National Labs develop improved searches

Employees of the Los Alamos National Laboratory were so fed up with using the Google search engine that they developed their own electronic knowledge management tool to better work through large information archives.

The tool, called the Electronic Knowledge Management system, can sort through information and organize the results by concepts and trends. The system also finds links between documents and permanently connects them, making future searches faster.

Shelly Spearing, a member of the LANL Scientific Software Engineering Group, said Google isn’t fast enough or smart enough to accomplish this with enterprise data. Spearing complained that she sometimes must go through ten pages of results to find what she wants

“A thousand google hits will tell you not much other than ‘I need to narrow down my search,’ ” Spearing said April 29 at the Knowledge Management Conference sponsored by Federal Computer Week’s parent company, the 1105 Government Information Group.

In a presentation on future knowledge management technology, Spearing said new search tools would be needed to find data embedded in gigantic volumes of information, such as the more than 40 million e-mail messages sent during the Clinton Administration and collected by the National Archives and Records Administration.

The lab-developed system could sort through that information. First developed two years ago, the system seeks to find the best information for human consumption.

The search system is robust enough to form a knowledge base to train new employees. Spearing’s fellow group member Jorge Roman demonstrated that system can search through former colleagues’ e-mail message archives. The system can find contacts the employee wrote most often and calculate whether those contacts could serve as subject matter experts or other references.

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