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The Subject Categories:. Time to Update. Judy Gilmore, OSTI STIP – April 26, 2007. United States Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information. Subject Access Points. Four ways our databases provide subject access to users

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The Subject Categories:

Time to Update

Judy Gilmore, OSTI

STIP – April 26, 2007

United States Department of Energy

Office of Scientific and Technical Information


Subject Access Points

Four ways our databases provide subject access to users

  • Subject categories (2 digit code or words in the category title
  • Subject descriptors (more than 21,000 controlled vocabulary terms)
  • Keywords – Descriptive words that are allowed to be “outside” of the controlled vocabularies
  • Full-text indexing

A Quick



The Subject Categories:

Time to Update

  • A process that has to be done periodically
  • No set schedule; done as needed
  • Requests from sites are good indicator that it’s time
  • Not a simple task because of coordination with ETDE/ INIS; we share both subject categories and thesaurus

Subject Category Update Project

The Goal:

Determine additions/changes to the Subject Categories needed in order to reflect major new research areas or major changes in emphasis in DOE mission, scope, and related activities.

Project Methodology:

  • Collect/study current subject topic terminologies from many different sources
  • Develop “crosswalks” between these controlled listings and DOE’s Subject Categories
  • While staying within DOE scope, use crosswalks to identify major gaps or significant differences in coverage


Collect/study current subject topic terminologies from many different sources

  • STIP contacts and web sites across DOE
  • Other federal agencies and organizations
  • Scientific publishing world (journals/web directories, etc.)
  • Keywords from DOE authors/sites

STIP contacts and DOE web sites

  • Received input from STIP members
  • Looked at the research areas/ organizational breakdowns/ core competencies/ terminologies across many DOE laboratory web sites
  • Checked the subject terminologies used on major Program Office web sites

Other federal agencies

and organizations

Such as:

  • Defense (DTIC)
  • Agricultural (NAL)
  • NTIS
  • USGS
  • NSF
  • Library of Congress

Scientific publishing world

  • Subject topics from organizations such as Thomson Scientific (Dialog, ISI Web of Knowledge) and web portals such as
  • Scientific Journals (such as Nature, Science) and the subject breakdowns included in front-end search tools by Scirus, Infotrieve, etc.
  • Web directories and web search engine terminologies
An important source because:

How new “buzz words” (not yet in a “controlled” vocabulary), can show up in a record and be searchable.

Information accepted by OSTI “as is.” Author/site has full freedom of input.

Indexed and made available in the subject field of OSTI’s databases, right along with the subject category and the subject descriptors.

Keywords from DOE authors/sites


Some notes from the keyword research

  • There were thousands (!) submitted from DOE sites during FY06. Project team looked at them all, searching for keywords that did not seem to fit well with a category, for new terminology, etc.
  • We saw many cases where the author/site used category titles as keywords, many place names, many instances of “Other” and much, much duplication.

Some notes from the keyword research

  • Where terms did not seem to “fit” a category easily, we did random look-ups of the full text document to check the subject themes for ourselves.
  • We did random look-ups of full text for instances of “Other.”
  • We looked for and tried to count instances of certain terms like “nano….”

Some notes from the keyword research

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics were the keywords most used (in combo and/or separately) without a clear, category fit. (More than 200 times). Also used as a major subject topic/heading almost everywhere else we looked.
  • While “nano…” work is going on all over DOE, terms with nano… in them were used as keywords only 16 times! We still recommend it!

Project Recommendations

After researching, comparing, counting, and crosswalking, the Project Team recommended:

  • Add four new Categories
  • Rewrite to update selected other Categories
  • Utilize the Categories as a search aid
  • Realign subject terminology on database search pages

Add four new Categories

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Global Climate Change Studies and Climate Mitigation
  • Genomics/Genome Research
  • Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

Rewrite/Update other Categories

  • Update selected categories to include more examples of research terminology belonging in that category. Not obvious how some of today’s research relates to traditional categories. Where would you put research in supergravity, for instance?
  • Also rewrite/restructure to accommodate the four new categories recommended. For example, if Global Climate Change is adopted as a category of its own, then Category 54, Environmental Sciences will need to be rewritten to explain its relationship to both the new category and Category 12.

Utilize Categories as a search aid

  • Add a Subject Category “pick list”to OSTI’s database search interfaces. Current interfaces do not encourage customers to use these categories as the excellent search tools they are. The closest to this is in Information Bridge, and the categories there are not from the actual Authority list.
  • Rewrite the help pages for product databases where the Subject Categories form a basis for indexing. Explain them, define them, discuss them.

Realign other "topic" terminology

Database search interfaces have to often use subject topics that are broader than the official Categories.

Once the Categories are updated, OSTI will also look at these broad search terms at the product level to ensure consistency.


Next Important Step

Solicit STIP feedback.

You’ll receive an email sometime in May asking for your reaction to the recommended new Categories, your reasoning, and your suggestions for real-life “example terms” from your site that would go into a rewrite of selected, existing Categories.

please take the time to respond
Please take the time to respond