Open Government Initiative Blog
- Posted byon January 14, 2010 at 9:00 AM EST
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
- Posted byon January 11, 2010 at 6:05 PM EST
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 email@example.com 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.
- Posted byon January 11, 2010 at 11:38 AM EST
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
- Posted byon January 8, 2010 at 8:29 PM EST
Ed. Note: Get a firsthand account of Aneesh’s experience at CES as he walked the floor with the Washington Post’s Cecilia Kang; his conversation on innovation with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo and our efforts to promote open government with Fox Business’ Shibani Joshi.
Yesterday, I joined over 100,000 tech enthusiasts to celebrate the next wave of consumer electronics innovations at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show. The energy level throughout the convention was high and firms reflected confidence that economic growth will return to the sector in 2010. I thought to share a few summary notes on what I’ve learned during my visit:
- Open Government a Global Movement: During my remarks at CES Government, I was joined by London Mayor Boris Johnson live via weblink who announced the “London Datastore." He kindly acknowledged President Obama for inspiring this movement through our Open Government Initiative and more specifically, our data.gov portal that today includes 118,000 publicly-available data sets for free public use. A great deal of the new consumer products showcased at CES featured apps that would improve our quality of life through the television, mobile phone, car, and a growing number of Internet-enabled devices. We are hopeful entrepreneurs will develop new apps built with government data for use across all of these exciting new products. For example, the “Innovations for Healthy Kids Game Challenge” is an opportunity for gamers to build apps targeting “tweens” to inspire healthier eating habits and help to address our growing childhood obesity problem.
- Innovation at the Center of Consumer Electronics: Touring the Show floor was a particularly exciting endeavor as rows upon rows of new technologies that have the potential to dramatically lower the costs of innovations for national priorities like healthcare, education and energy efficiency. For example, one of the television manufacturers demonstrated a Skype application that could simplify how a patient might communicate with a physician from the comfort of their own living room, without the need to purchase additional equipment. Similarly, a number of home networking devices, when informed by energy usage made available th hrough the smart grid, could send alerts when it might be advantageous to turn down the thermostat.
- University Innovators Meet Consumer Product Developers: One of the more exciting stops on the show floor was my visit with Carnegie Mellon’s affiliated “Quality of Life Technology Center," a National Science Foundation “Engineering Research Center”. Students, staff and faculty demonstrated early prototypes of some incredible inventions that were available for companies to license and commercialize. We held a vest that was designed to help those with hearing disabilities still enjoy the joys of music by translating the sounds into pulses one could feel. We walked through a prototype living room designed for disabled veterans capable of connecting them with physicians and adjusting their room experiences based on programmable conditions.
Overall, my trip served as a reminder that a great deal of our nation’s innovation capacity begins with basic research & development we fund across our world-class universities and federal labs, continues through the hard work of entrepreneurs toiling away to design the “next big thing”, and leads to break-through innovations to address our nation’s most pressing challenges in bending the healthcare cost curve and improving energy efficiency. These concepts are more fully explored in the President’s Strategy for American Innovation. We welcome your comments and feedback as we work towards a more innovative economy in the months and years ahead.
Aneesh Chopra is U.S. Chief Technology Officer
- Posted byon January 7, 2010 at 11:30 PM EST
Cross-posted from the OSTP blog.
Today we have reached the end of Phase Three of our public access policy forum.
We sincerely thank every one of you for taking the time to provide such valuable commentary on this topic. As previously mentioned, due to the busy holiday season we will be re-opening the forum for a two-week bonus session beginning immediately. In this final session we will be soliciting comments on all the topics discussed in the three previous phases, and may periodically ask during the course of these two weeks that participants focus on a few key issues that we feel warrant additional attention.
Phase Three focused on management—particularly how to ensure compliance, how to accurately measure success, and the Federal government’s role in guaranteeing the most effective public access policy.
One clear theme throughout your comments was the need for a public access policy that is simple and could be implemented quickly. You discussed the drawbacks to a policy process that “sacrifices the good for the sake of the perfect” and encouraged even partial steps that would take the process in the direction of greater access. In terms of compliance, the majority of you focused on the need for a clear mandate that is uniform across agencies. Some suggested the use of monetary sanctions for noncompliance, or withholding future funds for a particular research area until the requirements are met. You said uniform standards across agencies would streamline the submission process.
Many of you provided examples of organizations that could serve as models with regard to evaluation processes. Some suggested measuring federally-funded research citations, or tracking the number of views or hits that each submission receives. Others thought a better metric would be to determine how improved access to electronic resources leads to greater overall productivity, and suggested tracking the requests for certain datasets and then analyzing the product that results.
Finally, you engaged in a great discussion concerning the role of the Federal government. Most of you agreed that the government’s main role is to ensure compliance, but you also cautioned that a burdensome compliance mechanism could be counterproductive. Another theme of the discussion was the need for a centralized depository location. Though some of you suggested using university libraries as a depository, the overall consensus seemed to lean toward the belief that this format would be unduly burdensome on universities. Many of you commented that creating one site where researchers may click and deposit their work is the most efficient way to ensure not only compliance but also the greatest degree of public access. One idea was to house a long-term repository within the Library of Congress, which would accept and store articles and make them available to the public.
Once again thank you to all who participated; your comments and suggestions are genuinely appreciated. Now, for those of you who have been caught up with the holidays or have simply procrastinated, please take some time to share your thoughts on the OSTP blog as we extend this public forum through January 14th.
- Posted byon January 1, 2010 at 4:01 PM EST
Cross-posted from the OSTP blog.
Happy New Year! On this first day of 2010, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is launching Phase Three of our Public Access Policy Forum. The forum asks scientists, primary and secondary publishers, librarians, universities, researchers, students, and the public to help us understand when and how research articles – funded by taxpayers but with value added by scholarly publishers – should be made freely available on the internet.
Over the past three weeks, we have broken down the broader question into focused topics. In Phase One, the public weighed in on which agencies should enact public access policies and how those public policies should be designed. But, access demands not only availability, but also meaningful usability. In Phase Two, participants provided insight on how the Federal government can make its collections of peer-reviewed papers more useful to the American public. Thank you again for your terrific comments on both of these topic areas, especially over the busy holiday season. For those of you who are new to the forum, you can review the full set of blog postings and public comments here.
Today, our discussion turns to questions of management. Phase Three will run through Thursday, January 7, 2010. Between now and then, we would like for you to address the following questions:
- Compliance. What features does a public access policy need to ensure compliance? Should this vary across agencies?
- Evaluation. How should an agency determine whether a public access policy is successful? What measures could agencies use to gauge whether there is increased return on federal investment gained by expanded access?
- Roles. How might a public private partnership promote robust management of a public access policy? Are there examples already in use that may serve as models? What is the best role for the Federal government?
We invite your comments and in particular encourage you to be specific in your thoughts and proposals, providing empirical data and specific supporting examples whenever possible so this discussion can generate maximum practical value. You may want to start by reading a more complete description of this issue as it appeared in the Federal Register.
Importantly, this is a community-moderated blog. That means we count on you to keep the forum focused and on-topic—something you can do by “voting” on comments. Voting is an expression of how germane to the topic a comment is. Voting up a comment expresses approval of the relevance. If enough people vote down a comment, the comment in question “collapses” into a link so that it doesn’t interrupt the flow of discussion. Please read the complete Terms of Participation, where you can also learn how to “flag” comments such as spam or obscenities that violate the Terms.
We welcome your thoughtful comments in this open and participatory forum.
You can comment on this post at the OSTP blog.
Diane DiEuliis, Assistant Director, Life Sciences, Office of Science and Technology Policy
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