accountability Office released a report recommending that Congress “reassess the appropriateness and viability of the fee-based model under which NTIS currently operates.”  And earlier this year, the “Let Me Google That For You” bill was introduced to abolish the NTIS.  However, NTIS supporters point out that this agency still provides a valuable service.  For instance, some reports are available via Google precisely because NTIS collects and distributes them; the NTIS provides permanent access to reports, which is not guaranteed on other, ever-changing government websites; and some reports held by NTIS are from agencies that no longer exist.  

Now, NTIS has announced that they will provide access to a free searchable database of over 3 million reports through the Public Access National Technical Reports Library.  Currently, the library contains over 800,000 full-text reports that can be downloaded in PDF format.  Reports not available for download (usually published before 1995) can be requested for a fee.  If a report is requested and digitized for one user, the report will be added to the free database.  

To access reports, users must create a free account, which will allow for basic searching and 10 downloads per session.  There is also a subscription version with advanced features.  For more information, visit the National Technical Reports Library website.

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