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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.

Judiciary Creates Public User Group for PACER

Judiciary Creates Public User Group for PACER, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (June 26, 2019).

The federal Judiciary has created and is seeking members for a public user group to provide advice and feedback on ways to improve its electronic public access services. The Electronic Public Access (EPA) Public User Group membership will be selected from interested applicants who represent the legal sector, media, academia, government agencies, the public, and other entities that use the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system to access federal court records. The group will allow for the exchange of information about issues experienced by users, and it will recommend ideas for expanding and improving services….

Interested parties can find additional information and apply for membership. Applications are due by July 26, 2019….

The EPA User Group will hold its first meeting later this year. Meeting agendas, minutes, and other relevant information will be available online at https://www.uscourts.gov/court-records/electronic-public-access-public-user-group.

Digital Deposit, Good for All: Vision, Myths, Reality

As many of our readers know, Depository Library Council (DLC) recommended the creation of a working group to explore digital deposit and there was a session on digital deposit at the 2019 Spring Virtual Meeting of the DLC:

Digital deposit should be part of FDLP for the same reasons paper deposit has been for two hundred years: it guarantees preservation of the information and provides services to users of that information. Discusions of digital deposit, therefore, should focus on preservation and users and the technologies that can enable the best digital services.

Preservation

We’ve come a long way on preservation. GPO has (more…)

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.

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