Unfortunately, there was a technological glitch and I didn't get to finish my presentation on digital preservation at the 2013 House Legislative Data and Transparency conference. I've attached my presentation notes (PDF) in case anyone is interested. I'd be interested to hear comments.
The 2nd annual House Legislative Data and Transparency conference is now streaming live. Here's the agenda and speaker bios for the conference. Note that I'll be on a panel on digital preservation at 2pm eastern/11am pacific with Lisa LaPlant from GPO and Marc Levitt, Byrd Center for Legislative Studies. Should be fun :-)
[UPDATE 4/2/13: We've had some questions about the meaning of "ALL." Please read the comment thread for clarification. We don't mean "records" (which fall under FOIA) and we don't mean classified information. We mean public domain documents, publications, reports, data, statistics and the like. JRJ]
A convergence of several things -- the White House's new policy on Open Access to federally funded scientific information, the NAPA Report on the GPO, the CASSANDRA Letter to the Public Printer, and Sunshine Week among them -- has led us to create a petition on the White House's We the People petition site. If you believe in free permanent public access to authentic government information, we hope you'll sign the petition and forward on to all your friends and social networks to help us reach our goal of 100,000 signatures by April 11, 2013! Thanks in advance!!
WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
Require free online permanent public access to ALL federal government information and publications.
1. Assure that GPO has the funds to continue to maintain and develop the Federal Digital System (FDsys).
2. Raise ALL Congressional, Executive & Judicial branch information, publications & data to the level of federally funded scientific information & publish ALL government information as "Open Access."
3. Mandate the free permanent public access to other Federal information currently maintained in fee-based databases - including the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), the National Technical Reports Library (NTRL), & USA Trade Online.
4. Establish an interagency, govt-wide strategy to manage the entire lifecycle of digital government information w/ FDLP Libraries - publication, access, usability, bulk download, long-term preservation, standards & metadata.
The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) completed an operational review of the Government Printing Office (GPO) mandated under the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Public Law 112-74). The NAPA report, “Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age,” acknowledged the obligation Congress has to establish an interagency government-wide strategy to manage the lifecycle of digital government information. The report also acknowledged the vital role GPO plays in providing free permanent public access to authentic government information in tangible formats through its Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and to authentic government information in electronic formats via GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDSys).
However, Recommendation 4 states: “GPO and Congress should explore alternative funding models for the Federal Digital System in order to ensure a stable and sufficient funding source.” Among the models recommended are “…reimbursement for services; fees for end users; dedicated appropriations; and/or an automatic charge to agencies, depending on size, to encourage agencies to take advantage of GPO’s existing infrastructure and cover the cost of the services being provided by GPO.”
Just as the Obama Administration supports the public’s right to “free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research,” the Administration must support the creation of “stable and sufficient funding” to ensure free permanent public access to authentic government information arising from the work of taxpayer-funded Executive, Congressional, and Judicial Branch agencies.
- NAPA report, “Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age.”
- CASSANDRA Letter to US Public Printer in response to the NAPA Report.
- Expanding Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research. John P. Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
- White House response to "We The People" petition "Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research"
- Government Accountability Office (GAO), Information Management: National Technical Information Service's Dissemination of Technical Reports Needs Congressional Attention. GAO-13-99, November 19, 2012. Context on the GAO report from FGI.
- GPO's Federal Digital System (FDsys): http://fdsys.gov
- PACER: http://www.pacer.gov
- National Technical Reports Library (NTRL): http://ntrl.ntis.gov
- USAtrade: https://www.usatradeonline.gov
- Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). http://fdlp.gov
According to the Air Force Times, the Air Force has reversed their policy of sharing monthly statistics on the number of airstrikes launched from drones (aka remotely piloted aircraft (RPA)). In the interest of access and transparency, we've posted the original statistics from December '12, January '13, and February '13.
As scrutiny and debate over the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) by the American military increased last month, the Air Force reversed a policy of sharing the number of airstrikes launched from RPAs in Afghanistan and quietly scrubbed those statistics from previous releases kept on their website.
Last October, Air Force Central Command started tallying weapons releases from RPAs, broken down into monthly updates. At the time, AFCENT spokeswoman Capt. Kim Bender said the numbers would be put out every month as part of a service effort to “provide more detailed information on RPA ops in Afghanistan.”
The Air Force maintained that policy for the statistics reports for November, December and January. But the February numbers, released March 7, contained empty space where the box of RPA statistics had previously been.
Additionally, monthly reports hosted on the Air Force website have had the RPA data removed — and recently.
Those files still contained the RPA data as of Feb. 16, according to archived web pages accessed via Archive.org. Metadata included in the new, RPA-less versions of the reports show the files were all created Feb. 22.
The Sunlight Foundation has just released Open States for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The site helps the public find their state legislators, review their votes, search upcoming legislation, and track bill progress. Open States gets their Bill, legislator, committee and event data from official sources, linked at the bottom of each legislator, bill, vote, committee or event page. Check out their methodology for more. They rely primarily on scraping data from sites. Wouldn't it be awesome of all state legislatures had bulk data feeds so that 1000 sites like Open States could bloom? Join the Webinar on February 22nd to learn more about Open States.
After more than four years of work from volunteers and a full-time team here at Sunlight we're immensely proud to launch the full Open States site with searchable legislative data for all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico. Open States is the only comprehensive database of activities from all state capitols that makes it easy to find your state lawmaker, review their votes, search for legislation, track bills and much more.
If you're interested in your state lawmaker, you'll be able to get notifications for their actions, a map of their district, voting records, committee assignments, campaign finance records from Influence Explorer, local news articles and contact information. If you're curious about a particular piece of legislation, Open States allows you to check on its status, find the sponsors, break down votes, view bill text and all supporting documents. Our powerful search capabilities allow you to find similar topics across states and view overview pages for each state, chamber and committee.
The Sunlight Foundation recently named Liz Barry and her group at the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) as OpenGov Champions. Sunlight highlights these champions for their work and ingenuity in furthering govt transparency.
Ms Barry and the PLOTS team is perhaps best known for using kites and helium balloons to map the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010, the only high resolution images out in the media at the onset of the catastrophe. PLOTS uses "mapping and other scientific DIY methods to empower local residents and activists to issue their own data sets to better engage with their local governments in environmental and other issues in their communities."
Be sure to check out their many maps available in the PLOTS open data archive. And for all of you DIY scientists, you can chip in to the PLOTS DIY spectrometry kit kickstarter campaign and help them build a spectrum-sharing wiki.
Our friends at OMBWatch just published an interesting post highlighting several studies that compare and contrast the policy and practice of transparency of the US and other countries based on comparative analysis of FOIA, foreign aid, and budgets and revenues. The post, entitled "Global Studies Highlight U.S. Transparency Strengths, Weaknesses" "...provide[s] useful measures of U.S. openness relative to real-world conditions, in addition to highlighting global best practices and alternative approaches." It also references a group created in September 2011 called the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and highlights the US' role in the group and their joint Open Government Declaration signed by the US and 7 other countries -- with 38 more countries signing in March 2012. Read the rest of the post to find out where the US ranks among the countries of the world in terms of transparency and open government.
Here's the list of studies cited by OMBwatch:
- audit of FOIA laws in 105 countries and the European Union by the Associated Press (AP)
- Global Right to Information Rating released by Access Info Europe and the Centre for Law and Democracy
- Quality of Official Development Assistance report, published Nov. 14 by the Brookings Institution and the Center for Global Development
- "The Money Trail: Ranking Donor Transparency in Foreign Aid" by Anirban Ghosh and Homi Kharas, published in the November issue of the journal World Development (available to subscribers only :-( )
- Aid Transparency Index 2011 by the organization Publish What You Fund
According to a press release this morning (PDF), GPO management will soon be reducing their personnel by 15% (a reduction of 330 positions out of 2,200) including a reduction of 25% in management and supervisory levels. This is one more grim announcement on top of drastic budget cuts to govt information services and govt transparency efforts across the federal government. Stay tuned for more as we learn more about these reductions.
In response to overall Government cutbacks and projected reductions in appropriated funding, the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) informed employees today of its plan to send a request to Congress and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for authority to offer buyouts and early outs to the agency’s 2,200 employees. GPO’s goal is to achieve a personnel reduction of 15% (or 330 positions), including a reduction in management and supervisory levels of 25%. Once GPO is given authority, employees can be offered lump-sum payments up to $25,000 as an incentive to voluntarily separate from the agency. The actual amount of the payout is based on a formula. GPO will use current funds to conduct this program, which needs to be concluded by the end of the first quarter of FY 2012 to achieve the needed savings for the coming year. In combination with a careful workforce restructuring plan, GPO management believes these reductions in personnel can be achieved without compromising the agency’s ability to carry out mission critical operations.
“GPO has restructured and reinvented itself numerous times throughout the last 150 years to carry out the critical mission of meeting the dissemination and information needs of the U.S. Congress and Federal agencies,” said Public Printer Bill Boarman. “These challenging economic times have no boundaries and are forcing many Federal agencies to seek ways to survive. GPO is open for business. We are an agency with a dedicated workforce that will continue to reengineer itself in the 21st century to serve as the digital information platform for the Federal Government.”
The United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) recently released the World e-Parliament Report 2010. The Report, prepared by the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, is based on the results of the Global Survey of ICT in Parliaments conducted by the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament between July and November 2009, to which 134 parliamentary assemblies responded.
The 134 parliaments were surveyed on a number of issues, including whether or not they make the work of their parliamentary research services available to the public. Daniel Schuman, Policy Counsel for the Sunlight Foundation, contacted one of the report's authors, and asked for the underlying data on which countries make their CRS-like reports publicly available. Although they could not share that specific data, they told Daniel how many countries made those reports available.
Answers to Daniel's questions were provided in an email from the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, for which Daniel had permission to make public. Here are the highlights:
With regard to parliamentary chambers within members of the G-20:
- Parliamentary chambers in 16 of the 20 members of the G-20 responded to the 2009 survey. Because the European Union is a member of the G-20, the European Parliament is included in this group of 16. The names of all parliaments and chambers that participated in the 2009 survey can be found on page 5 of the Report.
- Parliamentary chambers in 4 of the G-20 members did not participate in the survey.
- Parliamentary chambers in 13 of the 16 G-20 members who responded to the survey reported that they did have subject matter experts on public policy issues who provide research and analysis for members and committees.
- Parliamentary chambers in 3 of the G-20 members reported that they did not have subject matter experts on public policy issues who provide research and analysis for members and committees.
- Parliamentary chambers in 11 of the 13 G-20 members who reported that they did have subject matter experts on public policy issues also reported that they make the results of that research and analysis available to the public. This represents 85% of the G-20 members whose chambers have subject matter experts (11/13).
- A number of the parliaments among the 13 who have subject matter experts are bi-cameral. These 13 therefore include a total of 19 separate chambers. Of these, 16 (84%) have subject matter experts whose work is made available to the public (16/19).
- NOTE: the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament has assured all participants of the confidentiality of their responses to the survey and that the names of individual chambers have not been provided in this correspondence.
Thought this might be interesting and helpful. Thanks Daniel for sharing this information.
On January 21, 2009, as one of his first acts as President, President Obama released his Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government. The memorandum instructed that government should be transparent, government should be participatory, government should be collaborative. On December 8, 2009, Peter Orzag, the head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the Open Government Directive (PDF) establishing deadlines for application of those three principles of open government -- readers will remember that Federal CIOs were only lukewarm about the administration's transparency goals. The memorandum requires executive departments and agencies to take the following steps toward the goal of creating a more open government:
- Publish Government Information Online
- Improve the Quality of Government Information
- Create and Institutionalize a Culture of Open Government
- Create an Enabling Policy Framework for Open Government
A group of non-profit govt transparency organizations -- including OpenTheGovernment, Sunlight Foundation, American Library Association, American Association of Law Libraries, Center for Democracy and Technology and several other groups -- got together to measure how federal agencies were doing to meet the open government directive. They evaluated federal agencies based on a set of criteria (here's their methodology for how the scores were derived) and found that NASA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Protection Agency scored highest while Department of Treasury, Department of Defense, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Department of Energy, and the Department of Justice ranked last in terms of meeting the goals of the open government initiative. Those interested should check back at the site as the organizations will continue to evaluate agencies' improvements over the next year. By the way, here's more on the Mendoza Line, the baseball measurement for threshold of incompetence.
We commend the President for his commitment to openness and for providing detailed elements in the OGD that can be used to hold federal agencies accountable. Many of the federal agencies have approached implementation of the OGD requirements with energy and enthusiasm and some have taken innovative steps in their plans. If implemented with spirit, vigor, and innovation, the Open Government Plans can serve as a vehicle for fundamentally changing the way the federal government interacts with the public. This, in turn, may prove to be a catalyst for shifting public trust in government.
At the same time, many of the agency plans as unveiled on April 7 have a long way to go to create this transformational potential. As this audit demonstrates, there is wide variation in the agency plans. Some are exceptional; others are quite weak. Most are somewhere in between. Many of the plans that currently do not meet the minimal requirements identified in the OGD can do so with only modest improvements, such as providing more specificity on deadlines or identifying where certain items mentioned in the plans can be found. An overview of what we found is below.