Month of April, 2011
For all you (de)classification geeks out there, here's an interesting new .gov blog to add to your blogrolls. NARA's Public Interest Declassification Board now has a blog called Transforming Classification. They'll be posting a bunch of white papers on various topics over the coming months. I'm looking forward to the conversation.
The Public Interest Declassification Board is an advisory board established by Congress to promote the fullest possible public access to a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of significant U.S. national security decisions and activities. The Board’s mandate includes advising the President and other government officials on policies deriving from the issuance by the President of Executive orders regarding the classification and declassification of national security information...
...President Obama has charged the Board with designing a more fundamental transformation of the security classification system. In response to his request, we are proposing new solutions that address the shortcomings of the current system and tackle the challenges of digital records. By reducing inefficiencies and increasing public access, our proposals aim to improve the classification/declassification’s system capacity to protect and serve the American people.
Every other Wednesday over the next eight weeks, we will post either two or three “white paper” synopses to the blog describing an element of our proposed transformation.
[HT to Meredith Stewart]
Lunchtime Listen: Lawrence Lessig, speaking at CERN, talks about how hard, expensive, and limited our access is to scholarly information and how we have created this system.
- The architecture of access to scientific knowledge: just how badly we have messed this up, Lawrence Lessig CERN Colloquium and Library Science Talk, Streaming video (18 April 2011)
He mentions the problem of prohibiting access to an individual chart in an article posted for free on the internet. (Around the 16 minute mark: slide 189 et seq. [don't be intimidated by the number of slides; Lessig's presentation style is wonderful and clear and fast and enjoyable and no slide stays on the screen for more than a couple of seconds].)
We see this same problem in government information that incorporates copyrighted information with the results being anything from limited access to prohibited access to the non-copyrighted information. This is the poison pill problem of copyright.
David Ferriero, the Archivist of the U.S., will be testifying next week at a hearing that will address digital preservation of White House social media.
- White House officials to explain social-media policies next week, By Gautham Nagesh, The Hill (04/28/11).
Senior White House officials will explain the Obama administration's policy for preserving tweets and other messages sent using social networks at a House Oversight hearing next Tuesday.
The White House's official policy states that all messages between the president and his staffers and third parties on social-media sites like Twitter and Facebook must be preserved under the Presidential Records Act. That includes all tweets as well as direct messages and replies sent to official accounts.
But panel Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said it remains unclear what the administration's policies are for unofficial accounts still used for official communications, such as the personal accounts of some staff members....
Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor on Legislative Data Release, by John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, (April 29, 2011).
Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor today sent a letter to the Clerk of the House calling for better access to the House's electronic data.
The letter asks that the House release its "legislative data" in "machine-readable formats" and establish standards for the House and its committees to include open data formats such as XML.
Obama orders streamlining of federal websites, By Joseph Marks, nextgov (04/27/2011)
President Obama issued an executive order on Wednesday tasking federal agencies with creating new technology-based plans to improve their customer service within six months.
The plan is also aimed at streamlining the clutter of more than 20,000 federal websites...
Executive Order--Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary (April 27, 2011).
Within 180 days of the date of this order, each agency shall develop, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), a Customer Service Plan (plan) to address how the agency will provide services in a manner that seeks to streamline service delivery and improve the experience of its customers.
Well, that headline is a bit misleading, but also a bit troubling. According to the Washington Post, the White House is ordering federal agencies to cancel print subscriptions to the Federal Register, the government’s own journal of official activities. "The move means that about 4,700 fewer editions of the Federal Register will be printed for executive branch agencies, saving the government at least 4 million annually, according to the White House."
But this is a little misleading on the cost-saving front, and may mean that in Congress' zeal to cut budgets, the GPO may not have the funding available to produce the Federal Register and other mandated and vital publications like the Congressional Record. Public Printer Bill Boarman, in a Mar. 17, 2011 Senate Appropriations hearing for the Government Printing Office, stated that 70% of the cost and work of publishing the Congressional Record is done in pre-press, and many of the same duties necessary to publish it in print are still necessary to put it out digitally.
In fact, there's a new bill working its way through Congress now to further defund GPO's ability to produce the record of the US government. The bill, H.R. 1626: Prevent the Reckless, Irresponsible, Needless Typography (PRINT) Act of 2011, was introduced 2 weeks ago by Congresswoman Candice Miller (R-MI). Stay tuned for more.
I guess this is a big CRS news day! Huffington Post reported on 4/26 that a newly released Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report requested by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) found that the nation’s largest banks profited off the federal government’s bailout programs by borrowing cash for next to nothing, then lending it back to the federal government at substantially higher rates. The report has been posted at Sanders' Web site (PDF).
A newly-released study from the Congressional Research Service bolsters claims that the nation's largest banks profited off the Federal Reserve's financial crisis-era programs by borrowing cash for next to nothing, then lending it back to the federal government at substantially higher rates.
The report reinforces long-held beliefs that the banking system in essence engaged in taxpayer-financed arbitrage: They got money for free, then lent it back to Uncle Sam while collecting juicy returns. Left out of the equation are the millions of everyday borrowers, like households and small businesses, who were unable to secure loans needed to tide them over until the crisis ended.
The Fed released records under pressure in December and March that showed the extent of its largesse. The CRS study shows for the first time how some of the most sophisticated financial firms could have taken the Fed's money and flipped easy profits simply by lending it back to another arm of the government.
If you are a metadata librarian and would like to learn about metadata for social science data, check out the newest issue (April 2011) of DDI Directions, the newsletter of the Data Documentation Initiative. Then, browse the DDI website.
DDI is a specification for documenting social science data (e.g., census data, public opinion polls, economic time series, social surveys, government data, etc.). It enables you to document the entire lifecycle of data: conceptualization, collection, processing, distribution, discovery, analysis, repurposing, and archiving.
CRS Report Withheld By USTR Confirms That ACTA Language Is Quite Questionable, by Mike Masnick, TechDirt, April 26, 2011.
We're happy to announce that we've been able to get our hands on the -- until now -- secret Congressional Research Service analysis of ACTA.... [I]t shows that the language used by the USTR in ACTA has lots of weasel words that let them claim it doesn't impact US law, but the interpretations of the language could very much impact US law.
"...The Committee concludes that Congress intended to retain control over this document and that it is not an agency record subject to FOIA."
"Potential Implications For Federal Law Raised By The October 2010 Draft Of The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement - ACTA" CRS Memorandum To Honorable Ron Wyden From Brian T. Yeh, Legislative Attorney, American Law Division, 7-5182 October 29, 2010 7-5700 Redacted.
A new research paper that evaluated the information literacy skills of first-year dental students reports:
Nearly half of students missed one or more question components that required finding an evidence-based citation. Analysis of the survey revealed a significantly higher percentage of students who provided incorrect responses reported using Google as their preferred online search method. In contrast, a significantly higher percentage of students who reported using PubMed were able to provide correct responses.
Following a one-hour intervention by a health science librarian, virtually all students were able to find and retrieve evidence-based materials for subsequent coursework.
Kingsley, Karl, Gillian Galbraith, Matthew Herring, Eva Stowers, Tanis Stewart, and Karla Kingsley, Why Not Just Google It? An Assessment of Information Literacy Skills in a Biomedical Science Curriculum., BMC Medical Education, 11 (2011), 17 doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-17.
Hat tip to InfoDocket!