“Just the facts” from the Federal Science Library

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September 19, 2017

Open Government and Open Science are important values for the Federal Science Library (FSL). The FSL implementation was a commitment under Canada's Action Plan on Open Government. On March 6, 2017, the FSL Portal officially launched to the public, marking an important milestone for openness and transparency.

People often ask me, “What is the Federal Science Library?” The FSL is a collaborative partnership of 7 departmental science libraries: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Health Canada, National Research Council Canada, Natural Resources Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Its mission is to improve access to federal scientific information and library services. A single search in the self-serve portal provides results from all the departmental member libraries. The FSL Portal lets you access government research and resources in 3 ways: directly online, through an onsite visit to an FSL member library, or via interlibrary loan through your local, municipal or academic library. Wherever possible, departmental publications, reports, datasets and other content are freely available for anyone to access or download.

The Federal Science Library is a valuable tool for scientists, researchers, and Canadians at large. It is a trusted source of information supported by scientific research. Openly searchable and discoverable, its combined library collections and repositories hold the answers to many questions, such as:

  • How does social structure affect termite evolution?
  • What can I learn about sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence?
  • What is the link between sun and skin cancer?
  • What impact does climate change have on the Arctic?

The FSL connects Canadians everywhere with information they need.

For scientists and researchers, the FSL Portal is a valuable research and collaboration tool. The Portal lets them share information with colleagues and create citation lists and bibliographies. Researchers can easily filter or expand search results to target information they need as well as track social media interest in a topic.

Through the FSL Portal, Canadians can also learn about their government’s scientific research. The Portal provides access to high-value, authoritative information on many subjects. We sift through mountains of information every day, pushed to us via Facebook, Twitter and other social media sources. As we try to make sense of the news of the day, the Federal Science Library can help separate fact from fiction.

Recently, I noticed a number of Twitter and Facebook posts and YouTube videos on the danger of plastics in our oceans. A quick search in the FSL Portal for “plastics in the ocean” brought back 43,091 filterable results. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reported on this issue in 1987, so in the science world, this issue is not “new news.” Unlike a Google search, these results are specific to the 7 FSL libraries. A quick check of the “Add results beyond the library’s collection” box expands the search results, filterable to meet your needs. Next time you are curious about something you have heard on the news or read on social media, come to the Federal Science Library to get just the facts!


Lynne McAvoy is the Chief of the Federal Science Library at National Research Council Canada. She manages the FSL Operations team. Lynne is working with the FSL partners to enable more open and transparent government by maximizing the sharing of government information.

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