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MSU scholars find $21 trillion in unauthorized government spending. Agencies disable links to key documents
I visited the MSU Today news site for the headline about massive unauthorized spending happening at the Department of Defense and Housing and Urban Development. That in and of itself was troubling. But what really drew my attention was in the 2nd paragraph where it stated that the agencies’ Inspector Generals(!) — which are supposed to be the watchdogs of their agencies! — had “disabl[ed] the links to all key documents showing the unsupported spending” and the parenthetical note about the researchers having downloaded and saved their documents locally. Read more of the story at USAWatchdog.
This is the reason why libraries need to get on the ball and become active in digital collection development. Professor Skidmore luckily downloaded and made the documents available. But as long as govt publications are only available on .gov websites and Title 44 regulations for executive agencies to make their documents available to the FDLP are ignored by agencies and the OMB, then this kind of thing will continue to happen. Whether it’s 1 document or 100TB of data, FDLP libraries owe it to themselves and their local communities to do this kind of work. I’m now mulling about how to best provide space for the documents that my library’s researchers download to do their research.
Earlier this year, a Michigan State University economist, working with graduate students and a former government official, found $21 trillion in unauthorized spending in the departments of Defense and Housing and Urban Development for the years 1998-2015.
The work of Mark Skidmore and his team, which included digging into government websites and repeated queries to U.S. agencies that went unanswered, coincided with the Office of Inspector General, at one point, disabling the links to all key documents showing the unsupported spending. (Luckily, the researchers downloaded and stored the documents.)
This is a strange and interesting twist of a story. About a week ago, a couple of graphic designers from NY City decided they wanted to crowdfund the republication of NASA’s 1975 Graphic Standards Manual as a tribute to Designers Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn who originally created the manual — and which was revoked in 1992 when NASA decided to change from the “worm” logo and went back to their old logo nicknamed “meatball.” I didn’t find any FDLP libraries with this manual in either WorldCat or GPO’s Catalog of Govt Publications, so it is indeed a rare item. The reissued manual will include a 500+ word foreword by Richard Danne and a 2000+ word essay on the culture of NASA at the time of the manual by Christopher Bonanos (New York magazine, Instant: The Story of Polaroid) and will weigh “approximately 5lbs on earth, 0.9lbs on the moon.”
But now, 2 days ago on September 8, NASA published a PDF version of the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual — and I’ve grabbed a copy for the Stanford digital repository and submitted it as a fugitive to GPO. There’s no mention from NASA on whether it is coincidence or if they decided to make the old manual available because of the interest generated by the kickstarter campaign.
Far from being ecstatic that NASA would make the manual freely available online, designers Reed and Smyth are vowing to go through with their kickstarter campaign — which has garnered 6,576 backers and $693,690 pledged of $158,000 goal — and print the book. “It’s great that they’re [NASA] making the guidelines available to the public, we think they should be. That said, we don’t think that having an online PDF is the easiest way to engage with the information.” And therein lies the rub. Here’s a public domain govt publication that’s currently only available as a PDF download from the NASA site, but the graphic designer community — and perhaps the NASA space nerd community too — wants this manual in physical book form because that’s the “best way to engage with the information”!
A little over a week and a half ago, New York-based graphic designers Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth, who are best known for their New York City Transit Authority Standards Manual project, took to crowdfunding giant Kickstarter once again to raise funds so that they can re-issue the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual.
Reed and Smyth wrote:
“[In 1972] Neil Armstrong has uttered his famous words. The Apollo era has come to an end. Public interest in space exploration wanes. After all, how do you top a man on the moon? Designers Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn—of the New York firm Danne & Blackburn—walk into a room at NASA with a portfolio. Inside is a presentation that will change the face of NASA and their careers with it.
The presentation is a hit. The work is approved. But what Danne and Blackburn don’t know is that over the next 18 years, some people at NASA will attempt to revoke their work. And they will succeed in 1992. This Kickstarter campaign is a celebration of Danne and Blackburn’s work—brought back to earth 41 years after it was designed, and 23 years after it was lost.”
NOAA’s Earth Observatory does an image puzzler of the month where they post Landsat 8 images from their Operational Land Imager (OLI) satellite. April’s image turned out to be a twofer: a very cool image of South Korean seaweed cultivation AND in the citation was a fugitive document “Seaweed Cultivation of Korea” published by NOAA as part of their Korea-US Aquaculture site. See Colossal “Fascinating Satellite Photos of Seaweed Farms in South Korea” for more images. Please go to the LostDocs blog if you’d like to find out more about fugitive documents and how to be a fugitive docs hunter.
The dark squares that make up the checkerboard pattern in this image are fields of a sort—fields of seaweed. Along the south coast of South Korea, seaweed is often grown on ropes, which are held near the surface with buoys. This technique ensures that the seaweed stays close enough to the surface to get enough light during high tide but doesn’t scrape against the bottom during low tide.
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this image of seaweed cultivation in the shallow waters around Sisan Island on January 31, 2014. Home to a thriving aquaculture industry, the south coast of South Korea produces about 90 percent of the country’s seaweed crop. The waters around Sisan are not the only place where aquaculture is common. View the large image to see how ubiquitous seaweed aquaculture is along the coast in Jeollanam-do, the southernmost province on the Korean peninsula.
Two main types of seaweed are cultivated in South Korea: Undaria (known as miyeok in Korean, wakame in Japanese) and Pyropia (gim in Korean, nori in Japanese). Both types are used generously in traditional Korean, Japanese, and Chinese food.
(Editor’s note: I originally posted this to the GODORT ALA Connect site. I’m not sure if that is publicly available so I’m reposting here on FGI. We’ll be discussing this and other issues of digital collection development next wednesday February 11, 2015 at 9am PST/12 Noon EST on IRC (irc.freenode.net) channel #FDLP.)
How would you like to help find fugitive government documents? Fugitives are Federal documents that fall within scope of the FDLP but for whatever reason have not made it to GPO for cataloging into the CGP and distributed to FDLP libraries. In the born-digital era, where federal agencies and Congressional Committees can publish on their own Websites, the problem of fugitives is growing exponentially. If you’d like to help with the small project using Zotero bibliographic citation software to collect fugitives (described below), please contact me at jrjacobs AT stanford DOT edu.
1) Install the bibliographic management software called Zotero (either the firefox plugin or stand-alone client). Join the zotero group “everyday electronic materials.” This is a collaborative group citation library. Anyone can join the group, they just need to have installed zotero and have a zotero.org acct (which is free). btw, if you’ve never used zotero, I’ve got a handy outline for a class I teach on it at http://bit.ly/zotero-workshop. The outline will walk you through the install steps and give some pointers for using zotero.
2) Track on the new publications of your favorite government entity. For each new publication, check the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) to see if the publication has been cataloged by GPO.
3) For any document that HASN’T been cataloged, save the fugitive to the zotero group “everyday electronic materials.” This is a collaborative group citation library. Anyone can join the group, they just need to have installed zotero (either the firefox plugin or stand-alone client) and have a zotero.org acct (which is free).
4) we’ve got a script running which checks the zotero group feed once per day. When the script finds new items, it automatically posts each item to the lostdocs blog under the category “fugitives.” GPO LSCM staff are tracking on the zotero group and will put any new fugitives through their cataloging workflow.
The lostdocs form on fdlp.gov is still the official way to submit to GPO, but I’ve contacted them and they’re interested in tracking this workflow rather than (or in addition to) their current cumbersome lostdocs form.
I think this new workflow will be much easier for folks as zotero does much of the metadata work and it’s in the user’s browser meaning they don’t need to remember to go to fdlp.gov to get to the lostdocs form. My goal with using zotero is to greatly expand the number of librarians doing fugitive hunting, perhaps even getting people to track on specific agencies (or local/regional offices of specific agencies). In other words, I want fugitive hunting to be part of every docs librarian’s regular workflow, not simply random and serendipitous.