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This is bad news for government transparency advocates. The Sunlight Foundation shut down its Web Integrity Project (WIP) yesterday. WIP was created almost two years ago and was tracking “tens of thousands of federal government webpages each week, has reported on and sourced hundreds of stories about federal websites, has provided materials for congressional oversight, and has engaged with the executive branch and watchdog community on web integrity issues.” Unfortunately, they were unable to secure funding to keep the project going. At least their site and all their work has been archived and will be available at the Internet Archive.
Many thanks to Toly Rinberg, Andrew Bergman, Rachel Bergman, Jon Campbell, Sarah John, and Aaron Lemelin for your fine work!
Fast forward to today, and WIP monitors tens of thousands of federal government webpages each week, has reported on and sourced hundreds of stories about federal websites, has provided materials for congressional oversight, and has engaged with the executive branch and watchdog community on web integrity issues. As a result of our efforts, federal agencies may be paying better attention to their websites and are more aware that people are watching.
In today’s America, where government websites are “the primary means by which the public receives information from and interacts with the Federal Government,” web monitoring is profoundly important at the beginning of each new administration. In the intra-agency tumult that prevails just after the inauguration of a new president, there is much potential for useful and relied-upon content to be lost and for political machinations to dominate. Many of the most significant website changes that we’ve seen at the Web Integrity Project happened within the first few months of the new Trump administration, like the removal of climate change resources from the EPA’s website, ACA-related content and pages from the HHS website, LGBT resources from the Department of Labor’s website, or the staff directory from the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s website.
With that track record of accomplishments in mind, we announce that the Sunlight Foundation will be shutting down WIP as of today. While we were unable to secure continued financial support for the program, we want to ensure that our work lives on online, true to the values of the program, so we are ensuring that our reports, the Gov404 tracker, and our blog posts are properly archived using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
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.
The news just hit the street that Sunlight Foundation’s OpenCongress will be retired on March 1. OpenCongress has been a valuable tool for Congressional information seekers since 2007. But this news is actually a good thing. OpenCongress will now point users to GovTrack.us which also has a long history of valuable information service. And what’s more, some of the best pieces of OpenCongress will be absorbed into GovTrack to make it better going forward. As Sunlight says, this is a win, win for everyone. Thanks Sunlight for 10 years of great civic tech and more going forward!
Just in time for Open Data Day, your Uncle Sam — aided and abetted by developers here at Sunlight — is giving you a present.
It has taken weeks, but it appears that all Cabinet agencies have released complete machine-readable lists of their public data holdings, in compliance with President Barack Obama’s Open Data Executive Order. Now, with the help of Sunlight’s Dan Drinkard and Tim Ball, you can access most of these inventories in human-readable format as well. (zip file or Google doc spreadsheet)
Thanks to the guidelines crafted by Project Open Data, each metadata set uses the same set of schema, which gives information like the dataset’s title, where to access the set (if it has been made publicly available), point of contact and data format among other things (see the full rundown of schema on Project Open Data’s page on github)…