The TREC project at the National Institute of Standards and Technology has created standard test sets and evaluation methodology to support the development of methods for content-based access to material structured for human consumption since 1992. Starting with (massive-for-the-time) two gigabytes of newswire text and progressing to web-scale data collections, TREC has examined a variety of tasks including question answering, retrieving digital video, web search, legal discovery, secondary use of electronic health records, and sentiment analysis in blogs and tweets. TREC’s "coopetition" paradigm emphasizes individual experiments evaluated on a benchmark task. This has had three major impacts: improved effectiveness of information access algorithms; cross-fertilization of ideas across research groups with the eventual transfer of technology into products; and the formation of new research areas enabled by the construction of critical infrastructure.