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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.

GAO report on improving public access to research results

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report looking at how well various government agencies are doing on their mandate to provide public access to publicly funded research — as called for in a 2013 Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) memorandum — along with recommendations on how they can improve this. The report is a very useful and fairly concise snapshot of a lot of not necessarily well coordinated efforts as well as a window into commitments that these agencies are making going forward.

Also of note, I just noticed that GAO now has a database of open recommendations. It’s searchable and also sorted by agency, topic and subject term. So now you can track all of their open recommendations. Very handy indeed!

FEDERAL RESEARCH: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Public Access to Research Results. GAO-20-81: Published: Nov 21, 2019.

Public access to the results of federally funded research can accelerate scientific breakthroughs. In 2013, certain federal agencies were directed to create plans for increasing access to publications and data they funded.

The 19 agencies we reviewed made progress, but some have not fully implemented their plans. For example:

  • 7 agencies have not taken steps to make data findable, such as creating a single web access point
  • 4 don’t require all researchers to submit a plan to provide access to data
  • 11 don’t fully ensure that researchers comply with access requirements

We made 37 recommendations to 16 agencies to address these and other issues.

Toward a Shared Agenda: Report on PEGI Project Activities for 2017-2019

PEGI final report The Preservation of Electronic Government Information (PEGI) Project has now finished its 2-year IMLS grant work and have just published its final report Toward a Shared Agenda: Report on PEGI Project Activities for 2017-2019. Please have a read and send any feedback on the report and our next steps to [email protected] or via Twitter @PEGIProject. And stay tuned for more good work from PEGI Project!

This report provides a summary of work completed by the Preservation of Electronic Government Information (PEGI) project from 2017 to 2019. The PEGI Project seeks to address national concerns regarding the preservation of electronic government information by cultural memory organizations for long term use by the public.

A significant part of our efforts in 2018 focused on analyzing the possibility of using the Collective Impact model to organize collaborative preservation work. This report shares an overview of project activities and conversations, analysis of the findings, and presents next steps for project activities.

Authored by Dr. Martin Halbert, Roberta Sittel, Dr. Katherine Skinner, Deborah Caldwell, Marie Concannon, James R. Jacobs, Shari Laster, and Scott Matheson.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services #LG-88-17-0129-17. We are grateful to James Neal for his support and encouragement as our program officer. For more information about the project, please visit the official project website.

via Toward a Shared Agenda: Report on PEGI Project Activities for 2017-2019 | Educopia Institute.

Advocates Call on Congress to pass legislation to make PACER free

Open government advocates are quickly losing patience with the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts (AO). After the AO doubled the quarterly fee waiver from $15 to $30 in January, Advocates from argue FixTheCourt called it “Wholly Inadequate” and have called for the US Courts to change antiquated business model of the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system which charges the public thousands of times more than it should cost to provide access to federal court documents. I completely agree with FixTheCourt. Government information, including US court records, should be free to the public! Litigation on PACER is ongoing, but let’s hope we can get some solid legislation to MAKE PACER FREE! It’s long beyond time.

Open government advocates are decrying recent changes to the PACER fee scale as wholly inadequate and are calling on Congress to improve upon and advance bipartisan bills to reduce the costs of accessing federal court records. The move comes as the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts (AO) officially notified House and Senate leadership last week of its previously approved changes to PACER charges.

…it is estimated that the actual cost to retrieve these documents, with storage fees built in, is $0.0000006 per page. Storing the roughly one billion documents in PACER should then run about $600,000, or about one-half of one percent of PACER’s reported revenue ($146.4 million in 2016). And yet, the AO still charges $0.10 per page of search results and $0.10 per page of case documents.

Do Not Assume PDF files are all permanent

Government information relies heavily on the PDF format. Indeed, PDF files are used so widely that it is tempting for us to assume that PDF files are, by definition, a safe way of preserving information for the long term. Would it surprise you to learn that the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) lists PDF files as “Endangered” and that even PDF/A files are “Vulnerable”?

These judgements are in the DPC’s newest list of “digitally endangered species.”

The Bit List includes 74 content types and groups them (more…)

CA state agencies misapply ADA law, documents vanish from CA websites

File this under the law of unintended consequences. A California law passed in 2017 designed to make sure CA government agency websites were accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has had an unintended negative effect on CA agency Websites. The law simply states:

11546.7. (a) Before July 1, 2019, and before July 1 biennially thereafter, the director of each state agency or state entity, as defined in subdivision (e) of Section 11546.1, and each chief information officer appointed under Section 11546.1, shall post on the home page of the state agency’s or state entity’s Internet Web site a signed certification from the state agency’s or state entity’s director and chief information officer that they have determined that the Internet Web site is in compliance with Sections 7405 and 11135, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, or a subsequent version, published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium at a minimum Level AA success criteria.

Sounds good right? But according to this Sacramento Bee article “Documents vanish from CA websites as state applies ADA law” this has happened:

Dozens of wildfire reports disappeared from Cal Fire’s website as this year’s fire season began.

Thousands of water science reports vanished from the Department of Water Resources website.

More than 2 million documents, ranging from environmental impact reports to internal human resources guides, went missing from remote corners of Caltrans’ website.

The documents are disappearing from public view as California state departments work to comply with a 2017 law aimed at improving compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It seems that some CA departments are choosing to take down thousands of documents rather than make them machine-readable or otherwise accessible. I’m sure this negative press will spur the CA government to provide more funding to state agencies to update their Websites. But in the meantime, if you’re looking for something published by the CA government, check out the Archive of the California Government Domain, CA.gov.

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