government, the organizations that support federal government science and engineering (S&E) analysis, the academic community, and regional economic development analysts. In the presentations and interviews, these users were asked to address, from their perspective, the current practices of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for communicating and disseminating information in hard-copy publication format as well as on the Internet through the NCSES website, and the Integrated Science and Engineering Resources Data System (WebCASPAR), and the Scientists and Engineers Statistical Data System (SESTAT) database retrieval systems.
CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE STAFF
Panel and staff members met with staff of the House Subcommittee on Research and Science Education to discuss congressional staff uses of the NSF S&E information. Staff work in support of the committee is a fast-turnaround operation, requiring speed in retrieving data and easy access. In fulfilling its work, the committee staff makes extensive use of S&E Indicators in hard copy. The staff relies on the report narrative to help them interpret the data; the analysis helps them put the numbers into perspective. They expressed the view that data tables lacking explanation are subject to misinterpretation. Like other user groups interviewed by the panel, the congressional staff expressed concern about the timeliness and frequency of the survey-based data.
The main use of the website occurs when the staff is away from the office and hard copies of the publications. They most often use Google as the search engine for discovering S&E information, commenting that the search capability of the NSF site is cumbersome and unreliable. In response to a question about use of WebCASPAR, there seemed to be confusion as to what WebCASPAR is and whether, in fact, they did use it at all. The staff often turns to the American Association for the Advancement of Science web database when they need NSF statistics, because it is readily available and comprehensive.
The House committee staff would like to have access to Indicators in June rather than in the following spring, and the committee had proposed legislation to make that happen; the legislation was not supported in the Senate.
Staff also expressed a need for more usability tools, such as the ability to link to other data. This capability may be available in Data.gov, but the staff has not used Data.gov very much. They were also interested in the possibility of visualization tools for the data. Some data needed for support of legislative initiatives are not presented in the aggregation (i.e., tables and cross-cuts) they desire. For example, the staff would like disaggregated S&E workforce and science, technology, engineering, and mathematical educa-