Open Government Initiative Blog

  • U.S. Government, OSTP, Open New Troves of Data to the Public

    Cross-posted from the OSTP blog

    Today marks the first milestone called for in the Administration’s Open Government Directive — a call for agencies to make available at least three new, high-value data sets in machine-readable format. Thanks to the terrific responsiveness of our cabinet agencies, the public now has a new trove of government data at its fingertips.

    To demonstrate our commitment to this Presidential priority, and to reflect the same spirit we exhibited in drafting our open government recommendations consistent with the values of transparency and accountability, we are pleased to report the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s contribution to this remarkable effort.

    Furthering our mission to fuel innovation through strategic investments in science and technology research and development, OSTP today shares with the public the following three data sets:

    A Decade of Investments in Innovation Coordinated through the National Nanotechnology Initiative

    The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) coordinates Federal nanotechnology research and development among 25 Federal agencies. The data released represent NNI investments by agency and program component area (PCA) from the Initiative’s founding in FY 2001 through FY 2010 (requested). These data have been available as part of the NNI’s annual supplements to the President’s Budget. But compared to earlier releases, the data as presented here are more accessible and readily available for analysis by users wishing to assess trends and examine investment allocations over the 10-year history of the NNI. The cumulative NNI investment of nearly $12 billion is advancing our understanding of the unique phenomena and processes that occur at the nanoscale and is helping leverage that knowledge to speed innovation in high-impact opportunity areas such as energy, security, and medicine.

    Aggregated Federal R&D Investments in Networking and Information Technology Coordinated through the National Coordination Office for Networking and Information Technology Research and Development

    Thirteen Federal agencies, including all of the large science and technology agencies, as well as a number of other Federal entities, are formal members of the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program. The National Coordination Office supports the NITRD Program, which is the primary mechanism by which the Government coordinates its unclassified networking and information technology (IT) research and development (R&D) investments. The data released today allow individuals to track funding trends and identify agencies with investments in technical areas of interest, and can help entrepreneurs and grant seekers better direct their efforts to engage the correct Federal agency. Currently two years (FY2009 and FY2010) of budget numbers are being posted but additional information going back 15 years will be posted shortly.

    Interagency Investments in Climate Research and Observations Coordinated through the U.S. Global Change Research Program

    The U.S. Global Change Research Program coordinates and integrates federal research on changes in the global environment and their implications for society. The data released today quantify the budget authorities for individual Agency activities in which the primary focus is on observations, research, and analysis of climate change and its underlying causes, as well as such activities as management and distribution of climate data records, modeling and predicting of climate change, analysis of impacts of climate change, and preparation of information in support of climate-change adaptation and mitigation policymaking. These data were available previously in printed annual reports (“Our Changing Planet”) since 1990 and in other formats in some years since then but have never before been compiled in one, accessible, machine-readable format. This allows an array of new trend analyses and provides transparency about government investments in these important areas of research and Earth observation.

    OSTP is proud to be part of the growing movement for greater transparency in government. We hope you will explore the information lode being released today and use your creativity to make the most of it.

    Aneesh Chopra is the United States Chief Technology Officer

  • They Gave Us The Beatles, We Gave Them Data.gov

    Taking a page from our efforts here in the Obama Administration, the United Kingdom today launched data.gov.uk – a site to aggregate datasets from the UK government.  It is exciting to see the seeds of openness, accountability, and transparency taking root around the world. 

    When we launched Data.gov here at the White House website in May 2009, we had just 47 datasets online.  It was a modest start, but the growth we’ve seen has been phenomenal.  Today, there are more than 168,000 datasets online, and federal agencies are poised to publish new high-value information this week as the next step in Administration’s Open Government Initiative. 

    But the U.S. and UK governments aren’t alone in data sites.  There is a nationwide movement to unlock public data.  Governments of all sizes are unlocking the value of data for their constituents.  Washington, D.C., San Francisco, the City of New York, the State of California, the State of Utah, the State of Michigan, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have launched data.gov-type sites, as have cities in Canada and the UK.  All of these sites are dedicated to breaking down longstanding barriers between governments and the people they serve -- facilitating collaboration and transforming dry data into tools that can improve people’s lives.

    As we grow Data.gov across the Administration, we are focused on releasing high-value datasets to increase agency accountability and responsiveness; improve public knowledge of the agency and its operations; create economic opportunity; or respond to need and demand as identified through public consultation.

    For instance, when the Department of Agriculture makes nutrition information available, families can make smarter eating choices; when the Department of Education makes key information available about colleges and universities, students can make better-informed choices about the quality and cost of education; and when the Department of Labor makes safety information available, employers can better protect workers.

    The Federal Government does not have a monopoly on the best ideas.  We are all part of an increasingly complex network of communities, ideas, and information.  We applaud today’s launch of data.gov.uk  and look forward to working with the  international community to ensure that people across the world are actively engaged in helping find the most innovative paths to solve some of the toughest problems we face. Moreover, we are pleased to see that other governments share the Administration's philosophy that data availability will help change how government operates and empower citizens to participate in making government services more effective, accessible, and transparent.

    Vivek Kundra is U.S. Chief Information Officer

  • The Job Tools for America's Job Seekers Challenge

    The Department of Labor has teamed with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to create a new website that brings together more than 600 online job search and career advancement tools.

    The Job Tools for America's Job Seekers Challenge is using the power of crowd-sourcing to get your input on what tools work best, and what you would like to see improved.

    During December we recruited businesses, entrepreneurs, non-profit groups and others to share their online job tools with us at www.dol.gov/challenge. And the response has been terrific.

    From national job boards, to industry and occupation-focused niche tools – the Challenge has attracted nearly resources from across the spectrum.

    Now, it's your turn.

    Through Friday, January 15, we are asking you to review the tools posted on our Challenge site, recommend the ones you like best, and give feedback on what works when it comes to online career resources.  But, just as important, use this site as a resource to apply for openings at companies and organizations that are seeking talented workers now.

    Also, pass the link on to others who might be interested in taking part in the challenge, or to those who just want a one-stop online resource bursting with useful job information.

    We are already seeing this become a great competition among a number of the sites, and are looking forward to seeing which tools rise to the top in the different categories.  At the end of January we’ll publish which tools received the most recommendations.

    And the best part is this website will remain active as a source for information about all of the resources that took part in the Challenge -- an easy-to-access online gateway to jobs in nearly every occupation and location nationwide.

    I encourage you to visit the site, try out some of the resources, and let us know what you think. Together we can help get America back to work.

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    Hilda Solis is Secretary of Labor

  • Fighting Against Special Interests and For the Public Interest: A Year of Change

    Ed. Note: We're happy to host Norm Eisen and Aneesh Chopra in a live video chat at 11:30 AM EST, watch at WhiteHouse.gov/live or join the discussion through Facebook.

    Americans chose Barack Obama to be President of the United States to change the way Washington works. To do just that, on his first full day in office, the President signed two critical documents that have shaped the Administration: the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government and the Executive Order on Ethics. As a result of the Memorandum on Transparency, we have since Day One, worked to empower the public – through greater openness and new technologies – to influence the decisions that affect their lives. And as a result of the Ethics Order, we have since that same day worked to reduce special interest and lobbyist influence in Washington so the voices of the American people can be heard. 

    The results have made history. Don’t just take our word for it--earlier this week, respected independent government reform groups issued a report card that deemed this Administration’s work the “strongest and most comprehensive lobbying, ethics, and transparency rules and policies ever established by an Administration.”   You can read the report card here. You can also learn more about our efforts over the past year in these critical areas by exploring our Open Government Initiative website, and by reading our recently released Progress Report to the American People.

    Here are just a few examples of the Administration's progress to date:

    Reducing Special Interest Influence

    Closing the Revolving Door: President Obama has prohibited former lobbyists from joining the government and working in agencies they lobbied or on the issues they lobbied about. And when members of his Administration leave government, they cannot lobby the government for as long as he is in office. These are by far the toughest rules of their kind ever adopted and earned an “A” grade from the outside experts in their report card. 

    Removing Lobbyists from Government Boards and Commissions: The White House informed executive agencies and departments of our aspiration that registered lobbyists should no longer be appointed to agency advisory boards and commissions. These appointees to boards and commissions advise the federal government and shape policy in a wide variety of areas. We have actively recruited average folks from across America to replace the lobbyists on these boards  a dramatic change in the way business is done in Washington.

    Opening Up the People's House: For the first time ever, the White House began publishing the names of those who visit the White House—registered lobbyists, unregistered lobbyists, and everyone else. Each month, tens of thousands of records of visitors from the previous 90-120 days are now made available online. This gives the public an unprecedented look at whose voices are being heard in the policymaking process.

    Tracking Taxpayer Dollars: Mitigating the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse, the Administration is tracking how the government uses the moneywith which the people have entrusted it with easy-to-understand websites like Recovery.gov, USASpending.gov, and the IT Dashboard. These websites allow American taxpayers to see precisely what entities receive federal money in addition to how and where the money is spent.

    Listening to the Public's Voice and Serving Their Interests

    Instructing all Agencies to Open Up to the American People: In December 2009, the White House issued an historic Open Government Directive, instructing every agency to take immediate, specific steps to open their operations up to the public. The product of an unprecedented outreach effort to tap the public’s ideas, the Directive instructs agencies to place high-value information to the public online in open, accessible, machine-readable formats. It also aims to instill the values of transparency, participation, and collaboration into the culture of every agency by requiring each agency to formulate - in consultation with the American people - an Open Government Plan and website. 

    Tapping the Expertise of the Public and Front-Line Workers: As knowledge is widely dispersed in society, the President has called on agencies to offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking to enhance the Government’s effectiveness and improve the quality of its decisions.   For example:

    • Education Secretary Arne Duncan embarked on a Listening and Learning Tour to hear ideas on how to strengthen schools.
    • The VBA Innovative Initiative enabled 19,000 employees of the Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA) to submit ideas, through a web-based “idea management tool,” on how to better serve the nation’s veterans. Thousands of ideas were vetted and over ten were selected by Secretary Shinseki to help those who defended our freedom.
    • The Health IT Online Forum drew on the expertise of health-care stakeholders to uncover new strategies to accelerate the adop­tion of Health IT and bend the healthcare cost curve.
    • Using the same free software behind Wikipedia, the Wikified Army Field Guidehas invited military personnel– from the privates to the generals - to collaboratively update the Army Field Manuals in real time so our servicepeople have access to the best possible information when they need it most.

    Democratizing Data to Improve the Lives of Everyday Americans: We launched Data.gov in May with 47 data sets but ended the year with over 118,000 – all freely available in machine-readable format. For example, by making nutritional information available, the Administration empowered parents to plan smarter meals for their families. By making information on the status and causes of airport delays available, the government enabled travelers to better plan their days. By making workplace safety information available, we helped employers keep America’s workers out of harms way.

    These are just a few examples drawn from what has been a very busy first year for all of us who are privileged to work in government at this historic time. We know we are just getting started in the fight to promote the public interest. We very much welcome your continued help this year and in the years to come to continue to make the promise of change a reality. 

    Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for Ethics and Government Reform, Aneesh Chopra is U.S. Chief Technology Officer

  • Public Access Policy Forum Enters “Bonus” Round

    Cross-posted from the OSTP blog.

    Many of you expressed a desire for more time to engage in the Public Access Policy Forum post-holidays. We heard you! While Phase III ended on January 7th, we have launched a two-week bonus period for all of you who signed off for the holidays. Therefore, all three phases of the Forum will remain open through January 21st.

    In hopes that you will continue to build and respond to the thoughtful comments of your peers, we ask you to visit the Public Access Policy Forum portion of our blog to see all relevant posts and submit your comments in the appropriate forum:

    In addition, be sure to check out the many comments and proposals submitted to our publicaccess@ostp.gov inbox, to which you are also welcome to submit comments or documents. Some comments are just text; some have links to documents that have been submitted. Please read our postings and submerge yourself in what has already become a fruitful discussion of public access to the published results of federally funded research! Your ever-enthusiastic public access policy team here at OSTP looks forward to your input.

  • "Very High Grades" for Change

    Cross-posted from the White House blog.

    Here at the White House, we think the Administration has had a remarkable first year making our government more accessible and accountable, including reducing special interest influence in Washington.  Today, a group of government reform organizations issued a report card on our first year– and they agree that "President Obama deserves recognition and high praise for the ethics, lobbying and transparency rules put in place for the Executive Branch during his first year in office."

    The authors of the report are Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and U.S. PIRG.  They write that "The cumulative effect of the Administration’s actions has been to adopt the strongest and most comprehensive lobbying, ethics and transparency rules and policies ever established by an Administration to govern its own activities."  The report recognizes the following milestones (among others):

    • The President's revolving door lobbying ban for officials leaving government is "the most-far reaching ever adopted."  Grade:  A
    • The President's "reverse" revolving door rules for officials entering government are the "first-ever" and "innovative." Grade:  A
    • The President's open government initiatives are "unprecedented" and "go well beyond any efforts undertaken by previous administrations."  Grade A.

    That’s not to say we agree with everything in the report (or for that matter, that the authors of the report agree with every single thing we have done).  There is plenty of room for honest debate about how best to fight special interests and make government more open and accountable.  But the President has made doing that a priority, the entire Administration has worked very hard to deliver, and we are pleased that folks can see that “These new rules and policies have begun the difficult process of changing the way business is done in Washington.”

    There is of course much work yet to be done--and we will continue working for real change in 2010 and beyond to make government truly accessible and accountable.  We welcome the participation and collaboration of the American people in that vital work.

    Incidentally, Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra and I will be holding a live video chat on Thursday to talk about the last year and to look ahead regarding the President's efforts to change the way Washington works.  We hope you'll come back to WhiteHouse.gov and join us.

    Norm Eisen is special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform