Open Government Initiative Blog

  • OSTP’s Own Open Government Plan

    The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) today released its 2014 Open Government Plan. The OSTP plan highlights three flagship efforts as well as the team’s ongoing work to embed the open government principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration into its activities.

    OSTP advises the President on the effects of science and technology on domestic and international affairs. The work of the office includes policy efforts encompassing science, environment, energy, national security, technology, and innovation. This plan builds off of the 2010 and 2012 Open Government Plans, updating progress on past initiatives and adding new subject areas based on 2014 guidance.

    Agencies began releasing biennial Open Government Plans in 2010, with direction from the 2009 Open Government Directive. These plans serve as a roadmap for agency openness efforts, explaining existing practices and announcing new endeavors to be completed over the coming two years. Agencies build these plans in consultation with civil society stakeholders and the general public. Open government is a vital component of the President’s Management Agenda and our overall effort to ensure the government is expanding economic growth and opportunity for all Americans.

    OSTP’s 2014 flagship efforts include:

    • Access to Scientific Collections: OSTP is leading agencies in developing policies that will improve the management of and access to scientific collections that agencies own or support. Scientific collections are assemblies of physical objects that are valuable for research and education—including drilling cores from the ocean floor and glaciers, seeds, space rocks, cells, mineral samples, fossils, and more. Agency policies will help make scientific collections and information about scientific collections more transparent and accessible in the coming years.
    • We the Geeks: We the Geeks Google+ Hangouts feature informal conversations with experts to highlight the future of science, technology, and innovation in the United States. Participants can join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #WeTheGeeks and asking questions of the presenters throughout the hangout.
    • “All Hands on Deck” on STEM Education: OSTP is helping lead President Obama’s commitment to an “all-hands-on-deck approach” to providing students with skills they need to excel in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In support of this goal, OSTP is bringing together government, industry, non-profits, philanthropy, and others to expand STEM education engagement and awareness through events like the annual White House Science Fair and the upcoming White House Maker Faire.

    OSTP looks forward to implementing the 2014 Open Government Plan over the coming two years to continue building on its strong tradition of transparency, participation, and collaboration—with and for the American people.

    Nick Sinai is the U.S. Deputy CTO and Corinna Zarek is the Senior Advisor for Open Government.

  • White House Hosts Open Data Licensing Jam

    If you’ve ever checked the weather forecast or used a digital map, you’re likely among the millions of people who have benefited from U.S. Open Government data.

    President Obama has made public access and use of U.S. data a priority from the start of his Administration. Open government data allows innovators and entrepreneurs to use government data to build tools and apps to improve our lives — such as having up-to-the-minute weather access. Open data improves accuracy of government information and allows it to be presented in more user-friendly ways.

    U.S. Government works have long belonged to the American public. The Printing Law of 1895 prohibited copyright in government publications. The Bromley Principles, distributed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in 1991 set forth “full and open sharing” of global data as “a fundamental objective.”

    Taking open data to the next level, President Obama signed an executive order in May 2013 that made open and machine-readable data the new default for government information.  More than one-hundred-thousand government datasets (and growing!) are now posted to the government’s data repository, www.data.gov, supporting businesses, entrepreneurs, and consumers.

    Another important step in realizing the promise of open data is making sure that the public knows when it can use this data, with little restriction. Because data maintained by the U.S. Government may sometimes be contributed by a nongovernmental individual or entity, questions arise as to whether the data is truly public. On May 19, the White House OSTP and American University co-hosted the first ever White House Open Data Licensing Jam. Lawyers, policy experts, and developers from agencies, the business sector, and civil society came together to discuss open data licensing issues including terms of service, open licenses, and other policies necessary to build the public’s confidence and ability to use open government data. Government “data” can include not only statistical information, but a wide range of Federal works including educational material and open source software.

    At the Jam, we heard about how the Department of Labor is using an innovative policy approach that requires grantees to apply open licenses to the educational materials they produce for powering employment in high-wage, high-skill occupations including digital training modules, instructional games, 3-D simulations, and professional development materials. Grantees make these materials open and reusable to community colleges under the terms of the $2B Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant Program

    We also heard about how the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shares all of its public source code openly, and the benefits the agency has realized, including attracting great technical talent. The Department of Defense shared its Open Source Policy Memorandum that explains how contracting officers should evaluate open source opportunities in the procurement process.

    More examples of what agencies have been doing to address open data licensing questions are now posted to Project Open Data, an online, public repository hosted on GitHub to foster collaboration and promote the continual improvement of the Open Data Policy.

    Following discussion with the community both on Project Open Data and at the Jam, today the White House submitted the first-ever “pull request” proposing improvements to a U.S. government policy document. The pull request—which is a transparent way of submitting changes to an open source project—seeks to clarify use of open licenses. We hope you’ll share your thoughts and help us improve the policy, which you can do right on the pull request site.

    In the coming weeks, policy experts, civil society organizations, and government professionals from the Jam will continue collaborating to address a variety of questions about open licensing. We hope you will join the conversation, including at Project Open Data, and through this dialogue, help advance U.S. Open Government data.

    Colleen V. Chien is Senior Advisor to the CTO, Intellectual Property and Innovation, OSTP

    Corinna Zarek is Senior Advisor to the CTO, Open Government, OSTP

    Haley Van Dyck is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Information Officer, OMB

  • Continued Progress and Plans for Open Government Data

    One year ago today, President Obama signed an executive order that made open and machine-readable data the new default for government information.  This historic step is helping to make government-held data more accessible to the public and to entrepreneurs while appropriately safeguarding sensitive information and rigorously protecting privacy.

    Freely available data from the U.S. Government is an important national resource, serving as fuel for entrepreneurship, innovation, scientific discovery, and economic growth. Making information about government operations more readily available and useful is also core to the promise of a more efficient and transparent government.  This initiative is a key component of the President’s Management Agenda and our efforts to ensure the government is acting as an engine to expand economic growth and opportunity for all Americans. The Administration is committed to driving further progress in this area, including by designating Open Data as one of our key Cross-Agency Priority Goals. 

    Over the past few years, the Administration has launched a number of Open Data Initiatives aimed at scaling up open data efforts across the Health, Energy, Climate, Education, Finance, Public Safety, and Global Development sectors.  The White House has also launched Project Open Data, designed to share best practices, examples, and software code to assist Federal agencies with opening data.  These efforts have helped unlock troves of valuable data—that taxpayers have already paid for—and are making these resources more open and accessible to innovators and the public.

    Other countries are also opening up their data.  In June 2013, President Obama and other G7 leaders endorsed the Open Data Charter, in which the United States committed to publish a roadmap for our nation’s approach to releasing and improving government data for the public.

    Building upon the Administration’s Open Data progress, and in fulfillment of the Open Data Charter, today we are excited to release the U.S. Open Data Action Plan.  The plan includes a number of exciting enhancements and new data releases planned in 2014 and 2015, including:

    • Small Business Data:  The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) database of small business suppliers will be enhanced so that software developers can create tools to help manufacturers more easily find qualified U.S. suppliers, ultimately reducing the transaction costs to source products and manufacture domestically.
    • Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection:  The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s entire digitized collection will be opened to software developers to make educational apps and tools. Today, even museum curators do not have easily accessible information about their art collections.  This information will soon be available to everyone.  
    • FDA Adverse Drug Event Data:  Each year, healthcare professionals and consumers submit millions of individual reports on drug safety to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  These anonymous reports are a critical tool to support drug safety surveillance. Today, this data is only available through limited quarterly reports.  But the Administration will soon be making these reports available in their entirety so that software developers can build tools to help pull potentially dangerous drugs off shelves faster than ever before.

    We look forward to implementing the U.S. Open Data Action Plan, and to continuing to work with our partner countries in the G7 to take the open data movement global.  

    Steve VanRoekel is the U.S. Chief Information Officer.  Todd Park is the U.S. Chief Technology Officer. 

  • Open Government: Public Participation – we can’t do it without you!

    Public participation in government isn’t just a cornerstone of democracy, it’s how the United States government ensures that policies and practices reflect the ideas and expertise of the American people. Without public engagement, first responders and emergency response officials wouldn’t have access to certain important emergency information during a disaster, such as where power lines are down, or we wouldn’t know that more than 100,000 Americans believe the nation should declare Major League Baseball’s Opening Day to be a national holiday.

    As President Obama noted on his first full day in office, government is more effective when it gathers input from the public as it makes decisions. By harnessing input and expertise from a wide array of voices, we can continue to strengthen government.  Here are a few ways the public can participate in ongoing conversations surrounding open government:

    •  Open Government Working Group: Following the Administration’s 2009 Open Government Directive, agencies began monthly working sessions to discuss open government opportunities. These meetings give agencies a chance to collaborate and share best practices, while also providing an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges they have encountered. Earlier this year, civil society organizations asked to attend these working government meetings and we’re pleased that these meetings are now open to the public on a quarterly basis. These meetings provide a chance for the public to listen in on agency open government efforts and participate in discussions about featured topics.
    • Open Government Discussion Group: At our February Working Group meeting, civil society and agency participants discussed ways to improve participation in government — particularly outside of the Washington, D.C. area. One great suggestion we received was to launch a listserv that could facilitate discussions and engage a broader range of participants across the country. We’re pleased to have implemented this suggestion and hope you will join the conversation here!
    • Open Government Plan Engagement: Agencies are currently crafting their 2014 Open Government Plans, which are set to launch by June 1, 2014. A key component of these plans is stakeholder engagement. Some agencies have directly requested input online and others have received proactive suggestions from civil society organizations. The public can also participate in the plans by attending upcoming workshops in Washington, D.C. on May 1 and May 5 where stakeholders can sit down with agencies to share input on agency plans.

    These are just a few of the efforts underway to increase public participation in the conversation about open government.  If you would like to share information, offer a suggestion, or learn more about attending these meetings, please contact us via email at opengov@ostp.eop.gov. We can’t do this without you!

    Corinna Zarek is Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer for Open Government. 

  • Agencies Abuzz During Sunshine Week

    Sunshine Week launched about a decade ago as a way for journalists to draw attention to the importance of transparency in government. Over the years, open government advocates and government professionals have joined the effort to promote transparency, strengthen our democracy, and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

    As part of Sunshine Week, Federal agencies have been highlighting their open government efforts in a variety of ways.  These include engaging the public and other stakeholders in discussions around open government, hosting trainings for government workers on the importance of implementing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and proactively disclosing additional government records in the public interest.

    While we work year-round on open government efforts, this week we are excited to highlight achievements and progress made on open government goals.  Examples from this week include:

    • The State Department created a dedicated website to provide the public access to deliberations on the Keystone XL proposed pipeline project, hosting links to information about the status of the project, the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, and other project documents.
    • Agencies held training and briefing sessions with FOIA and open government professionals to learn about new open government efforts and brush up on FOIA issues including customer service and processing. For example, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence hosted the Intelligence Community FOIA Officers Information Day which included presentations to FOIA professionals in many of the 17 agencies that comprise the government intelligence community.
    • The United States formally became a candidate for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, an international effort aimed at increasing transparency and accountability of payments companies make and revenues governments receive for their natural resources.
    • The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a memo to agencies directing Federal agencies to develop policies that will improve the management of and access to scientific collections that they own or support—including drilling cores from the ocean floor and glaciers, seeds, space rocks, cells, mineral samples, fossils, and more.

    We are proud of this progress, but recognize that there is always more we can do to build a more efficient, effective, and accountable government.  We look forward to the work ahead and ongoing collaborating with the public to build a more open government.

     

    Nick Sinai is U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officer

    Corinna Zarek is Policy Advisor for Open Government

  • Building a More Open Government

    It’s Sunshine Week again—a chance to celebrate transparency and participation in government and freedom of information. Every year in mid-March, we take stock of our progress and where we are headed to make our government more open for the benefit of citizens.

    In December, 2013, the Administration announced 23 ambitious commitments to further open up government over the next two years in U.S. Government’s  second Open Government National Action Plan. Those commitments are now all underway or in development, including:

    ·         Launching an improved Data.gov: The updated Data.gov debuted in January, 2014, and continues to grow with thousands of updated or new government data sets being proactively made available to the public.

    ·         Increasing public collaboration: Through crowdsourcing, citizen science, and other methods, Federal agencies continue to expand the ways they collaborate with the public. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, for instance, recently launched its third Asteroid Grand Challenge, a broad call to action, seeking the best and brightest ideas from non-traditional partners to enhance and accelerate the work NASA is already doing for planetary defense. 

    ·         Improving We the People: The online petition platform We the People gives the public a direct way to participate in their government and is currently incorporating improvements to make it easier for the public to submit petitions and signatures.

    At the same time we have made important progress to improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) – which provides the public with a statutory right to request and receive information from their government. Agencies are receiving more requests each year. In fiscal year 2013, agencies received more than 700,000 FOIA requests, up 8 percent from the previous year, and processed 678,000 requests, also an increase from the previous year. In the past five years, agencies have processed more than 3.1 million FOIA requests. FOIA continues to be a priority for the Administration in a variety of ways, and we are committed to further modernizing the process:

    ·         Engaging with the Public: Today there are number of avenues through which government leaders and FOIA professionals can directly interact with the public. For example, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) now host quarterly FOIA Requester Roundtables with government FOIA professionals and FOIA requesters.

    ·         Recognizing FOIA Expertise: FOIA professionals were recently “professionalized” into their own field, in terms of job categories offered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). OPM created the new 0306 Government Information Specialist job series which recognizes the importance of these skills and positions.

    ·         Establishing a FOIA Ombudsman: The Office of Government Information Services opened in 2009 to introduce dispute resolution into the FOIA process and has now assisted with thousands of FOIA inquiries and disputes from agencies and the public.

    There is much to celebrate this Sunshine Week but still much more work to be done. We look forward to continuing to work together to identify ways to build a more efficient, effective, and accountable government.

     

    Corinna Zarek is Policy Advisor for Open Government