Month of August, 2012
M-12-18, Managing Government Records Directive (August 24, 2012) (7 pages, 2.62 mb).
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES Office of Management and Budget From Jeffrey D. Zients, Acting Director, Office of Management and Budget, and David S.Ferriero, Archivist of the United States SUBJECT: Managing Government Records Directive.
This Directive creates a robust records management framework that complies with statutes and regulations to achieve the benefits outlined in the Presidential Memorandum. This Directive was informed by agency reports submitted pursuant to Sec. 2 (b) of the Presidential Memorandum and feedback from consultations with agencies, interagency groups, and public stakeholders.
This Directive requires that to the fullest extent possible, agencies eliminate paper and use electronic recordkeeping. It is applicable to all executive agencies and to all records, without regard to security classification or any other restriction.
This Directive also identifies specific actions that will be taken by NARA, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to support agency records management programs. In addition, NARA will undertake a review to update relevant portions of the Code of Federal Regulations to take into account the provisions of this Directive.
A friend just alerted me to the existence of the Sunlight Academy, "a collection of interactive tutorials for journalists, activists, researchers and students to learn about tools by the Sunlight Foundation and others to unlock government data." They've got training modules for tracking govt, unlocking data, lobbying, data analysis, and research tools. Very nicely done! I wish there was a site training.fdlp.gov for the Federal Depository Library Program ;-)
Whether you are an investigative journalist trying to get insight on a complex data set, an activist uncovering the hidden influence behind your issue, or a congressional staffer in need of mastering legislative data, Sunlight Academy guides you through how to make our tools work for you. Let’s get started!
HT to my friend Sue Lyons for alerting me to the Sunlight site and suggesting it as a model for the FDLP to follow!
The Census Bureau provides the Research Data Products page with links to new tools that make data more accessible and understandable. Bureau researchers also create new data products from existing data collections.
There are some very interesting services here! Check out the innovative "synthetic data" projects: Synthetic Survey of Income and Program Participation (a Beta version of synthetic microdata on individuals) and the Synthetic Longitudinal Business Database (Beta version of synthetic microdata on all U.S. establishments) as well as the more traditional: Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates Interactive Map Tool and Quarterly Workforce Indicators and much more!
- Research Data Products
- Demographic - People and Households
- Economic - Businesses
- Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics - Workforce
Robert Groves, Census Bureau Director, resigned August 11, 2012 to become Provost at Georgetown University. We wish Director Groves well! Tom Mesenbourg, the new acting Director, writes that "The Times, They Are a-Changin’". I really enjoyed Director Groves' openness and tell-it-like-it-is communication style -- whether it was explaining why some census surveys are mandatory or ripping into GOP members of the US House Appropriations Committee for attempting to eliminate the ACS. Let's hope that Acting Director Mesenbourg will continue to communicate openly with the public in explaining the inner workings of the US Census Bureau and it's important work. That is all.
We face a challenging future. Resources will be constrained and possibly reduced. Getting businesses, institutions, and households to participate in surveys and censuses will become more difficult. Policy makers, public and private decision makers, and the general public demands for relevant, timely information will grow, and users will expect information to be easily accessible and to be available for small geographic areas and small population groups.
To respond to this future we must change. We need to change the way we collect, compile, and produce statistics. We must offer multiple response options that facilitate reporting and reduce reporting burden. We must be more attentive and responsive to data providers concerns. And finally we must find ways to integrate Census Bureau data sets with public and private data sets to develop new low cost products. I am excited about the initiatives we currently have underway that promise to transform our methods, processes, and products and you will hear more about them in future blogs.
I have been at the Census Bureau for almost 40 years, but I am more convinced than ever that we need to continue to innovate. Our employees have demonstrated that they can be engines of innovation and over the past several years, they have submitted hundreds of great ideas that save money and improve products and processes. We also need to be attuned to the concerns of our data providers. In January 2013, we will roll out an Internet reporting option for the American Community Survey that will make reporting easier for sampled households.
We also need to make our statistics more accessible, both for every day users and those who are just discovering them. On July 26, we released our first-ever Application Programming Interface (API), allowing developers to create apps using 2010 Census and American Community Survey information. We are already seeing developers create some great apps from the API.
During the first week of August, we followed up the release of the API with our first-ever mobile app, America’s Economy. This app provides users with instant access to 16 key economic indicators from not only the Census Bureau but also the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The economist in me finds this app a cool new tool, and I encourage all of you to check it out and tell us how we can make it even more useful.
The Colorado State Publications Library Digital Repository collects and preserves born digital publications from Colorado state agencies. Its mission is to provide Colorado residents with permanent public access to information produced by state government.
In a post to the Bestpractices mailing list today, Debbi MacLeod, the Director of the Colorado State Publications Library, says that library joined The Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries' Digital Repository (ADR) in 2008. There are now more than 9,500 documents in the ADR.
One of the benefits of this was increased exposure of the collection because ADR content is exposed to search engines. The collection went from an average of 1,000 to 10-15,000 hits per month.
Another benefit is shared preservation responsibility. MacLeod says:
[W]e no longer have to worry about a local catastrophic server failure. ADR staff keep track of the latest developments in digital preservation. They keep on top of server maintenance and periodic testing to ensure that files deposited in the system have not been corrupted. Also, there is an ongoing pilot with DuraCloud to test the pros and cons of a distributed back-up system using cloud technology.
This seems to be a successful example of building and sharing infrastructure and responsibilities in a way that leverages the strengths of cooperating organizations to accomplish more than any one could on its own.
Even better, MacLeod notes that ADR is willing to work with other states!
While The Alliance is located in Colorado, they are interested in expanding their base and having other state collections of documents or special collections join their consortium. Much of the ground work for the particulars to state documents has now been done and can be applied to other states. Robin Dean is the Director, of the Alliance Digital Repository. She can be reached at 303-759-3399 x110 or robin at coalliance.org to start a conversation.
Last week saw several new databases added to the pages of the State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States Project at http://wikis.ala.org/godort/index.php/State_Agency_Databases.
For a full list of changes in the last week, see http://tinyurl.com/statedbs. Here are some highlights:
CALIFORNIA (Joel Rane)
Charity Research Tool - A searchable database of the information returns that charities file annually with the IRS (Forms 990, 990-PF, and 990-EZ). The database allows donors to research a charity before making a decision to give. Searchable by name, location, the activity and type of the charity, the EIN (Employer Identification Number) or the NTEE (National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities) code. The returns available in this database are those filed with the IRS directly, not with the Registry of Charitable Trusts.
OHIO (Audrey Hall)
Check your voter registration - Update your Ohio voting address online. A convenient way for voters to meet their primary responsibility to be registered at their current address 30 days before an election. Every Ohioan who is old enough to vote will be able to take advantage of this new system.
UTAH (Susanne Caro)
Utah State History Online Photos - This database of 65,000 images includes KUED Topaz Residents (WWII Japanese interment), Juanita Brooks Photograph Collection, Taylor Woolley Photograph Collection (architecture), Larson Studio Negative Collection, Commercial Photograph Collection, Clifford Bray Photograph Collection and more. Keyword searchable with an advanced search option. Collections can be browsed.
The federal government's data portal data.gov has a space for American cities to make their data available: cities.data.gov. Data from four cities, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle, are available so far.
Showcasing the applications and opportunities for harnessing the power of open data across the nation. City officials and developers working together to help improve the information available to city residents. Data in Cities.Data.Gov is not federal data.
- We Want You: City Data Edition, by Nate Berg, The Atlantic Cities (Aug 02, 2012).
The new clearinghouse features thousands of openly accessible data streams, including information on building permits filed in these cities, a regularly updated feed of Seattle Fire Department 911 dispatches, budget documents and tons of maps of things like parks, film locations and building footprints.
Chicago has 1,826 data feeds on the site, New York has 1,087, Seattle has 711, and San Francisco has 310. The federal government has made 6,560 of their own available.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) posted a summary of its "digital firsts" over the last few years on its blog yesterday. This short piece gives a sense of the digital shift in government in a very short time. Two thousand tweets, Facebook, Flickr, online datasets, online maps, broadcast inspection files (!), APIs, LinkedIn, blogs, RSS feeds, etc.
- Digital Firsts, by David Robbins, Managing Director, Official FCC Blog (August 15th, 2012).
Hours after NASA's successful landing on Mars of its Mars rover, one of NASA's official clips from the mission was pulled from YouTube, and replaced with a notice from the video site indicating that the "video contains content from Scripps Local News, who has blocked it on copyright grounds."
The video was replaced and Scripps apologized, but it is an example of how the scale are tipped in favor of the "content industry" and even obvious, public-domain content gets caught in the privatization of information trap. EFF has the background on the technology and how it works:
- Mars Landing Videos, and Other Casualties of the Robot Wars, by Parker Higgins, Electronic Frontier Foundation (Aug 8, 2012).
[T]he problem likely lies not with the DMCA itself, but with the additional (and voluntary) automated Content ID system YouTube has developed. Content ID uses digital fingerprinting technology to identify duplicate audio and video on YouTube and, depending on the "business rules" configuration of the designated rightsholder, blocks or places ads next to videos. Unfortunately, the robots behind that copyright enforcement machine have the tendency to shoot first and ask questions later, even when it ends up silencing real -- human -- speech.
It costs money (at least in the short run) to make governments open and transparent. Even if open government is better for democracy and cost-efficient and cost-effective in the long run, governments may use the short-term cost as an excuse to curtail openness.
OMB Watch reports that, as part of its Budget Act of 2012 (passed in June), California suspended the state's open meetings law for the next three years in an effort to cut state expenditures. The California open meetings law "requires cities and other agencies to publish the agendas of public meetings before they occur and make the minutes of these meetings available to citizens after they occur." As OMB Watch says, "In suspending the law, the state is sacrificing not only a fundamental element of a democratic society, but a vital tool that can actually save money."
- California Suspends Open Meetings Law to Save Money, OMB Watch (August 14, 2012).
The state, facing increasingly tight budgets, suspended the law to save money. Under state rules, California is required to reimburse cities and counties for the cost of complying with mandated requirements, which includes its open meetings requirements. However, California has not reimbursed local governments for open meetings costs since 2005, accumulating a debt estimated at $96 million. By suspending the open meetings provision in the Brown Act, California expects to avoid paying open meetings costs for the next three years, as well as eliminate the current debt owed to local governments.
The OMB Watch article goes on to explain that the "costs" billed to the state may be inflated and not reflect actual costs and that some local government will continue their open meetings policies regardless of the change in requirements.