Our mission

Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

HHS Plans to Delete 20 Years of Critical Medical Guidelines on monday July 16!

According to the DailyBeast, the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC), a critical database of medical guidelines, is set to go dark on monday July 16 because “federal funding through Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) will no longer be available to support the NGC as of that date.” For any questions, please contact [email protected]

Of course, the Internet Archive has archived this site many times since 1998(!), but sadly, the Web archive hasn’t collected the most critical information because it’s hidden behind a database query.

This is completely unacceptable!

The Trump Administration is planning to eliminate a vast trove of medical guidelines that for nearly 20 years has been a critical resource for doctors, researchers and others in the medical community. Maintained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ], part of the Department of Health and Human Services, the database is known as the National Guideline Clearinghouse [NGC], and it’s scheduled to “go dark,” in the words of an official there, on July 16.

via HHS Plans to Delete 20 Years of Critical Medical Guidelines Next Week.

OMB requesting comment on federal data strategy and principles

According to FedScoop, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the unit in the White House which handles executive branch information policies and procedures, is requesting public comment and best practices on the Federal Data Strategy, including a new draft set of principles based on three overarching themes: data stewardship, quality, and continuous improvement. Of specific concern to me is the Fed’s focus on “commercialization challenges.” This has all kinds of implications on libraries, data collections and services. Please forward to interested library groups. Comments are due July 27, 2018.

Today, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and its government partners took a significant step towards achieving that goal. They have launched a new website, strategy.data.gov, to encourage public comment on the Federal Data Strategy, including a new draft set of principles based on three overarching themes: data stewardship, quality, and continuous improvement. These government leaders are also especially interested in use cases that can be models for future work. Any member of the public can provide direct input here. The announcement today presents an ideal opportunity for government data providers and data users of all kinds to have an impact on how the Federal Data Strategy develops.

via Why we need a federal data strategy.

CRS to release reports in September

Steven Aftergood reports that the Congressional Research Service (CRS) will begin publishing some of its non-confidential reports on a publicly accessible congressional website by September 18, 2018.

“For the initial public release, the Library will make available in PDF format all of CRS’s R-series of ‘active’ reports that were published since the enactment date, as well as the Appropriations Status Table,” CRS said in a new memorandum for congressional staff. The “R-series” refers to the primary CRS reports that have a report number beginning with R. It does not include CRS Insights, Legal Sidebars, or In Focus reports. Over time, older R-series reports as well as some other product lines will be added to the public collection, CRS said.

Tracking the unlawful or accidental removal of government records

In the age of digital information, it is easier than it ever has been for government agencies to alter or delete official records at the flick of a switch. The U.S. Code (Title 44) and Code of Federal Regulations (Title 36) require agencies to “prevent the unlawful or accidental removal, defacing, alteration, or destruction of records.” But the official government guidelines for Managing Web Records are 13 years old and are subject to interpretation by political appointees in individual agencies.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) investigates allegations of violations of this law and will assist agencies in retrieving records. Its Performance Accountability Report has, for for many years, provided an end-of-year snapshot of cases investigated.

This year, NARA has created a web dashboard, which it will update monthly, listing the “Unauthorized Disposition of Federal Records.” More information about this is available from the Sunlight Foundation:

The dashboard lists the agencies and records involved, the status of the investigation, and provides links to documentation about the events.

Recently listed events include the “Suspicious-activity reports (SARs)” (which were widely reported as being absent from the database maintained by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN)), and the use of private (non-.gov) email accounts by officials of Homeland Security. There are currently 24 open cases and 46 cases closed cases.

Time Use Study of Reading in America

It is nice to see an article in a popular magazine make good and explicit use of government data. This article has a couple of added bonuses for government information librarians: It is about reading and it does a very good job of explaining how to avoid being mislead by sloppy use of data. It also uses one of my favorite datasets, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey!

Here there’s a little bit of good news: the average American reader spent 1.39 hours reading in 2003, rising to 1.48 hours in 2016. That’s the very gradually rising blue line in the graph above. In other words, the average reading time of all Americans declined not because readers read less but because fewer people were reading at all, a proportion falling from 26.3 per cent of the population in 2003 to 19.5 per cent in 2016.

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