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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.

Supreme Court transcripts

Do you need audio recordings of the Supreme Court hearings? How about transcripts of those audio recordings available for bulk download? Are you responsible for helping people find data as well as government information? Are you looking for alternative sources for government data — in bulk? Well, if you are not already subscribed to Jeremy Singer-Vine’s wonderful mailing list Data is Plural, you should be. Here is just one example of what you’ll get (taken from the 2017.06.14 edition):

Supreme Court transcripts. Oyez.org bills itself as , among other things, “a complete and authoritative source for all of the [Supreme] Court’s audio since the installation of a recording system in October 1955.” The site has an API and releases all its material — including timestamped transcripts of oral arguments — under a Creative Commons license . A least two GitHub repositories have aggregated the transcripts and make them easy to bulk-download. For each segment of audio, the transcripts list the start/end time, the speaker, and the text. Related: PuppyJusticeAutomated , a YouTube channel that (a) must be seen to be understood and (b) uses the Oyez API . Previously: CourtListener (DIP 2016.04.13) and The Supreme Court Database (DIP 2016.02.23). [h/t Walker Boyle + Reddit user 21cannons ]

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LGBT Questions Removed From HHS Surveys

The Center for American Progress reports that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has eliminated questions about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from two critical surveys. This policy decision will make it impossible to assess whether key programs for seniors and people with disabilities are meeting the needs of LGBT Americans.

The surveys affected are the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living.

A War on Data

Engadget makes the case that the Trump administration is waging a "war on data." It says that, although removal and manipulation of existing data are a concern, the biggest threat to data is budgetary.

The administration seems focused on two avenues of attack: One, make data harder to find, and two, slash funding until collecting data becomes difficult for government agencies.

Defunding agencies and programs that collect data doesn’t just mask potential problems within the government and harm our ability to make informed decisions — it provides useful political cover for even deeper budget cuts down the road.

The article gives several examples of how the administration is damaging access to the accurate information that citizens require to evaluate government programs and that elected officials require to govern wisely.

  • In mid-February the Trump administration scrubbed open.whitehouse.gov of datasets created under the Obama administration. Although a NARA-created archive of the data exists, there is no clear link to it on whitehouse.gov, there are discrepancies between the file sizes and metadata hosted by the NARA and those pulled by third parties before the data was archived, and developer tools and APIs are broken.

  • Some of the parts of whitehouse.gov that disappeared on inauguration day still contain nothing more than a promise that they’ll be updated. The White House failed to respond to repeated requests for a timeline on those updates.

  • Important staff positions, such as the CIO and chief digital officer remain unfilled and the White House has given no indication it plans to fill them any time soon (if at all). This means that "an entire data infrastructure system" is atrophying.
  • To the alarm of many career staff in the US Trade Representative’s office, the administration is considering changing how it calculates the trade deficit in a way that would make the deficit appear larger.

  • The Budget Blueprint proposes slashing funding for agencies that collect data including those that study climate change.

  • The administration has not answered questions about its commitment (or lack of commitment) to open data initiatives.


For those of you who have "data" as part of your job responsibilities, here is an indispensable book.

Drawing on the expertise of a diverse community of practitioners, this collection of case studies, original research, survey chapters, and theoretical explorations presents a wide-ranging look at the field of academic data librarianship.

By covering the data lifecycle from collection development to preservation, examining the challenges of working with different forms of data, and exploring service models suited to a variety of library types, this volume provides a toolbox of strategies that will allow librarians and administrators to respond creatively and effectively to the data deluge.

“In Order That They Might Rest Their Arguments on Facts”

Because the Trump Administration has questioned the accuracy of federal statistics such as the unemployment rate and because of reports that it will propose substantial cuts to government statistical agencies, the Hamilton Project and The American Enterprise Institute have released a new report about the vital importance of data collected by the federal government.

Objective, impartial data collection by federal statistical agencies is vital to informing decisions made by businesses, policy makers, and families. These measurements make it possible to have a productive discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of particular policies, and about the state of the economy. This document demonstrates a portion of the breadth and importance of government statistics to public policy and the economy.

The quotation in the title is from James Madison. The report includes chapters on business, policy, and families, a section on "How to Strengthen Public Data," and a substantial bibliography,

See also Defending the Data by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Ryan Nunn, and Megan Mumford. The Hamilton Project (March 1, 2017).