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This is a very cool idea as well as an important policy statement. Sunlight Foundation and a diverse coalition of government transparency, data innovation, scientific groups and environment defense advocates have come together to advocate for the “Preserving Data in Government Act of 2017”, which was recently introduced in the Senate. Sunlight has put the bill up on Madison, the site that allows for public collaboration on policy documents. So here’s your chance to read the bill and add your comments and suggestions to make the bill better!
This bill, which was introduced in the U.S. Senate this spring, would require federal agencies to preserve public access to data sets and prevent the removal of those data sets from the Internet without sufficient public notice. The Sunlight Foundation, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit that advocates for open government, supports the bill — but we want to make it better. You can comment on the full text of the Preserving Data in Government Act of 2017 below. Well make sure the Senate staff that drafted the bill see your contributions.
Here’s some good news from our friends at the Sunlight Foundation. After much work by Sunlight, the Congressional Data Coalition, and many others, the “Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary Government Data Act” or the “OPEN Government Data Act” (S.2852) just passed the US Senate with an amendment by unanimous consent. The OPEN Government Data Act has been a core priority of the Sunlight Foundation in Washington in 2016. The OPEN Government Data Act would put into law a set of enduring open data principles upon which we can all agree! Hopefully, in early 2017, the US House will introduce a similar bill and send the bill to the President — and then they can get to work on making CRS reports publicly available too!
From Sunlight’s daily newsletter:
…the Senate has provided a unanimous endorsement of a set of enduring open data principles that the Sunlight Foundation has advanced and defended for a decade: that data created using the funds of the people should be available to the people in open formats online, without cost or restriction. We hope that the U.S. House will quickly move to re-introduce the bill in the 115th Congress and work across the aisle to enact it within the first week of public business. We expect the members of Congress who stood up for open government data this fall to continue do so in 2017.
Are you a supporter of the [Freedom of Information Act] (FOIA)? Of course you are. Well, there’s a pretty solid FOIA bill introduced by Senators Leahy and Cornyn (S. 2520, the FOIA Improvement Act) coming out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would create a presumption of access to government information, address some of the overuse of exemptions to FOIA, and strengthen several other areas of FOIA. Here is a section by-section explanation of the bill. The House has already passed a similar bill, H.R. 1211: FOIA Act.
Unfortunately, my Senator, Diane Feinstein, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a possible obstacle. We are quickly running out of legislative days for the bill to be enacted during this session of Congress and we need Senator Feinstein’s support to make sure the Senate Judiciary Committee marks up the bill as soon as they return from the August recess.
If you’re in CA, please contact Senator Feinstein TODAY!! and ask her to support the bill.
And if you’re in a different state, contact your Senator and ask them to co-sponsor and support the bill too!
Thanks to OpenTheGovernment.org and the 50 other groups who are spearheading this effort and keeping the pressure up to pass this important legislation to make FOIA work better for the American public!
Earlier this year, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VIT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced S. 2520, the FOIA Improvement Act. The bill has generated a lot of enthusiasm in the open government community because it puts reins on agencies’ overuse of the exemption covering “pre-decisional material” by requiring that they weigh the public interest in the release of the record. The bill also strengthens the Office of Government Information Services, which was created in 2007 to help enforce the law and to help settle FOIA disputes out of court, and makes other common-sense changes to the way agencies process requests for records.
Federal technical reports are a critical piece of the nation’s scientific literature. But technical reports are in danger. We’ve been tracking on S.2206 the “Let me google that for you” Act which seeks to shut down the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) (here’s the Bill text sponsored by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn with 5 cosponsors Claire McCaskill [D-MO], Deb Fischer [R-NE], Jeff Flake [R-AZ], John Walsh [D-MT], and Ron Johnson [R-WI]). As we’ve noted, this bill “fundamentally misunderstands the Internet and misrepresents the case by stating that finding Federal technical reports “elsewhere” is google and usa.gov, *internet search engines*!
At the last American Library Association (ALA) conference held 2 weeks ago, the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) passed a resolution in support of the NTIS — public disclosure: I’m a member of the Legislation Committee which drafted the resolution. The text of the resolution is below. While the resolution passed GODORT, it has been sent back to ALA’s Committee on Legislation (COL) to work on some wording before being sent to ALA Council.
However, we’re sharing the text of the resolution now in the hopes that our readers — especially those in OK, MO, NE, AZ, MT and WI — will contact their representatives to tell them to SAVE THE NTIS!
RESOLUTION ON PRESERVING PUBLIC ACCESS TO SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL REPORTS AVAILABLE THROUGH THE NATIONAL TECHNICAL INFORMATION SERVICE
Whereas some three million scientific and technical reports are held by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), thereby promoting research, innovation, and business;
Whereas since 1940, NTIS has been co-operating with federal agencies to collect, preserve, catalog, and provide their reports in paper, microform, and digital formats;
Whereas many federal agencies choose not to maintain collections of their own reports and to depend upon NTIS to provide these reports;
Whereas many federal agencies do not have statutory responsibility or the resources to provide permanent access to these reports and depend upon NTIS to provide them to other government agencies and the public;
Whereas the process of federal agencies entrusting their reports to NTIS ensures permanent access to the public, eliminates duplication of effort, and saves tax dollars;
Whereas since many of the federal agencies that published these reports no longer exist, many of their reports are only available through NTIS;
Whereas over two million of these reports are held only in paper or microform by NTIS and are not available in digital form from any source;
Whereas NTIS has the statutory authority to provide information management services to other federal agencies, including such programs as the Social Security Administration Death Master File used by insurance and annuity companies and the Drug Enforcement Agency Controlled Substances Registrants Data Base, which enables members of the medical community to prescribe and handle controlled substances, and the Federal Science Repository Service which supports the preservation and long-term access of participating agencies content;
Whereas the “Let Me Google That For You Act” ( S. 2206 and H. R. 4382) would abolish NTIS, and the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act” (H. R. 4186), as amended in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, would repeal the law that authorizes NTIS;
Whereas these bills make no provision for the preservation of the reports and their cataloging data;
Whereas these bills do not provide libraries such as the Library of Congress, the national libraries, and libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program an opportunity to help “determine if any functions of NTIS are critical to the economy of the United States”;
Whereas the American Library Association has long supported the provision of all federal government reports and publications, at no charge, to the public through libraries and other services;
now, therefore be it
Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA)
1. urges the United States Congress to appropriate funds to ensure that the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) continues to act as a central repository for scientific and technical reports;
2. urges United States Congress to fund the provision of these reports to the federal agencies and the public at no charge;
3. urges the United States Congress to consult with librarians at the Library of Congress, the national libraries, corporate libraries, and the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) in determining “if any functions of NTIS are critical to the economy of the United States”;
4. urges the United States Congress to put NTIS under the umbrella of the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP) directive, “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research” (February 22, 2013); and
5. urges the United States Congress to fund a digital preservation plan for scientific and technical reports, which would be developed by NTIS, CENDI (formerly Commerce, Energy, NASA, Defense Information Managers Group), the Government Printing Office, the National Archives, federal publishing agencies, and the library community.