For years private companies that publish statistical tables, research reports and so forth have been trying to get rid of the National Technical Information Service, the huge government operation that maintains and distributes the thousands of research studies carried out with government money. These efforts bore no fruit until Ronald Reagan entered the White House, and now the information industry thinks it is about to score a kill.
The Commerce Department privately asked the Information Industry Association, the trade group that leads the fight against NTIS, to "suggest some thoughts" about the best way to distribute government-funded research. The association, of course, reported that private firms could handle the $26 million annual operation better than the government. Commerce officials say Secretary Malcolm Baldrige is about to announce a plan to give the bulk of the business to private firms, which would be given rights to publish and sell government studies and statistics on a profit-making basis.
The only roadblock at the moment arises, ironically, from private firms which buy the government reports.Commerce officials say some of these firms are afraid prices might go up and service might go down if government got out of the information business.