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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.

A day in the life of a govinfo librarian: FOIA’ing an old report

I thought I’d just share this here as no doubt other govinfo librarians have had similar experiences. When I say “day” it should really be “several months” because what started out as a simple ILL request grew into a several month email trail.

A researcher asked the library to do an Interlibrary loan request for a 1966 USGS report: Navigation channel improvement of the Alto Parana River, Argentina and Paraguay: peaceful uses for nuclear explosives. (Who says govt documents are boring?! This one was about using nuclear explosives to excavate river channels. Crazy, yes, but not boring!! Govt documents have much fodder for works of fiction but don’t get me started about the US Life Saving Service :-)) However, our ILL staff (normally *amazing* at digging out old/obscure/out-of-print materials for our patrons!) couldn’t find this one and so asked me for help.

After perusing the Monthly Catalog and much trolling of government tech report sites like National Technical Reports Library (NTRL), Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC), and the Technical Report Archive and Image Library (TRAIL), I finally came across a catalog record for it in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Library.


USGS Library Cuts faces 52% budget cut for FY18 harming research and extremely rare collections

Oh come on?! The Trump administration really thinks it can balance the budget by cutting a measly $3 million from the US Geological Survey (USGS) library?! This budget cut would barely cause a blip to the federal budget, but would be truly devastating to the library and it’s extremely rare collections — I didn’t know this, but “much of the USGS Library’s content is unique or available from fewer than 10 libraries around the world, the agency reported in a 2014 blog post about digitization of its library holdings.”

Read the June 16, 2017 letter from twenty-three science organizations to several members of Congress urging continued library funding in 2018 and contact your representatives today! This cannot stand!

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Library, home to one of the largest Earth and natural science collections in the world, faces a 52% funding decrease in the fiscal year (FY) 2018 federal budget proposed by President Donald Trump.

The potential funding loss of $3 million would close at least three of the library’s four branches, eliminate three quarters of the supporting staff, and end public and researcher access to USGS Library collections, according to the FY 2018 USGS budget justification.

This rollback of librarian services and other impacts would damage geoscience research and education, said Earth scientists, educators, and scientific society leaders interviewed by Eos. The harm would also ripple through libraries and other institutions that rely on the USGS Library for materials and guidance not available elsewhere, said librarians and others from outside USGS.

“Defunding the USGS Library has the potential to be devastating,” said Aaron Johnson, executive director of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) in Thornton, Colo., referring to the possible effect on research projects of AIPG members.

“If these resources are rendered inaccessible, the nation will lose an invaluable scientific asset and the opportunity for continued commercial return from the information housed in the Library,” wrote 23 science organizations in a 16 June letter to several members of Congress urging continued library funding in 2018 at the level of $5.8 million that USGS currently receives. If that doesn’t occur, the nation “would also lose the federal investment that has already been made in the Library’s collections,” they warned. (The publisher of Eos, the American Geophysical Union, is a signatory of the letter).

via USGS Library Cuts Would Harm Research, Education, Say Scientists – Eos.

USGS releases plan to increase public access to scientific research

This is welcome news indeed! According to a press release yesterday, the US Geological Service (USGS) has just released its plan “Public Access to Results of Federally Funded Research at the U.S. Geological Survey: Scholarly Publications and Digital Data.” The USGS open access plan is in response to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)’s 2013 directive on open access to scientific research (unfortunately, the release of the USGS plan was too late to be listed on OSTP’s January 29, 2016 memo to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees which listed the 11 agencies — plus 5 Dept of Health and Human Services sub-agencies! — which have published open access plans.)

The plan stipulates that, beginning October 1, the USGS will require that any research it funds be released from the publisher and available free to the public no later than 12 months after initial publication. More importantly, USGS will also require that data used to support the findings be available free to the public when the associated study is published.

Specifically, this plan requires that an electronic copy of either the accepted manuscript or the final publication of record is available through the USGS Publications Warehouse. Digital data will be available in machine readable form from the USGS Science Data Catalog. The plan will require the inclusion of data management plans in all new research proposals and grants.

[HT Sabrina Pacifici @ beSpacific!]

Earthquakes, Megaquakes, and the Movies

USGS seismic hazard map
USGS seismic hazard map
The summer’s first big blockbuster movie “San Andreas” is out this friday. So this is a good time to get some facts about earthquakes by checking out the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program. This is a great site to go to for facts, earthquake monitoring (there’s an app for that!), USGS publications and data as well as educational topics for various school levels, like this: Earthquakes, Megaquakes, and the Movies and Earthquake Facts & Earthquake Fantasy.

Throughout the history of Hollywood, disaster films have been sure-fire winners for moviemakers. Beginning with “The Wind” in 1928, Americans have been plagued by a “Twister” and “The Perfect Storm”. We’ve survived “Volcano” and “Earthquake” and “The Swarm” all followed by “Armageddon”. That’s not even mentioning us getting through “The Towering Inferno” and finally making it to “ The Day After Tomorrow”.

With amazing special effects, it’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy disaster epic. But real-world science is often at odds with Hollywood. What makes a great science fantasy film often bears no relation to real facts or the hazards people truly face.

The U.S. Geological Survey is the lead federal agency responsible for researching, monitoring and forecasting geologic hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes and landslides. And we have the further responsibility to educate Americans about the real hazards they face and to separate science fact from science fantasy.

Since earthquakes are featured in the most recent offering in the made-for-television disaster film genre, let’s start with some science-based information on them.

Yosemite, fire, the legacy of John Muir and other Thanksgiving thoughts

I just ran across this Scientific American‘s Primate Diaries blog post, “Fire Over Ahwahnee: John Muir and the Decline of Yosemite” by Eric Michael Johnson. Anyone who’s read Charles Mann’s 1491 (great read btw!) knows that the indigenous peoples of the Americas from the forests of New England to the Amazon, rather than living in pristine wilderness, profoundly shaped their environments through techniques like cultivation and controlled burning. But Muir, often seen as the father of environmental conservation, actually did much harm to the Yosemite valley that he loved so much. Johnson writes eloquently about and makes connections between Muir, the lost history of violence and ignorant racism against native peoples and the issue of fire in Yosemite, and links to several scientific journal articles about fire as well as a fascinating USGS report “Status of the Sierra Nevada: The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project”.

It’s not that Muir didn’t encounter native peoples in his travels. He did, but he found them to be “most ugly, and some of them altogether hideous.” For a wilderness as pure as his holy Yosemite “they seemed to have no right place in the landscape, and I was glad to see them fading out of sight down the pass.” But, ironically, these “strange creatures” as Muir described them were the ones responsible for many of the features that gave Yosemite Valley its park-like appearance, the “landscape gardens” that Muir so valued. It is this forgotten legacy that has undermined many of the successes in the U.S. and even the global conservation movement today, one that traces directly back to John Savage and John Muir and the first protected wilderness site that later became the model followed around the world.

It wasn’t only Muir who was struck by the ordered beauty of Yosemite Valley. Lafayette Bunnell, the New York physician who accompanied Savage on his exploits in 1851, recalled that “the valley at the time of discovery presented the appearance of a well kept park.” Likewise, Galen Clark who was the state guardian of the Yosemite Grant after it was ceded to California, remembered similar conditions when he first visited in 1855. “At the time,” Clark wrote, “there was no undergrowth of young trees to obstruct clear open views in any part of the valley from one side of the Merced River across to the base of the opposite wall.”

However, these conditions didn’t stay that way for long. Forty years later Clark found that Yosemite’s open meadowland had all but disappeared, estimating that it had been “at least four times as large as at the present time.” The reason for this, known in the nineteenth century but little appreciated until recently, were the many ways that Yosemite’s first inhabitants had transformed their environment over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Chief among these was the strategic use of fire.

[HT to Kottke blog (a favorite of mine!) which alerted me to Johnson’s Scientific American post!]