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EveryCRSReport.com launches. Public cheers. Congressional privilege intact

OMG I am so excited. This morning, Daniel Schuman and the fine folks at DemandProgress announced the launch of EveryCRSReport.com, a new website with 8,200 CRS reports from the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service (CRS), and more coming.

This is so awesome because CRS reports, written by experts in “Congress’ Think Tank,” have long been NOT available to the public unless a person contacted her member of Congress and *asked* for a report. See the problem here? Government reports — which are legally in the PUBLIC DOMAIN! — NOT available to the public, and one would need to know about the existence of a report in order to ask for the report. CRAZY!

This has been a long time in coming. Librarians and open government groups have been advocating for the public release of CRS reports for at least as long as I’ve been a librarian (15+ years) and likely longer. Change *does* come, but sometimes it happens in a geological timeframe.

For more, see Daniel’s post “Why I Came To Believe CRS Reports Should be Publicly Available (and Built a Website to Make it….” Congratulations and THANK YOU Daniel!

Here are the highlights:

On the website:

  • 8,200 reports
  • Search + the ability to filter reports by topic
  • Automatic updates through RSS feeds
  • Freshness ratings, which say how much a report changed when it was updated
  • The ability to view reports on your mobile device
  • Bulk download of all the reports
  • All the code behind the site (build your own!)
  • For each report, we:
    • Redacted the author’s name, email, and phone number, except in a tiny subset of reports
    • Explained the report is not copyrighted and its purpose is to inform Congress

oday my organization, in concert with others, is published 8,200 CRS reports on a new
website, EveryCRSReport.com. We are not the first organization to publish CRS reports. Many others have done so. Nor are we the first to advocate for public access. We’re part of a huge coalition including other former CRS employees. But I think we are the first to publish just about all the (non-confidential) reports currently available to members of Congress, in concert with a bipartisan pair of members who are providing the reports to us, and with a method to keep on doing so.We have tried to address CRS’s concerns. We redacted the contact information for the people who wrote the reports. We added information about why the reports are written and that they’re not subject to copyright. And we added a few nice bells and whistles to the website, such as letting you know how much a report has changed when it’s been revised.We think Congress as an institution should publish the reports. We support bicameral, bipartisan legislation to do so. And we hope that our website will help show the way forward.

via Why I Came To Believe CRS Reports Should be Publicly Available (and Built a Website to Make it… – Medium.

Feedback Needed by November 18th: FDLP Public Libraries Retention Study

The Government Publishing Office (GPO) has published a draft report asked for by the Depository Library Council (DLC) in response to learning that public libraries appear to be dropping from the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) at a faster rate than other libraries. The DLC asked GPO to:

  • Identify the reasons why libraries left the FDLP;
  • Ask remaining public library staff and directors to identify the most important
    challenges for them as FDLP members;
  • Ask remaining public library staff and directors to identify the most important
    advantages as well as needed enhancements or benefits for them as FDLP members;
  • Analyze and report on the collected information; and
  • Identify possible changes in policies and procedures to encourage existing public
    libraries to remain in the FDLP, but also provide incentives for non‐depository public
    libraries to join the FDLP.

The result was:

To Better Serve and Support Public Libraries: GPO’s Analysis and Findings on Public Libraries Leaving the Federal Depository Library Program Between 2007-2015 (October 2016)

GPO is asking for feedback on this report by November 18th. We encourage all of our readers, especially those working in public libraries, to read the report and provide feedback by e-mailing skmiller “AT” gpo.gov

Science and Congress

Take a few minutes away from politics and read this fascinating article! One would think that Congress would want to have good solid scientific advice and not have to rely on think tanks or the Executive Branch agencies for an understanding of complex scientific issues. Well, in 1972 Congress passed and President Nixon signed a bill that set up the The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) to do just that. Twenty years later, Congress withdrew all funding for the OTA and has never given it a penny since. (Okay. politics is involved…. Sorry.)

Why did this happen? What are the arguments for and against? What lessons can we learn about agencies just being denied funding? Read on!

And don’t forget to visit the collection of OTA documents at the UNT CyberCemetery!

DoE’s Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) shut down without comment. Data in preservation danger

This is terrible. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has summarily shut down the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC), located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as of 10/1/2016. CDIAC is the primary climate change data and information analysis center for DOE. CDIAC is supported by DOE’s Climate and Environmental Sciences Division within the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER).

A friend reports that CDIAC has limited funding and is trying to save its data in the NASA Distributed Active Archive Center (DAAC). There has been no outside comment and neither DOE nor ORNL have yet to issue a press release.

I just checked and the CDIAC site is in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. However, the CDIAC’s entire data catalog is served out over FTP which is not captured by IA’s heritrix Web crawler.

NOTICE: CDIAC as currently configured and hosted by ORNL will cease operations on September 30, 2017. Data will continue to be available through this portal until that time. Data transition plans are being developed with DOE to ensure preservation and availability beyond 2017.

via Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC).

Just launched: FOIA wiki

This is very cool. Check out — and bookmark right away! — the just released FOIA wiki. This looks to be a great resource not just for journalists, but for researchers of all stripes as they wend their way through the arcane and sometimes frustrating world of FOIA. And while you’re at it, check out the sites of the organizations which helped to build FOIA wiki — the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the FOIA Project, MuckRock, and FOIA Mapper. Thanks to them for moving the FOIA needle forward.

IF CONFUSION IS THE FIRST STEP TO KNOWLEDGE, FOIA users must be geniuses. Fee categories. Pre-determination agency actions. Multitrack processing. Administrative appeals. Glomar responses. In some ways, the FOIA is as impenetrable as it is helpful, but a new resource wants to change all that: FOIA Wiki, which launched in beta today.

It’s a free and collaborative FOIA resource created by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, with support from the FOIA Project, MuckRock, FOIA Mapper — and soon users like you.

via Just launched: A tool that will make life easier for FOIA reporters – Columbia Journalism Review.


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