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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.

Government information in the news for 2022

The American Library Association’s Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) (of which I’m a member) has just published a solid list of government publications that made the news in 2022. Many thanks to Susanne Caro for putting together this guide, with submissions by Ben Amata, David Durant, Patrice McDermott, Albert Chapman, Vicki Tate, Ronnie Joiner, and Toby Green! While many of the publications were related to the investigation of documents illegally squirreled away at Mar-a-Lago (and which are helpfully separated in the right column of the guide), there were other publications that one might not even think of as “government publications” including the amazing first images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Webb Space Telescope.

First images of the Webb space telescope

Throughout the year government information specialists share document mentioned in the news. One of these individuals is Ben Amata who shares many articles and whose submissions make up the majority of these.

This years submission come from Ben Amata, David Durant, Patrice McDermott, Albert Chapman, Vicki Tate, Ronnie Joiner, and Toby Green.

Andrew Dudash, librarian at Penn State University Libraries has been working on a project to capture federal documents in the news. This great collection includes stories from previous years and is a great resource,

There are 100 stories listed but these are only a sample of documents that made the news. Of these there are 33 that are just related to the investigation of documents at Mar-a-Lago and those are in a separate section to the right.

Yay! Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act included in 2023 NDAA

This week the Senate passed the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which President Biden is expected to sign.

This year’s $858 BILLION bill is truly an omnibus bill as it provides a 4.6 percent pay increase for service members, increases the maximum allowable income to receive the Basic Needs Allowance, and adds funding to Basic Allowance for Housing. It addresses climate change and bolsters energy resiliency across the Department of Defense, gives new investments in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and offers new support for survivors of sexual assault in the military by further expanding reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

But most relevant for government information and for us here at FGI — who have been following and advocating for this for over 10 years! — the package includes the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, (the text starts on p. 3125 of this huge PDF).

The bill will require the Government Publishing Office (GPO) to create an online database for free public access to reports that agencies are required to submit to Congress, and requires agencies to provide copies of those reports to GPO for that purpose. GPO is directed to establish the database within one year, reusing existing systems to the extent possible. We assume these will live on govinfo.gov. This bill will go a long way toward solving (or at least relieving) the unreported documents issue that we have also been tracking on for many years. Executive branch reports are a particularly egregious problem as almost none of them make it into the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) or are distributed to FDLP libraries.

This is an amazing early holiday present for the FDLP and for everyone who has been working these 10+ years to make this a reality!

Data is plural newsletter posts 2 amazing govinfo datasets: House Comm witnesses and 1900 census immigrant populations

I love my Data Is Plural newsletter, Jeremy Singer-Vine’s weekly newsletter of useful/curious datasets! You can check out his archive from 2015(!) to present and also explore the archive as a google spreadsheet or as Markdown files (a dataset of interesting datasets :-)).

Today’s edition was especially good on the govinfo front: 2 really awesome datasets on House Committee witnesses (1971 – 2016) and a high-resolution transcription and CSV file of the Census Bureau’s 1900 report on immigrant populations. Check them out, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Data is plural newsletter!

House committee witnesses. Political scientists Lauren C. Bell and J.D. Rackey have compiled a spreadsheet of 435,000+ people testifying before the US House of Representatives from 1971 to 2016. They began with a text file scraped from a ProQuest database, provided by the authors of a dataset that focused on social scientists’ testimony (DIP 2020.12.23). Then, they determined each witness’s first and last name; type of organization; the committee, date, title, and summary of the relevant hearing; and more.

Immigrant populations in 1900. The 1900 US Census’s public report includes a table counting the foreign-born residents of each state and territory — overall and disaggregated into a few dozen origins, which range from subdivisions of countries (Poland is split into “Austrian,” “German,” “Russian,” and “unknown” columns) to entire continents (“Africa”). It’s officially available as a low-resolution PDF. Reporters at Stacker, however, recently transcribed it into a CSV file for easier use.

Integrated 2020 Redistricting Data (PL94-171) from CISER

Thanks to the Cornell Center for Social Sciences (nee CISER) for posting the Census bureau’s Integrated 2020 Redistricting Data (PL94-171).

“On August 12, 2021, the Census Bureau released the Public Law 94-171 data, also known as Redistricting Data, in four (4) parts per state. Users who want to have the complete redistricting dataset for a state in one file have to integrate these four parts of the Census Bureau files.

We’ve integrated the four parts and made them available in convenient ready-to-use formats — SAS, SPSS, STATA, and CSV. We’ve also made available SAS, STATA, and SPSS programs to read the CSV files, label the variables, and assign variables their correct type (as per the data dictionary).”

DCinbox: amazing collection of Congressional e-newsletters

As many of our readers know, government information includes critical but often “grey” or ephemeral information including communications between our elected officials and their constituents. Here’s a very cool project called DCinbox, a database of Congressional e-newsletters. Lindsey Cormack, professor of politic at Stevens Institute of Technology, has been collecting Congressional e-newsletters since 2009. There are nearly 90,000 unique e-newsletters in the database — which is both searchable and available as a full dataset! This is a rich dataset that can help analyze partisan differences and ideology in all kinds of policy matters.

Congressional e-newsletters. For more than a decade, political scientist Lindsey Cormack’s DCinbox project has collected “every official e-newsletter sent by sitting members of the U.S. House and Senate.” You can search the corpus online and also download all the emails as a series of CSV files, grouped by month. For each of the 130,000+ mailings, the files provide the date, subject, body, and sender’s Bioguide ID. (April 2020 was the highest-volume month, with more than 2,300 messages, nearly all of them mentioning the coronavirus.)

HT to Data is Plural 2021.03.03 edition. Please subscribe to their weekly newsletter and see all of the datasets that they have highlighted in previous newsletters!

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