Abstract: Technological advances have changed the way information is accessed, retrieved, and utilized. The Internet has contributed to greater accessibility of scientific and technical information (STI), particularly in the arena of technical report literature. Technical reports, which communicate the results of research and development activities, are significant indicators of scientific trends because they often represent public and governmental interest in emerging fields of study. Prior to the widespread use of the Internet, technical reports were disseminated in print format with the use of specific, and often limited, distribution lists. However, as technical report literature found a home on the Internet, it became more accessible to the public as a discoverable resource on par with journal literature.
This study investigates the transition from the traditional paper distribution to the digital distribution of technical reports beginning in the mid-1990s. Reports produced and distributed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are examined to determine trends over time and across disciplines. The scientific disciplines of chemistry and engineering are contrasted with respect to citation patterns. A quantitative analysis is used to determine whether citation patterns of technical report literature reflect the transition from print access to digital access. Publication and citation information was collected in 2009 from ISI’s Web of Science product as well as from databases maintained by the Department of Energy’s Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI).