The End of an Era Comes to OSTI

This post was written by Abe on December 11, 2013
Posted Under: Federated Search,Multilingual Search

Dr. Walter Warnick, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI), is retiring in early January 2014 after 17 years as Director. Dr. Warnick embraced the idea of knowledge dissemination, and championed aggressive efforts to capitalize on technological advances such as federated search.   Abe Lederman, DWT’s President and CTO is attending a retirement celebration today at OSTI in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Abe’s remarks on his years working with Dr. Warnick are below.

I recall vividly my first meeting with Dr. Warnick, Walt to me, in his office in Germantown in 1999. A few months back we had launched our first Explorit application at OSTI, the Environmental Science Network and were working on our second OSTI Dr. Walter Warnickapplication – Energy Files.

This meeting in Germantown was the start of a very close friendship between Walt and I that continues to this day and I’m sure will continue long into the future. In the last 15 years or so Walt and I have had several thousand phone conversations and email exchanges. In many of these exchanges Walt would challenge me to push the limits of what federated search could do. Today in great part to Walt’s persistence and support we have set the gold standard for what federated search can do.

In May 2004, Deep Web Technologies, was a small 2 and 1/3 person company that I was running out of my home office. We were working on a DOE Phase I grant and had just submitted a Phase II grant proposal. Not wanting to leave anything to chance Walt orchestrated an impressive launch of Science.gov 2.0 at DOE Headquarters and managed to get Ray Orbach, then Director of the Office of Science and Spencer Abraham, then Secretary of Energy to attend the event. Having the Secretary of Energy credit the DOE SBIR program for major enhancements to Science.gov didn’t hurt and we got our Phase II grant. Deep Web Technologies is now a 20 person company with over 100 customers worldwide. A lot of our success is due to the support that we’ve received through our partnership with Walt and OSTI.

Through Science.gov and other OSTI portals, Walt was always focused on making more and more content available to as he called them, the “science attentive citizen” and helping to accelerate scientific progress. Walt has been a visionary and a very uncommon Federal Government executive. He always challenged his staff, was always willing to take risks and was never patient with things that took too long to accomplish.

The science portal that I am most proud of having developed is WorldWideScience.org, a portal that now searches over 100 of the best science portals from all over the world, including databases in multiple languages. WorldWideScience got its start as a collaboration between the DOE Office of Science under Ray Orbach and the British Library now under Madame Lynn Brindley. I recall fondly attending a number of major events for WorldWideScience.org in London, Seoul and Helsinki. Walt managed to establish a close relationship with Tony Hey, a senior Vice President at Microsoft who has become a strong supporter of OSTI.

Walt has promoted WorldWideScience globally. At the highest levels of the State Department WorldWideScience is used as an example of scientific collaboration between the U.S. and the Chinese and Russian governments. In a presentation to the U.N. in Geneva in 2011 Walt spoke about how WorldWideScience had become an important resource to help bridge the digital divide between countries that have access to the latest scientific information and those that don’t.

Three years ago I wrote a post for my company’s blog, Reminiscing on a 12 year partnership with OSTI, inspired by a wonderful article that Walt had written – Federated Search as a Transformational Technology Enabling Knowledge Discovery: The Role of WorldWideScience.org. In that blog post I had promised to highlight a few of the accomplishments of our partnership with OSTI in my next blog post. Although a bit late I now have the content for that follow-on blog article and promise to post this talk to our blog tomorrow.

Walt, best of luck with whatever you do next. I’m sure that you will continue to promote the causes that are dear to you exemplified in the OSTI Corollary – Accelerating the sharing of scientific knowledge accelerates scientific discovery.

 

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