Crossposted from the Writer’s Guide to Government Information blog.
The National Atlas from the US Geological Survey has so much of possible interest to fiction writers that it actually has FOUR entries in the Writer’s Guide to Government Information:
All this is going away on September 30, 2014 the end of the Federal fiscal year, courtesy of budget cuts. From the National Atlas web site:
Announcement – The National Atlas Will Be Removed from Service September 30, 2014
This year we are combining the National Atlas of the United States with The National Map to provide a single source for geospatial and cartographic information. This transformation is taking place to streamline access to information from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Geospatial Program. USGS budget austerity has compelled our organization to prioritize its civilian mapping role and to consolidate its core investments.
Our organization will continue its long history of providing topographic maps and other geographic information by offering a range of scales and layers of geospatial information on its National Map Viewer and through the US Topo product. As a result of the conversion to an integrated single source for geospatial and cartographic information, nationalatlas.gov will be removed from service on September 30, 2014.
We recognize that not having the same access to information about the population, economy, infrastructure, natural resources, environment, government, and history of the Nation, organized for display on national and regional maps, may place a burden on USGS customers. Please take advantage of the remaining eight months to browse and download anything you need from the National Atlas.
We value National Atlas customers and want to make this transition as easy as possible. We have posted more information on the future availability of National Atlas products and services.
Another page provides questions and answers about the future of the National Atlas.
Here are some of the questions that will likely be harder to answer from government information resources after September 30th:
- What time zone is Dallas located in?
- Where can I find a map of Indian reservations?
- What did the Electoral vote map look like in 1860 for Lincoln’s first election?
- Where are bats found in the United States?
- Are there forests in Northern Alaska?
- What is the average rainfall for Los Angeles, California?
- Where did a major tornado hit in 1955?
- What was the path of Hurricane ___________?
- Is there more than one continental divide?
- Outside of Appalachia, where are America’s coal fields?
- Where are potentially active volcanoes in California?
Stay tuned for an entry on the National Map and whether it is as useful a tool for writers as the National Atlas is. If you want to complain about the deletion of theNational Atlas, I’d go straight to your Senators and Representatives. Only they can put back the money to restore the National Atlas.
I’m an admitted FOIA geek. So it was really cool to see Rachel Maddow highlight the positive changes coming to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process. The House passed UNANIMOUSLY(!) 410 – 0 H.R.1211 FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2014 co-sponsored by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.). According to the UPI, the bill would “create a centralized online portal for FOIA requests through the Office of Management and Budget and establish a group that would recommend improvements to the request process.” And the Feds have already set up a site to track the FOIA process, FOIA.gov.
I wholeheartedly support these rules changes to make the FOIA process less cumbersome. The only thing I’d quibble with is to ask why something has to be requested 3 times in order for it to become publicly available on agency FOIA reading room sites — which I’ve been collecting since 2007 over at Archive-it.org? Why not put a system in place that automatically puts the scanned document/record into the agency’s FOIA reading room? It’s frankly stupid to make already-overburdened FOIA staff at each agency do something 3 times before making that document available on the Web. By my calculations — and I’m NOT a mathematician ok?! — that would potentially cut the number of FOIA requests by 1/3 since the public wouldn’t have to ask 3 times in order to gain access to important public domain documents and records.
If you agree, then please contact OMB’s FOIA office at OMBFOIA@omb.eop.gov. Send them your suggestions for making FOIA run smoothly and quickly, including doing away with the “3 times” rule which only adds to the burden on agency FOIA staff and the public in their right to know the workings of their government.
Rachel Maddow explains why a new bill streamlining the Freedom of Information Act request process is the best new thing today.
They’re looking for suggestions; there are many ways to participate!
via Doug Ward in National Archives (NARA) Information Services and Meredith Stewart in the NARA Office of Innovation.
The Open Data Policy seeks to expand the number of government data assets that are open and available to the public. Those data assets that are public (or could be public) are called out in a Public Data Listing and made available on Data.gov.
We’ve launched Archives.gov/data to serve as a portal for our open data efforts and we’ve begun the creation of our Public Data Listing. In order to expand our public data listing, we need your suggestions for NARA data assets that you would like to see included.
What do we mean by “data assets”?
Data assets can be as large as a system or as small as a single dataset or online resource. We have nearly 60 data assets, including large systems like Online Public Access (OPA) and and individual datasets like the Federal Register in XML and Executive Orders in CSV. We have included Archives.gov, but we’ve also called out individual resources on Archives.gov like the online collection of ISCAP decisions.
Suggest data assets!
Take a look at what we’ve included so far in our Public Data Listing and let us know your suggestions for additional data assets in the comments email email@example.com, or you can open an issue on our Github repository.
Steve Beleu, Regional Librarian for Federal Govt. Information Oklahoma State Data Center Coordinating Agency, recently alerted the documents community to another set of cuts at the Census Bureau:
1. Curtail the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). The QCEW program provides national, State, metropolitan statistical area, and county data on monthly employment and quarterly total wages and the number of establishments, by 6-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code and by size of establishment. The BLS will achieve savings largely by reducing the scope and frequency of collection for select units in the QCEW survey that is used to validate and update the NAICS code of business establishments. This will result in a small degradation in the quality of QCEW data and make the QCEW slightly less accurate as a sampling frame.
2. Curtail the International Price Program (IPP). IPP Export Price Indexes measure the price change of goods and services sold to foreign buyers. The BLS will discontinue production and publication of its Export Price Indexes. These indexes currently are used in the production of National Income and Product Accounts and in the calculation of real Gross Domestic Product. In addition, these indexes are used to help understand trends in U.S. real trade balances and competitiveness and issues such as the impact of exchange rate movements.
See Steve’s full post in the govdoc-l archives.
Let us specify up front that these cuts are not the responsibility of the Census Bureau itself, but of the Congress that refuses to fund it adequately.
You should care about Census cuts, particularly ones that include economic data. How can we identify problems in wages or assess the effects of laws passed by state and federal governments to affect the economic if we don’t have accurate data? What business decides that they’ll stop or degrade their sales tracking in order to save money? How would that business measure the effectiveness of their marketing?
We see this as part of a disturbing trend over the past decade or so of willfully turning out the lights on various parts of government that attempt to provide accurate data for the purpose of policymaking. We don’t expect this to end well if left unheralded and unchecked.
We commend Steve Beleu and others in the documents community who are keeping us aware of what we are losing. Please join him. Then tell your Congressmember that if they want to make policy in a given area, they had better be keeping good data – and making it public.
- Introducing the ProPublica Data Store, by Scott Klein and Ryann Grochowski Jones, ProPublica (Feb. 26, 2014).
- The ProPublica Data Store.
The store includes links to open government data and links to raw, as-is datasets ProPublica has obtained from government sources. Data that ProPublica has assembled by scraping and assembling material from web sites and out of Acrobat documents and has cleaned or merged from different sources in a way that’s never been done before, are available for purchase. All these datasets are from a growing collection of the data ProPublica has used in its reporting.
For datasets that are the result of significant expenditures of ProPublica’s time and effort, they charge a reasonable one-time fee: In most cases, it’s $200 for journalists and $2,000 for academic researchers.