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Searching the ODS: now quick and easy!
20 April 2010 / 01:27

[Dateline: New York | Authors: DGACM, DPI, OICT ]

Starting today, 15 April, searching the Official Documents System  (ODS) is going to be a much easier and quicker experience as a new, enhanced ODS Search is being introduced through iSeek.

This initiative is one step in the process of turning the United Nations Secretariat into an e-Organization. Information will increasingly be made available electronically, rather than through printed documents, which not only conserves paper, ink and energy, but which also facilitates dissemination, storage and retrieval of information. The search function in the old ODS was not particularly user-friendly, but the new one is a veritable revolution, brought about by a joint effort of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management  (DGACM), the Department of Public Information (DPI), and the Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT).

Just as you go to Google when you are looking for information on any given topic on the Web, you will be able to look for UN documents by typing a query in the new ODS search box. Whether you are looking for the latest UN documents related to the Haiti earthquake, an early Security Council resolution on Apartheid, or documents on recruitment policies, all you need to do is type the words describing the information you are looking for. In a matter of seconds, the results page will come up. 

New search and results pages were designed to ensure an easier, faster, and more reliable search, with fewer clicks required. In addition to an improved search experience, new features have been added: 

  • Search results can be narrowed down: the right column of the results page allows you to refine your search, by issuing body, language or year of publication.
  • Retrieved search results can be shared easily by sending the search as a link.
  • RSS feeds allow users to subscribe to a search results page. Each time new documents that match your search query are added to the ODS, your feed will be updated.
  • Results displays have also been enriched by adding elements that will help you identify the document(s) most relevant to your query. In addition to the title, publication date, or document symbol, the results page now also displays a snippet which shows the search terms of your query in the original document’s context. 

To access the new ODS Search directly from iSeek, just enter your query in the iSeek Right Column Search box, and check the ODS radio button below the Search box. Your query will automatically be run and the results page will come up. If you select the UN Documents (ODS) QuickLink on the left column, you will be taken to the Search page, which already includes some pre-defined frequent ODS Search queries, such as Administrative Instructions, or This Month’s Documents. 

The new search is another step in the first phase of the comprehensive revamping of the ODS, the result of a collaborative effort between three Departments. This new milestone follows the ODS Stabilization project which was completed last November. As already reported on iSeek in December 2009 , an interdepartmental ODS Enhancement Sub-Committee was established in 2009 and tasked by senior management to develop an ODS enhancement plan. Sub-Committee membership includes representatives from DGACM, DPI, and OICT, who acts as Chair. 

Improving ODS search was quickly recognized by the Sub-Committee as a top priority, which would benefit all ODS users. OICT was able to identify and implement a solution based on Google Search that would help address the existing challenges and pain points. 

The 15 April launch on iSeek is a pilot which will help test the robustness of the new search platform. All feedback is encouraged at ods@un.org. Suggestions which are achievable will be included in next releases of the ODS Search. The approach for the pilot was to enhance the system, without having to re-engineer it. Additional useful elements have already been identified - such as adoption date or document type (resolutions or Secretary-General’s reports) – and will be included in a later release of the ODS Search. Following the iSeek launch, the new ODS Search will be made available to delegates through deleGATE, the Member States Portal, on 15 May, and once the system has been successfully tested within the smaller UN community, it will be offered to the public at large on the public web site, tentatively on 1 June. The “old” ODS pages will continue to be available, and links have been added to the new search page.  

In the meantime, the ODS Enhancement Sub-Committee will continue to identify and implement other potential improvements that can be achieved rapidly.