Open Government Initiative Blog

  • Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Features and Technology

    Cross-posted from the OSTP blog.

    This morning OSTP is launching Phase Two of our forum on public access publishing, which will focus on Features and Technology. (Phase One began on Dec. 10 through Dec. 20, and a wrap-up of that Phase is posted here.)

    It is one thing to talk about the philosophy of public access and open government generally, and quite another to get serious about how, exactly, to implement some of those ideas. So through the waning hours of 2009—until midnight of Dec. 31, that is—OSTP is inviting you to weigh in on some of the nuts and bolts aspects of public access publishing. Among the questions we hope you will address:

    • In what format should published papers be submitted in order to make them easy to find, retrieve, and search and to make it easy for others to link to them?
    • Are there existing digital standards for archiving and interoperability to maximize public benefit?
    • How are these anticipated to change?
    • Are there formats that would be especially useful to researchers wishing to combine datasets or other published results published from various papers in order to conduct comparative studies or meta-analyses?
    • What are the best examples of usability in the private sector (both domestic and international) and what makes them exceptional?
    • Should those who access papers be given the opportunity to comment or provide feedback?
    • What are the anticipated costs of maintaining publicly accessible libraries of available papers, and how might various public access business models affect these maintenance costs?
    • By what metrics (e.g. number of articles or visitors) should the Federal government measure success of its public access collections?

    On Jan. 1 we will move to Phase Three of this discussion, which will focus on questions of Management. That discussion was originally scheduled to run through Jan. 7. However, we have heard from many of you that the scheduling of this forum has posed difficulties, especially because of the intervening holidays. So we have decided (and will soon announce in the Federal Register) to add two weeks beyond the scheduled end of this forum. We will use that period from Jan. 7 to Jan. 21 to revisit, on a more detailed level, all three focus areas that will have been addressed by then—perhaps asking you to dive deeper into a few areas that, by then, show themselves as deserving additional attention.

    Thanks for your continued involvement in this experiment in open government and public engagement. We look forward to learning from you!

    Comment on this post at the OSTP blog.

    Rick Weiss is Director of Strategic Communications and a Senior Policy Analyst at OSTP

  • Policy Forum on Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Features and Technology

    Cross-posted from the OSTP blog.

    Tomorrow marks the last day of Phase One of OSTP’s forum on public access to published, federally funded research.

    Well, not really the last day. In response to popular demand, we have decided to add some time for additional comments at the end of the scheduled process in January. But more about that in a minute.

    First, thanks and kudos to everyone for making the first ten days of this process such a success. Together you weighed in with almost 200 substantive comments, many complete with links to studies and other valuable data sets that promise to keep our discussion and policy planning process evidence-based, as it should be.

    As you can see by scrolling through the posts to date, you are, together, undergraduate and graduate students, scientists and mathematicians, teachers and professors, librarians and lobbyists, professionals in the business of scholarly publishing, and others. You have opined on the value of public access, the length of time that published material should remain proprietary, the version of a paper that should be made public, the importance of intellectual property concerns, the value that publishers add to scholarly papers, the array of business plans that might accommodate various degrees of public access, and the potential impacts of such changes on journal publishers, the rate of scientific and intellectual advancement, and the financial health of public and university libraries.

    Though the process is still early, your participation already offers great evidence of the added value that can come from putting into practice the principles of open government.

    On Monday morning we will publish a new blog post that introduces Phase Two of this forum, which will focus on Features and Technology. We will ask you to weigh in on such questions as: In what format should data be submitted in order to make it easy to search and retrieve information, and to make it easy for others to link to it? Are there existing digital standards for archiving and interoperability to maximize public benefit? How are these anticipated to change?

    Phase Two will run through New Year’s Eve, and we are scheduled to wrap up with Phase Three (focused on “Management”) from Jan. 1 to Jan. 7.

    However, we have heard from many of you that this schedule poses difficulties, especially because of the intervening holidays. We certainly don’t want to be held responsible for any family squabbles resulting from your decision to skip that holiday dinner with the in-laws just because there is a public access deadline looming. So we have decided (and will soon announce in the Federal Register) to add two weeks beyond the scheduled end of this forum. We will use those last two weeks to revisit, on a more detailed level, all three focus areas that will have been addressed by then—perhaps asking you to dive deeper into a few areas that, by then, show themselves as deserving additional attention.

    Meanwhile, thanks to all of you for being responsive citizens as we consider this important policy question. We look forward to your ongoing and expanded participation!

    Comment on this post at the OSTP blog.

    Rick Weiss is Director of Strategic Communications and a Senior Policy Analyst at OSTP

  • Innovations for Healthy Kids Game Challenge: Help Design for Success

    Cross-posted from the Office of Science and Technology Policy's OSTP blog

    Last week, as part of the Open Government Initiative, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the Department of Agriculture (USDA) would launch the Innovations for Healthy Kids Game Challenge, a national contest for the development of creative nutrition games that motivate kids to make healthy food choices. In the spirit of openness, we want to engage all of you in designing the Challenge for success.

    The Innovations for Healthy Kids Challenge hopes to harness the creativity and ingenuity of the American people to promote the growth and healthy development of our youth. Last week, we made available for download nutrition data for 1,000 commonly consumed food items in standard portion sizes. Like Apps for America and NYC Big Apps, we are now inviting entrepreneurs, software developers, students, and the public to compete to use the USDA data to develop the best mobile and web-based games that teach youth how to build healthy dietary patterns.  For example, USDA used this nutrition data to develop MyPyramid Blast Off Game in 2006.  By challenging kids to fuel their rocket to reach Planet Power, the game helps children identify the foods that can best fuel their own bodies.  We know that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of digital games to help children learn and develop healthy eating habits.

    Given the immense potential, we are looking to you to help us design the contest to elicit the very best nutrition games from developers across the country. In particular, there are four questions where we would greatly appreciate your feedback between now and January 6, 2010. 

    1. Target Audience. The Challenge will have a special focus on tweens, an age-group where there is great potential for creative nutrition games to have a high-impact. Members of this age group are still defining sense of self, including health behaviors, and at the same time are beginning to comprehend how their actions may have an impact later in life. In addition, digital technology is already highly-integrated into tweens’ lives.  Finally, from a nutrition-messaging standpoint, dietary recommendations are the most consistent for 9-12 year olds, thereby providing clear guidance for game developers. Beyond tweens, are there other age-groups to which the contest should direct attention?
    2. Timeline. How long should the contest be? Three months? One year? What timeline is reasonable to develop a meaningful educational game that is attractive, engaging, and effective for children? How might the timeline impact who participates (e.g. professional developers versus graduate students)?
    3. Criteria for Success. We care about moving the needle on child nutrition. In order to achieve this goal, what technical parameters should be established to ensure broad access to the final product? By what metrics should submissions be judged? And who should decide?
    4. Outreach. We hope to encourage up-and-coming gamers or developers to participate in the challenge.  What are the best ways to reach and inspire college and graduate students on and off campus?

    You can share your ideas and thoughts on the OSTP blog.  Please begin your comment by indicating the question to which you are responding. We encourage you to provide empirical data or specific examples in support of your recommendations.  We will keep you informed on the Challenge development as we receive your feedback and insights.

    Many of us learn best through hands-on, engaging activities that make lessons less tedious and more exciting.  Improving the health of our nation’s youth is an effort we can all sink our teeth in to.  Your input will help us design the most effective game to spark the interest of children and, ultimately, improve the lives of Americans.

    We look forward to hearing from you at the OSTP blog.

    Janey Thornton is Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services in the Department of Agriculture

  • Changing the Way Washington Works

    In order to democratize data and advance the President’s agenda of an open, transparent and participatory government, the platform was launched on May 21, 2009, with 47 datasets.  Today, we have over 118,000 datasets and have received more than 47 million hits.  Since the launch, many state, local and international governments have followed the path to democratize data through their own platforms.  From San Francisco to the United Kingdom, there is a global movement to share public sector data to unleash the creativity of citizens, drive transparency and ensure accountability. Data transparency can spur economic, scientific, and educational innovation by making it easier to build applications, conduct analysis, and perform research.

    The current version of platform is just the beginning.  We’ve developed a Concept of Operations and would appreciate your input.  Following are the key principles as we continue to evolve

    1. Focus on Access is designed to increase access to government data as close to the authoritative source as possible. The goal is to strengthen our democratic institutions through a transparent, collaborative and participatory platform while fostering development of innovative applications (e.g. visualizations, mash-ups) and analysis by third parties. Policy analysts, researchers, application developers, non-profit organizations, entrepreneurs and the general public should have numerous resources for accessing, understanding and using the vast array of government datasets.
    2. Open Platform will use a modular architecture with application programming interfaces (API) to facilitate shared services for agencies and enable the development of third party tools.  The architecture, APIs and services will evolve based on public and agency input.
    3. Disaggregation of Data
      Data should be disaggregated from agency reports, tools or visualizations to enable direct access to the underlying data.
    4. Grow and Improve Through User Feedback
      Feedback should be used to identify high-value datasets, help set priorities for integration of new and existing datasets and improve the usability of data and applications.
    5. Program Responsibility
      Agency program executives and data stewards are responsible for ensuring information quality, providing context and meaning for data, protecting privacy and assuring information security.
    6. Rapid Integration
      Agencies should rapidly integrate current and new data into with sufficient documentation to allow the public to determine fitness for use in the targeted context.
    7. Embrace, Scale and Drive Best Practices will implement, enhance and propagate best practices for data and information management, sharing and dissemination across agencies, with our state, local and tribal partners as well as internationally.

    The Administration is making available high-value data that helps promote national priorities and improve the everyday lives of Americans through  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 decisions about the quality and cost of their education.  When the Department of Labor makes safety information available, employers can better protect workers.

    We’ve posted the Concept of Operations and invite you to join the dialogue on  Through initiatives like, we are laying a new foundation that changes the default setting of government from closed, opaque and secretive to open, transparent and participatory.

    Vivek Kundra is the Federal Chief Information Officer


  • The White House Open Government Dashboard: Seeking Your Input

    Cross-posted from the Office of Science and Technology Policy's OSTP blog

    On Tuesday, the Open Government Initiative published the new Open Government Directive. The Directive is not the first – only the latest – in a long timeline of open government milestones during the course of the last year.  Since the President signed the executive memorandum on Transparency and Open Government as his first executive action, innovators across the government have been working to create a more accountable and effective government. The Progress Report on Open Government for the American People explains what’s been done to date and where we go from here. Now we need to enlist your help with holding “our feet to the fire” and ensuring that we continue to succeed at changing the way that Washington works.

    Next Steps: The White House Open Government Initiative Dashboard

    The Open Government Directive calls for the creation of an Open Government Dashboard under the leadership of the CTO and CIO. As agencies implement their open government plans per the Directive, we will use this Dashboard to measure progress and impact, including agencies’ success at developing open government plans across the Executive branch. The Dashboard will combine quantitative and qualitative measures of progress and we are looking to you for your input about what metrics the Dashboard should measure.

    Examples of quantitative measures could include:

    • Has the agency completed its requirements under the Directive, such as creating an open government webpage, completing an open government plan with public consultation, and posting three new data sets on
    • Has the agency appointed an “innovation leader” or designated one or more officials to lead the agency’s open government effort?
    • What is the percentage change of information the agency publishes online in open, machine-readable formats over the year before?
    • How many FOIA requests the agency has resolved and still has pending and the percentage change?
    • Does the Secretary or senior officials host a blog, do online townhalls or webchats, or webcast public hearings?
    • Does the agency’s Federal Advisory Committees make any use of new tools to facilitate participation by members outside of Washington? Public participation? Work in between meetings?

    Examples of qualitative measures could include:

    • How does the agency and the public characterize the agency’s level of openness?
    • Is the agency successfully posted high-value data, such as information that increases agency accountability and responsiveness; improves public knowledge of the agency and its operations; further sthe core mission of the agency; creates economic opportunity; or responds to need and demand, as identified through public consultation?
    • Does the agency sponsor the creation of any “data platforms” for sharing data across agencies and/or levels of government?
    • What one new transparency, participation, and collaboration initiative has the agency undertaken in the past year and is planning to undertake next year?
    • How does the agency currently get input from scientific experts?
    • How well does the agency consult with the public? What innovations are currently in use?
    • What impediments, if any, are impeding the agency from undertaking more innovations in participation and collaboration?

    Please give us your feedback on the metrics for open government. What would should the dashboard track? What are the best ways to measure progress and the impact of that progress?

    We invite your suggestions via the Open Government blog.

    Beth Noveck is United States Deputy Chief Technology Officer and Director of the White House Open Government Initiative



  • Restoring Emails and Restoring Openness

    From day one of his Administration, a top priority for President Obama has been changing the way Washington works by making government more open, accountable and accessible to all Americans.  Today, the President took another important step toward bringing that change to Washington—and toward fulfilling his promise to have the most transparent government in history—by successfully resolving a longstanding dispute about missing White House emails dating from the previous Administration.

    First a little background.  The missing email problem was first identified in 2005, when the Office of Administration conducted an internal analysis suggesting that millions of emails from the Executive Office of the President ("EOP"), created between March 2003 and October 2005, might be missing.  Approximately two years later, in September 2007, the National Security Archive ("NSA") and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics ("CREW") filed lawsuits against the EOP and the National Archives seeking to recover any missing emails.  The litigation continued for over a year, and involved numerous motions and other courtroom fights.

    Shortly after taking office, President Obama made it a priority to resolve this dispute (which concerns the previous Administration's emails only).  The White House quickly began discussions with NSA and CREW, and the parties agreed to stay the litigation on March 31, 2009—a temporary pause, in the hopes of working things out. 

    Today, the White House is pleased to announce that the parties have reached an agreement to settle the pending lawsuits.  As part of the agreement, the White House will restore millions of emails from back-up tapes related to at least 33 different days during the Bush Administration.  The millions of restored emails will be transferred to the National Archives.  They eventually will be made available to historians, students, and the general public under laws providing for the release of such documents from prior administrations.

    The President is firmly committed to ensuring that the records of this Administration—as well as those of all previous administrations—are properly retained and preserved. We are pleased to see this matter reach an amicable resolution. We thank the EOP’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Justice Department for helping us resolve this case and ensure the preservation of this Administration’s emails. Also, we especially want to thank CREW and NSA for their hard work with us in bringing the case to a successful conclusion and in promoting openness in government.

    Learn more about President Obama's Open Government Initiative.

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