Congress votes to make open government data the default in the United States | E Pluribus Unum

On December 21, 2018, the United States House of Representatives voted to enact H.R. 4174, the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017, in a historic win for open government in the United States of America.

The Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary Government Data Act (AKA the OPEN Government Data Act) is about to become law as a result. This codifies two canonical principles for democracy in the 21st century:

  1. public information should be open by default to the public in a machine-readable format, where such publication doesn’t harm privacy or security
  2. federal agencies should use evidence when they make public policy….”

The state copyright conundrum: What’s your state government’s rule on copyright? | Courtney | College & Research Libraries News

“U.S. copyright law has a unique place in the world regarding federal works and copyright. Federal copyright law states that “Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government.”1 This is a broad and clear statement that works of the federal government are in the public domain and are free for use by all.

The copyright status of works of the state governments, however, is often far more difficult to determine. While reasonable policy would contend that state government works should be available to the public at large, many states assert a copyright interest in their materials, and, most concerning, many more lack any clear legal guidance on the issue. States often produce a variety of copyrighted works. Figuring out whether these state materials are copyrighted is a tricky question, and one that many librarians and archivists face from time to time.

Several years ago, one such state copyright conundrum arrived at my doorstep at just the right time. The question furthered a concept I had been toying with for years. The library community could benefit from the creation of an overall resource outlining the patchwork of state copyright laws. This would also give librarians, archivists, lawyers, and the public the ability to use this resource as an effective tool for advocacy and greater understanding of state copyright. The result was the State Copyright Resource Center….”

Pesticide Studies Won E.P.A.’s Trust, Until Trump’s Team Scorned ‘Secret Science’ – The New York Times

“The project, run by scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, and funded in part by the Environmental Protection Agency, is still going all these years later. Known as Chamacos, Spanish for “children,” it has linked pesticides sprayed on fruit and vegetable crops with respiratory complications, developmental disorders and lower I.Q.s among children of farm workers. State and federal regulators have cited its findings to help justify proposed restrictions on everything from insecticides to flame-retardant chemicals.

But the Trump administration wants to restrict how human studies like Chamacos are used in rule-making. A government proposal this year, called Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, could stop them from being used to justify regulating pesticides, lead and pollutants like soot, and undermine foundational research behind national air-quality rules. The E.P.A., which has funded these kinds of studies, is now labeling many of them “secret science.” …”

HHS Plans to Delete 20 Years of Critical Medical Guidelines Next Week | US Department of Health and Human Services

“Experts say the database of carefully curated medical guidelines is one of a kind, used constantly by medical professionals, and on July 16 will ‘go dark’ due to budget cuts.

The Trump Administration is planning to eliminate a vast trove of medical guidelines that for nearly 20 years has been a critical resource for doctors, researchers and others in the medical community. Maintained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ], part of the Department of Health and Human Services, the database is known as the National Guideline Clearinghouse [NGC], and it’s scheduled to “go dark,” in the words of an official there, on July 16. Medical guidelines like those compiled by AHRQ aren’t something laypeople spend much time thinking about, but experts like Valerie King, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Director of Research at the Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University, said the NGC is perhaps the most important repository of evidence-based research available. “Guideline.gov was our go-to source, and there is nothing else like it in the world,” King said, referring to the URL at which the database is hosted, which the agency says receives about 200,000 visitors per month. “It is a singular resource,” King added. Medical guidelines are best thought of as cheatsheets for the medical field, compiling the latest research in an easy-to use format. When doctors want to know when they should start insulin treatments, or how best to manage an HIV patient in unstable housing — even something as mundane as when to start an older patient on a vitamin D supplement — they look for the relevant guidelines. The documents are published by a myriad of professional and other organizations, and NGC has long been considered among the most comprehensive and reliable repositories in the world. AHRQ said it’s looking for a partner that can carry on the work of NGC, but that effort hasn’t panned out yet. “AHRQ agrees that guidelines play an important role in clinical decision making, but hard decisions had to be made about how to use the resources at our disposal,” said AHRQ spokesperson Alison Hunt in an email. The operating budget for the NGC last year was $1.2 million, Hunt said, and reductions in funding forced the agency’s hand.”

8 Ways Departing EPA Chief Scott Pruitt Suppressed Science – Truthdig

“In March, Pruitt proposed a new “science transparency policy.” Under the proposed rule, when the EPA designs pollution standards and rules, it would use only studies in which the underlying data is public. Pruitt said his policy would prevent the EPA from using “secret science” that cannot be tested by other researchers. But scientists say important findings could be excluded.

One example is research by Harvard University that linked fine particle pollution in U.S. cities with an increase in deaths from lung and heart diseases. The data for the 1993 study was key to the EPA’s setting of health standards that regulate air pollution. But the study’s underlying data is not public because researchers promised confidentiality to their subjects, 8,000 adults and 14,000 children in six cities….”

Crafting Open Data Policies in a Complex Era – YouTube

“Open data policies drive government transparency, public accountability, and citizen-centered services. These policies provide valuable data resources to citizens while enhancing the effectiveness of government. However, the types of data that governments deal with are increasingly diverse and complex, particularly in cases where the government collects proprietary data or partners with private sector entities to accomplish government missions.”

Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): United States End-of-Term Report 2015–2017

“The third United States national action plan [for open government] was more ambitious than its predecessors, leading to major advances in fiscal transparency, open science, and police data. However, about a third of the plan’s commitments saw limited implementation by the end of the action plan. There were also notable regressions in certain areas, such as e-petitions and transparency in the extractives sector. …

The highlights of the plan include outstanding improvements in fiscal transparency and open science. Other major results include better access to educational resources, police data, and climate data….” 

In the table on pp. 8-10, see row 20 on open science, 21 on open data, and 42 on open climate data.

National Freedom of Information Coalition

“The National Freedom of Information Coalition protects our right to open government. Our mission is to make sure state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies and procedures to facilitate the public’s access to their records and proceedings.

NFOIC exercises advocacy, education and resolve. We are keenly aware of the challenges to access information in an increasingly digital world.

We are a nonpartisan alliance of state & regional affiliates promoting collaboration, education & advocacy for open government, transparency & freedom of information. Our members include citizen-driven nonprofit FOI organizations, academic and First Amendment centers, journalistic societies and attorneys….”

National Freedom of Information Coalition

“The National Freedom of Information Coalition protects our right to open government. Our mission is to make sure state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies and procedures to facilitate the public’s access to their records and proceedings.

NFOIC exercises advocacy, education and resolve. We are keenly aware of the challenges to access information in an increasingly digital world.

We are a nonpartisan alliance of state & regional affiliates promoting collaboration, education & advocacy for open government, transparency & freedom of information. Our members include citizen-driven nonprofit FOI organizations, academic and First Amendment centers, journalistic societies and attorneys….”