Unquestionably valuable research !

July 30, 1994|By Elizabeth Austin

Worried that radiation from your computer terminal is turning your ovaries into sand dollars? Troubled over the rising cost of alfalfa? Concerned abut overcrowding in the Yellowstone National Park and looking for an alternative wilderness vacation?

Chances are the federal government has either published a study on the subject or has assigned someone to research it. Hungry researchers will drool at this juicy factoid: While all of the major commercial publishers in our country generated approximately 50,000 books in one year, the National Technical Information Services sells almost 90,000 titles.

And that's just a fraction of the output of federal agencies. There are Congress' information gathering offices, such as the General Accounting Office, the Office of Technology Assessment and the Congressional Research Service. Each cabinet agency has a public affairs office that may be able to point you toward the information you need. And we haven't even accounted for the hundreds of think tanks and lobby groups.

If you want to know the number of professional dancers in America, call the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you want to know how much federal workers are getting paid to collect all this information, call the Office of Personnel Management.

The Consumer Information Center publishes more than 200 mostly free booklets from federal agencies covering everything from vacation-planning tips to detecting fraud to solving credit problems (for a catalog, write to CIC Catalog, Pueblo, Colo. 81009).

Want to know how often to water your African violets? Call the U.S. Botanic Gardens Plant Information Service ([202] 225-8333). The Occupational Outlook Handbook, available for $23 from the Government Printing Office ([202] 783-3238), is an invaluable reference service for job seekers, grouping hundreds of occupations by the interests, traits and abilities required for each.

The Bureau of Land Management can direct you to millions of acres of national wilderness, historic and scenic trails and wild rivers ([202] 280-5717).

"Hair-Dye Dilemmas" is a free pamphlet put out by the Food and Drug Administration ([301] 443-3170). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration produces approximately 1,000 nautical charts and maps ([301] 436-6990). The USDA has documents to assist you with everything from beekeeping to ginseng growing ([202] 720-2791).

Many of these sources are listed in Lesko's Info-Power. Unfortunately, few of them have toll-free telephone numbers. But the resulting goods would still be a bargain even at twice the price.

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