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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.

The federal government’s responsibilities to provide online content in non-English languages

The Sunlight Foundation’s Web Integrity Project (WIP) has released a new report with an informal review of how federal agencies meet the needs of website users who lack English fluency.

The report reviews and explains the different regulations imposed on federal agencies to provide online content in non-English languages for individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP).

WIP found that there is little agreement about the duties of agencies. The approaches of various agencies vary widely — from full translation and taglines, to ad hoc translation using Google Translate.

Examples:

  • IRS.gov has largely complete copies of the English-language site in other languages with links to the non-English versions of the site available through a dropdown in the header of webpages throughout the website domain.

  • The websites for the Whitehouse (whitehouse.gov) and the National Park Service (nps.gov) contain no resources or links relating to content or information in non-English languages.

GAO to do some OTA work

On Jan 29, The Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced the launch of a new Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics (STAA) team to provide Congress with "thorough and balanced analysis of technological and scientific developments that affect our society, environment, and economy." GAO had announced its intention to set up this new STAA team back in December of 2018.

This new team will, apparently, serve some of the same functions that The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) once served.

The Office of Technology Assessment was created by Congress in 1972 (2 USC 472) "within and responsible to the legislative branch." Its stated purpose was "to provide early indications of the probable beneficial and adverse impacts of the applications of technology and to develop other coordinate information which may assist the Congress." The idea was that Congress did not want to rely on think tanks or the Executive Branch agencies for an understanding of complex scientific issues. But, in 1995, Congress simply stopped funding OTA. (For background see, Science and Congress, by Adam Keiper.) OTA documents are archived by the University of North Texas Libraries at the CyberCemetery.

Since at least 2009, there have been attempts to fund OTA again. There has been some recent speculation that Congress might be more amenable to letting GAO take on the role that OTA once had. (GAO is "an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress.") Indeed, GAO has been offering technology assessments since at least 2002. In GAO’s announcement, they say that they routinely provide analysis of how federal agencies manage and employ science and technology, such as regenerative medicine, 5G wireless communication, and quantum computing.

GAO says that the new STAA team will expand its support to Congress by:

  • Conducting technology assessments and providing technical services
  • Auditing science and technology programs and initiatives to assist in oversight of federal investments in research, development, and advanced manufacturing
  • Compiling and utilizing best practices in engineering sciences, including cost, schedule, and technology readiness assessments
  • Establishing an audit innovation lab to explore, pilot, and deploy new advanced analytic capabilities, conduct research in information assurance, and explore emerging technologies that will impact future audit practices.

See also:

At launch, GAO combined existing in-house technology staffers and experts for STAA. But Persons said GAO will make outside hires, taking advantage of direct hire authority for technical positions and the Intergovernmental Personnel Authority, which allows government agencies to offer term appointments to academics and researchers at universities and nonprofits.

How the shutdown is affecting flow of government information

Two things to note this morning as the government shutdown continues.

  1. A lot of government information is being affected. Examples:
  2. But, a lot of information was in the pipeline and is still being released. Gary Price has one of his excellent roundups of reference resources (Recently Published or Updated Data-Rich Reports Available on the Web) over at InfoDocket. Many of these are government documents including: Federal Justice Statistics, 2015-2016, Union Membership in the United States 2018, Separated Children Placed in Office of Refugee Resettlement Care, and more.

GPO Gets OAIS Certification!

Congratulation to GPO for getting govinfo.gov certified as a Trusted Digital Repository! This is an important step for ensuring long term preservation and access to the contents of the GPO digital repository. The Government Publishing Office (GPO) announced today that it has received this certification.

(For those unfamiliar with certification, check out the “core criteria for digital preservation repositories” that four preservation organizations wrote in 2007. These are a consensus guide auditing and certifying repositories and will give you a general idea of the concepts of certification.)

The certification was awarded to GPO by PTAB (The Primary Trustworthy Digital Repository Authorization Body). This was the second certification completed by PTAB and the first in the United States.

PTAB used the international standard known as ISO 16363, Audit And Certification Of Trustworthy Digital Repositories. This is the newest and official version of the standard also known as OAIS ("The Reference Model for an Open Archival Information System"). (The standard is available for free from CCSDS and for a fee from the International Organization for Standards ISO.)

PTAB is accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies of India (NABCB) to conduct ISO 16363 audits worldwide utilizing ISO standard 17021 (Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems) (freely available from CCSDS).

PTAB uses a two stage ISO 16919/17021 audit process.

Waiting for details…

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