Free Government Information
Unfortunately, there was a technological glitch and I didn't get to finish my presentation on digital preservation at the 2013 House Legislative Data and Transparency conference. I've attached my presentation notes (PDF) in case anyone is interested. I'd be interested to hear comments.
House Administration Rejects NAPA Recommendation to Charge Public for Access to Legislative Documents
In a letter to the Acting Public Printer of the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) the House Committee on Administration has rejected a recent recommendation by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to charge the public for access to GPO’s congressional documents. The response is to the NAPA report Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed, which recommended that GPO consider charging for access to its Federal Digital System (FDsys).
- House Administration Rejects NAPA Recommendation to Charge Public for Access to Legislative Documents, Committee on House Administration (May 22, 2013).
- Letter to Vance-Cooks, [PDF] Chairman Candice Miller (R-Mich.), Ranking Member Robert Brady (D-Pa) (May 21, 2013)
The 2nd annual House Legislative Data and Transparency conference is now streaming live. Here's the agenda and speaker bios for the conference. Note that I'll be on a panel on digital preservation at 2pm eastern/11am pacific with Lisa LaPlant from GPO and Marc Levitt, Byrd Center for Legislative Studies. Should be fun :-)
Steven Aftergood reports that The Government Printing Office is blocking public access to some previously released records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. PURLs may not link to the documents that the catalog record describes.
- GPO Suspends Public Access to Some NASA Records, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (May 16, 2013).
The Government Printing Office is blocking public access to some previously released records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, while the records are reviewed to see if they contain export-controlled information. The move follows the controversial disabling and partial restoration of the NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) (NASA Technical Report Database Partly Back Online, Secrecy News, May 9.)
- NASA Technical Reports Server Has Limited Content Availability Until Further Notice, FDLP (May 16, 2013).
Affected classes are:
NAS 1.15: 0830-D
NAS 1.26: 0830-H-14
NAS 1.2/2-2: 0830-H-26
NAS 1.60: 0830-H-15
See also our earlier comment on this issue.
The past two weeks have been active ones at the State Agency Databases Project (http://wikis.ala.org/godort/index.php/State_Agency_Databases). For a full listing of activity during the past two weeks, see http://tinyurl.com/statedbs14d. Here are some highlights:
ALASKA (Daniel Cornwall)
Alaska Geologic Data Index - From the website: “AGDI includes information about industry reports and maps, field notes, drill logs, and other unpublished geology-related data. The archived data are held and controlled by government agencies, institutions, and private companies; the index points to the physical location of the data, provides a basic description, and contains information on accessibility.” Data can be selected by clicking on a map or conducting a search. The "more options" search allows one to search by keyword, author, title, project, year range and location. The search may be limited by data source, data set type, themes or commodity.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA (Susan Paterson)
Legislation Information Management System - The Council’s Legislative Information Management System (LIMS) is available for the public to view the status of a Bill or Resolution, Legislation by Council Member, Legislation by Committee, Text of a Bill or Resolution, A Council Member’s Voting Record, Contract Summary, Legislation by Co-Sponsor, A List of Legislation, Text of an Act, Legislative Meeting Agendas. You can search for legislation by keyword.
MARYLAND (Siu Min Yu)
Attorney Listing - Search for attorneys admitted to practice in the State of Maryland by name.
MISSOURI (Annie Moots)
All Contributions & Expenditures Search - Search for campaign contributions, expenditures, and committee to committee contributions multiple ways back to 2002.
WEBINAR USING PROJECT PAGE POSTED
This past week project volunteers were happy to see a presentation on Alaska agency databases and other information resources that relied heavily on our Alaska project page. The webinar is titled Databases By Alaskans and the archived version is viewable at http://library.alaska.gov/is/video/databasesbyalaskans2013.html.
Not Your Grandfather's Web Any More, a project briefing from the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) spring 2013 member meeting by David S.H. Rosenthal of LOCKSS and Kris Carpenter Negulescu of the Internet Archive, is now available on CNI's video channels:
What are the practical and theoretical archiving problems posed by the newer parts of the Web, like social media, scientific workflows and Web services? How can the challenges of these latest developments be met, if at all? This presentation reports on the results of a workshop held at the Library of Congress under the auspices of the International Internet Preservation Consortium, where practitioners of Web archiving reviewed these questions. More information about this talk, including presentation slides, is available on the CNI site.
Happening now: Webcast on Public Access to Federally-Supported Research and Development Data and Publications
The webcast for public comments on Public Access to Federally Supported R&D is happening today and tomorrow (14 – 15 May 2013), starting at 9:00 a.m EST. Here's the agenda and already-submitted written statements. In a few days, the video archives from the webcast will also be available (same URL), and eventually the full transcript of the meeting will also be found on the same page. Check it out. It's heartening to hear so many scholars, academics, policy wonks etc coming out in support of open access to scientific information and data.
This message is just a reminder that the Public Comment meeting on Public Access to Federally Supported R&D: Publications will occur tomorrow and Wednesday (14 – 15 May 2013), starting at 9:00 a.m. The agenda is attached.
The link to the webcast is on the front page of the agenda, but here it is again: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/DBASSE_083052
If you are interested, the written statements that were received as part of the registration process can also be downloaded from a link on that page. In a few days, the video archives from the webcast will also be available (same URL), and eventually the full transcript of the meeting will also be found on the same page.
We look forward to seeing all of you who will attend in person, and hope that those who watch by webcast find it a useful meeting.
Meredith A Lane, PhD
Director, Board on Environmental Change and Society
Project Director, Committee on Population
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
National Research Council
Keck Center, 500 Fifth St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Over the last several years, the US Census (including the American Community Survey and the Statistical Abstract of the US) have been under attack -- see "Fear, uncertainty, or doubt? Why the Census and ACS are critical to a well-functioning democracy" and "OMB Watch on Census Cuts" for more context. Budgets and funding, only part of the problem mind you, have been the cause of closing down the Census Bureau's Statistical Compendia unit and ostensibly of the Census Bureau's recent plan to drop the question on "number of times married" from the American Community Survey (see the single sentence at the end of an otherwise harmless Federal Register notice of request for comments).
Social conservatives and others on the right/libertarian political spectrum have long worried about -- if not outright feared -- the collection of demographic and other statistics by the US government. So it should come as no surprise that there's a new bill working its way through the US House of Representatives. H.R. 1638: Census Reform Act of 2013: The bill would eliminate the Census of Agriculture, the Economic Census, Census of Government, any mid-decade Census surveys, and any survey (including the American Community Survey) using survey sampling that does not tie directly to the decennial census of population. The Bill was introduced in the House by Jeff Duncan of South Carolina.
Great news: now there's a digital archive to access the historically important "Freedom Summer", a seminal moment in the US civil rights movement. The Wisconsin Historical Society has just released the 1964 Freedom Summer Project. Not only are there 25,000 manuscripts and key documents, but there are finding aids to help users access the information and instructional materials for teachers.
We've just released an online collection of 25,000 manuscripts related to the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer project. It's free and open to anyone for non-profit educational purposes at
Besides thousands of archival documents from COFO, CORE and SNCC and papers from dozens of individual activists, the site includes a downloadable Powerpoint about Freedom Summer and a PDF Sourcebook of key documents for teachers.
I'd be grateful if you'd forward this note to colleagues and educators who might be interested. As the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer approaches, we want teachers, students, historians, librarians, museum curators, the media, and anyone else to use these primary sources in their 50th anniversary programming.
We'll be adding a few thousand more pages this year, so please "like" us on Facebook and follow along:
Wisconsin Historical Society
Two new databases were released this week. Both are worth checking out!
- Nonprofit Explorer. ProPublica.
In April 2013, the IRS released structured data culled from the tax returns of almost 616,000 tax-exempt organizations. We've made this into a searchable database where you can look up organizations and see details like their executive compensation, revenue and expenses, as well as download their tax filings going back as far as 2001.
- Medicare Provider Charge Data. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The data provided here include hospital-specific charges for the more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals that receive Medicare Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) payments for the top 100 most frequently billed discharges, paid under Medicare based on a rate per discharge using the Medicare Severity Diagnosis Related Group (MS-DRG) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2011. These DRGs represent almost 7 million discharges or 60 percent of total Medicare IPPS discharges.
More links at InfoDocket.
Steven Aftergood reports that some reports have been restored to the NASA Technical Reports Server:
- NASA Technical Report Database Partly Back Online by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (May 9, 2013).
...many of the NTRS records have been restored, including open literature publications, magazine articles, and other documents that were already in the public domain in any case. But hundreds of thousands of others still await a formal export control review to certify them for public release.
The White House has issued a new Executive Order on open data:
- Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information. EXECUTIVE ORDER, May 09, 2013.
To promote continued job growth, Government efficiency, and the social good that can be gained from opening Government data to the public, the default state of new and modernized Government information resources shall be open and machine readable. Government information shall be managed as an asset throughout its life cycle to promote interoperability and openness, and, wherever possible and legally permissible, to ensure that data are released to the public in ways that make the data easy to find, accessible, and usable. In making this the new default state, executive departments and agencies (agencies) shall ensure that they safeguard individual privacy, confidentiality, and national security. [emphasis added]
- Open Data Policy-Managing Information as an Asset. Memorandum For The Heads Of Executive Departments And Agencies M-13-13, Office of Management and Budget (May 9, 2013). [pdf. 12 pages]
- Landmark Steps to Liberate Open Data. by Todd Park and Steve VanRoekel White House Blog (May 09, 2013)
John Wonderlich at the Sunlight Foundation has an excellent analysis and commentary:
- Open Data Executive Order Shows Path Forward, by John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation Blog (May 9, 2013).
[T]he new policies take on one of the most important, trickiest questions that these policies face -- how can we reset the default to openness when there is so much data? How can we take on managing and releasing all the government's data, or as much as possible, without negotiating over every dataset the government has?
How can the public (or policymakers) request what they don't know exists? How can CIOs manage what they haven't surveyed?
...Today's Executive Order demonstrates a new approach to open data, moving beyond rhetoric and aspiration, requiring agencies to publicly report on what data can be made public, building a new backbone for federal open data policy, and setting an example for other governments to follow. [emphasis added]
- New Open Data Memorandum almost defines open data, misses mark with open licenses. by Joshua Tauberer (May 9th, 2013).
- President Obama’s New E.O.: Open Data, Not Government Transparency by Jim Harper, Cato Institute (May 9, 2013).
President Obama Announces Intent To Nominate Davita Vance-Cooks As Public Printer
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 9, 2013 No. 13-21
PRESIDENT OBAMA ANNOUNCES INTENT TO NOMINATE DAVITA VANCE-COOKS AS PUBLIC PRINTER
WASHINGTON - The White House has released the following announcement:
Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate the following individual to a key Administration post:
Davita Vance-Cooks, Nominee for Public Printer, Government Printing Office
Davita Vance-Cooks is currently Deputy Public Printer of the Government Printing Office (GPO), a position she has held since December 2011. Ms. Vance-Cooks has served in a number of other roles at GPO since 2004, including Chief of Staff, Managing Director of the Publications and Information Sales Business Unit, and Deputy Managing Director of Customer Services. Prior to joining GPO, she was the General Manager at HTH Worldwide Insurance Services from 2001 to 2004. Previously, she served as the Vice President of Consumer Services at Digital Insurance from 2000 to 2001. From 1993 to 2000, Ms. Vance-Cooks served in several roles with NYLCare Health Plans of the Mid-Atlantic, which was purchased by Aetna during her tenure. Ms. Vance-Cooks received her B.S. from Tufts University and an M.B.A. from Columbia University.
Link to White House announcement: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/05/08/president-obama-an...
Link to Davita Vance-Cooks' bio: http://gpo.gov/pdfs/about/Vance-Cooksbio.pdf
For those of you that willl be in Washington DC next week, please consider attending the 2013 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference (RSVP required). There will be several interesting panels with House and external stakeholders like the Sunlight Foundation and the Cornell Legal Information Institute -- including a panel on electronic archiving and one on "missing data" and what to do about it ("missing" meaning not effectively on-line and digital, etc.).
The 2013 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference will take place on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Capitol Visitor Center Auditorium. The conference brings together legislative branch agencies with data users and transparency advocates to discuss the use and future of legislative data. Topics include:
--Electronic legislative archiving
--XML and metadata standards
--Updates on beta.congress.gov
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will be removing statistics on potentially life-threatening" mistakes made in hospitals from its Hospital Compare website. See the "Readmissions, Complications, and Deaths" tab when you choose hospitals to compare.
- U.S. to Delete Data on Life-Threatening Mistakes From Website, By Charles R. Babcock, Bloomberg (May 2, 2013).
Two years ago, over objections from the hospital industry, the U.S. announced it would add data about "potentially life-threatening" mistakes made in hospitals to a website people can search to check on safety performance.
Now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is planning to strip the site of the eight hospital-acquired conditions, which include infections and mismatched blood transfusions, while it comes up with a different set.
...The statistics were first posted in October 2011. CMS officials have said they’ll be removed during the website's annual update in July, according to Binder and the American Hospital Association. Binder estimated it could be two years before data from the new HACs appear on Hospital Compare.
The U.S. Department of Labor website was hacked Tuesday evening so that the computers of visitors to the web site would be infected with malaware. The malware infections appeared to have been stopped by late Wednesday morning, and the site has since been fixed. Details here:
- U.S. Labor Dept. Website Hacked, Serves Malware, by Mathew J. Schwartz, Information Week (May 01, 2013).
If a system was successfully compromised by the malicious code running on the Department of Labor's website, it would "phone home" to a command-and-control (C&C) server that's disguised as a Microsoft update server.
"The Supreme Court on Monday said states are free to allow public records access only to their own citizens, delivering a blow to freedom of information advocates who had challenged a Virginia law.... Various other states, including Tennessee, Arkansas and Delaware, have similar laws, although some do not enforce them."
- Justices say states can limit access to public records, By Lawrence Hurley, Reuters (April 29, 2013).
In the ruling, Justice Samuel Alito said the provision of the Constitution in question, known as the "privileges and immunities clause," does not extend a sweeping right to all the information made available via freedom of information laws.
The White House now has a Tumblr account:
We see some great things here at the White House every day, and sharing that stuff with you is one of the best parts of our jobs. That’s why we’re launching a Tumblr. We’ll post things like the best quotes from President Obama, or video of young scientists visiting the White House for the science fair, or photos of adorable moments with Bo. We’ve got some wonky charts, too. Because to us, those are actually kind of exciting.
But this is also about you. President Obama is committed to making this the most open and accessible administration in history, and our Tumblr is no exception.
We want to see what you have to share: Questions you have for the White House, stories of what a policy like immigration reform means to you, or ways we can improve our Tumbling. We’re new here, and we’re all ears.
As you may know, works of the U.S. Government are not protected by copyright in the U.S. (17 USC §105), but we often discover copyrighted government publications that one would reasonably think would be in the public domain and, more recently, we see works that were treated as public domain in print suddenly being treated as copyrighted when they are converted to digital. No matter how clear the law is, this can lead to confusing situations. Take the case of a movie produced by the United States Information Agency. USIA was was prohibited by law from distributing films in the United States, but a Congressional Resolution did authorize USIA to sell six master copies of the film to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Then Carl Malamud obtained a copy of a video tape of the movie from NTIS, digitized it, and posted it at the Internet Archive. Now the Kennedy Center is claiming that the film is copyrighted and that the Center has exclusive rights for distribution and NTIS has requested that Malamud take down the digital copy he created.
The Resolution (Congressional Record, August 26, 1965, p.21256) says:
Accordingly, the United States Information Agency is authorized to make appropriate arrangements to transfer to the trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts six master copies of such film and the exclusive rights to distribute copies thereof, through educational and commercial media, for viewing within the United States. The net proceeds resulting from any such distribution shall be covered into the Treasury for the benefit of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The film begins with a notice (at 00:00:25) that says the film "is presented in the United States by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington DC, in accordance with a resolution of the Congress." It ends (at 1:26:08) with what looks like a copyright notice (it is hard to read in the digital version) that (I think) says "Copyright 1964 by the National Center for the Performing Arts, All rights reserved." I assume that these were added by the Center to the original film.
What will Malamud do? He asks you to advise him:
One agency of the federal government has issued a takedown notice to another agency of the federal government, which in turn demanded that we remove a film from the Internet. Not knowing what to do, I have appealed for your help.
I hereby bring this plea before the Court of Appeals for Wonderful Things, appealing to a jury of my peers, all happy mutants, for their verdict.
Read the complete story here:
- US government sends itself a takedown notice over JFK documentary: you decide what to do!, posted by Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing (Apr 26, 2013).
And watch the movie while you can:
- John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning/Day of Drums (1964), United States Information Service, AVA11312VNB1, 1964. (Run time: 1h 26' 18")
The program dramatizes the thousand days of John F. Kennedy's presidency, from his inauguration in 1961 to his tragic death on November 22, 1963. The videotape emphasizes Kennedy's and America's hopes for his term as president. Uploaded by Public.Resource.Org under Joint Venture NTIS-1832 with the National Technical Information Service.
Here's a reminder that we all have to be constantly diligent to make sure govt information continues to be freely available for the long term!
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released the latest census data for free under a Creative Commons license but appears to be steering people towards a $250 mailed out DVD rather than making it easy to download the information directly over the internet.