WASHINGTON -- The National Academies today announced the completion of the first phase of a partnership with Google to digitize the library's collection of reports from 1863 to 1997, making them available - free, searchable, and in full text - through Google Book Search. The Academies plan to have their entire collection of nearly 11,000 reports digitized by 2011.
"Much has changed since the National Academy of Sciences began advising the government in the late 1800s," said Victoria Harriston, manager of library and information services at the National Academies' George E. Brown Jr. Library. "Our early reports are essential to understanding the scientific advances made in this country as well as the science and technology issues the government struggled with in the 19th and 20th centuries."
Notable reports from the library's archives that are now available include:
- PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, Vol. 1 (1863-1894). This was the first NAS publication series, and it includes information about the Academy's early work for the government on topics such as how to prevent compass deviation which sent iron warships off course, whether the metric system of weights and measures should be adopted, and how the new U.S. Geological Service should be organized.
- INVESTIGATION OF THE SCIENTIFIC AND ECONOMIC RELATIONS OF THE SORGHUM SUGAR INDUSTRY (1882). This report was the Academy's first self-initiated study, produced by the first committee to include non-Academy members.
- PROPOSED U.S. PROGRAM FOR THE INTERNATIONAL GEOPHYSICAL YEAR, 1957-1958. American participation in the International Geophysical Year - a historic, worldwide scientific effort that investigated the workings of the Earth and saw the launch of the first satellites - was guided and coordinated by a committee of the Academy.
- THE POLAR REGIONS AND CLIMATIC CHANGE (1984) Changes in Earth's polar regions are widely covered in the news today, but the Academies have been studying this phenomenon for more than 20 years.
Prior to this project, the Academies digitized more than 4,000 books and made them available online through the National Academies Press; most of those can also be found in Google Book Search. However, researchers who needed to gain access to hard copies of older reports, part of a legacy collection in the library, could not always find what they wanted. Many of these reports exist as single copies, and the library feared potential damage or loss of this important collection. These older reports have been digitized and are now accessible through Google. In addition, the "digitizing of these materials will add another dimension to the preservation of our reports," said Harriston. The Academies hope that wider availability of its reports will be of use to scientists in developing countries, who often rely on the Internet to gather information.
The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.