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.

Historical election data and mapping now easier than ever!

I’ve been exploring the Constituency-Level Elections Archive (CLEA) and have been impressed by their historical lower house election data coverage from countries around the world, not just the US Congress.

Things are really starting to shape up (pun intended!) in having access to historical election results! And through the work of Jeffrey B. Lewis et al., you can get data describing the historical boundaries of each congressional district via their United States Congressional District Shapefiles site. In a Scientific Data article published last year, quantitative geographer Levi John Wolf presented a dataset that brings the two types of information together, so that all congressional election results from 1896 to 2014 are “explicitly linked to the geospatial data about the districts themselves.”

The Constituency-Level Elections Archive (CLEA) is a repository of detailed election results at the constituency level for lower house legislative elections from around the world. Our motivation is to preserve and consolidate these valuable data in one comprehensive and reliable resource that is ready for analysis and publicly available at no cost. This public good is expected to be of use to a range of audiences for research, education, and policy-making.

via Constituency-Level Elections Archive (CLEA).

HT Daniel Schuman!

GPO releases comments on draft Title 44 reform bill

The Government Publishing Office (GPO) has recently made public their comments regarding the draft title 44 reform bill (PDF) currently working its way through the Congressional Committee on House Administration (CHA). GPO’s comments are broken into the following sections:

  • Contracting out congressional printing
  • Decentralizing agency printing
  • Work produced in agency plants
  • Economic impact on GPO
  • Regulatory authority
  • Government Printing Office / Public Printer
  • Joint Committee on Printing
  • Elimination of duplicating from statutory definition of printing
  • Increased discretionary expenditures
  • FDLP Improvements

We certainly appreciate GPO’s analysis of the draft bill and its impact. It mirrors and reiterates much of what we and many others have been saying about this bill. That is, the bill as written would have extreme negative effects on GPO’s budget, infrastructure and staff — which would have a drastic impact on GPO’s ability to manage FDLP services for the nation’s libraries downstream! — it would re-decentralize and deregulate printing and public information access across the government, thus driving up the costs of public information provision and greatly expand the issue of fugitive government information. If this bill is enacted, the public, libraries and the government itself would suffer as the long-standing FDLP system providing access to and preservation of government information would crumble.

We recommend that you read GPO’s analysis as well as our “Suggestions for Revisions to Chapter 5 of the Title 44 Bill” and contact Chairman Greg Harper and your representatives on the CHA as well as your Senators on the Joint Committee on Printing.

“Comments on Draft Legislation to Amend Title 44, U.S.C. (December 11, 2017 version)” to the Committee on House Administration on January 31, 2018.  This document relays all comments, observations, and concerns with the draft revision to Title 44 as it relates to the Federal Depository Library Program, other Superintendent of Documents programs, and to GPO as an organization. 

via Comments on Draft Legislation to Amend Title 44, U.S.C. (December 11, 2017 version; Comments submitted January 31, 2018).

2016 End of Term Web Archive is now available

The 2016 end of term .gov/.mil web crawl is now available! We collected approximately 300TB of government websites which includes over “70 million html pages, over 40 million PDFs and, towards the other end of the spectrum and for semantic web aficionados, 8 files of the text/turtle mime type” as well as @100TB of public data via .gov FTP file servers! Thanks to everyone who participated on the project and the thousands(!) of seed nominators, both individuals and those that came in via DataRefuge and EDGI tools and public events.

The End of Term Web Archive contains federal government websites (.gov, .mil, etc) in the Legislative, Executive, or Judicial branches of the government. Websites that were at risk of changing (i.e., whitehouse.gov) or disappearing altogether during government transitions were captured. Local government websites, or any other site not part of the federal government domain were out of scope.

Legal Link Rot

The good folks at perma.cc recently conducted a “quick review” of the links in court filings made in the last five years by three of the largest law firms in the U.S.

They found that over 80% had at least one broken link and that, on average, these briefs contained around six broken links each.

When they examined links that were not broken (that is, the link resolved to some page, not to an error message), they found that nearly 30% of those no longer displayed the material referenced in the brief. (This is known as ‘reference rot’ or ‘content drift.’)

ICPSR to host new U.S. Census Bureau Data Repository

Check out this cool new partnership between the US Census Bureau and Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) to archive and preserve data for future use. This deepens the longstanding collaboration between the two organizations. You can find it online at census.icpsr.umich.edu/.

A new U.S. Census Bureau Data Repository has been launched to preserve and disseminate survey instruments, specifications, data dictionaries, codebooks, and other materials provided by the Census Bureau. The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the host of this repository, has also listed additional Census-related data collections from its larger holdings.

This repository helps fulfill key recommendations made by the 2017 “Report of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking.” Specifically, the repository improves transparency by establishing a “searchable inventory, through which the public can learn about the data that government collects.”  The robust metadata also enable “researchers inside and outside government … [to] be better able to identify which data are needed and useful for answering policy questions, conducting program evaluations, and reducing inefficient and unnecessary data requests.”

This repository continues the long-standing partnership between the US Census Bureau and ICPSR, dating back to the 1960s. During that time, ICPSR digitized historical population and demographic data from the published reports of the US decennial census from 1790 to 1970, and made them available to the scholarly community.

via ICPSR is host of new U.S. Census Bureau Data Repository.

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