This is exciting news. The Freedom of the Press Foundation has just been launched! Their goal is to help the public "donate to journalism organizations dedicated to transparency and accountability." The goal is simple really: raise funds and help promote public-interest journalism. So far, they're supporting Wikileaks, MuckRock News, National Security Archive, and the UpTake. I hope they'll add other fine journalistic organizations like ProPublica and DemocracyNow.
Their board consists of Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) co-founder John Perry Barlow, Glenn Greenwald, and several other journalists and activists. Early news coverage: New York Times, Huffington Post, Firedoglake.
You can receive updates from their site and/or follow them on twitter too (@FreedomofPress).
Please consider donating to support a free press!
The Freedom of the Press Foundation is dedicated to helping promote and fund aggressive, public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government. We accept tax-deductible donations to a variety of journalism organizations dedicated to government transparency and accountability.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation is built on the recognition that this kind of transparency journalism — from publishing the Pentagon Papers and exposing Watergate, to uncovering the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program and CIA secret prisons — doesn’t just happen. It requires dogged work by journalists, and often, the courage of whistleblowers and others who work to ensure that the public actually learns what it has a right to know.
"PACER Federal Court Record Fees Exceed System Costs". Shane Shifflett and Jennifer Gollan, California Watch.
While the report notes that Senator Lieberman and AALL have been trying to persuade the Administrative Office of the US Courts, it should also be noted that other library associations have been in on this fight for quite a while including the Depository Library Council to the US Public Printer and ALA's Government Documents Round Table (GODORT).
Along with official calls for free access to US court documents, there's also been a grassroots effort to wrest control of these public domain documents in the form of RECAP (that's PACER backwards ;-)), a firefox plugin built by the fine folks at the Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) at Princeton University. The plugin automatically donates purchased PACER documents into a public repository hosted by the Internet Archive. Perhaps this report along with official calls from politicians and librarians will be enough to finally get the Administrative Office of the US Courts to fix PACER and offer free access to US Court documents as it should be!
The federal government has collected millions from the online Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, or PACER – nearly five times what it cost to run the system.
Between fiscal years 2006 and 2010, the government collected an average of $77 million a year from PACER fees, according to the most recent federal figures available...
In recent years, U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and the American Association of Law Libraries, which represents 5,000 law librarians nationwide, have tried without success to persuade the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and members of Congress to provide free access to PACER records.
Earlier this year, the Center for Investigative Reporting, parent organization of The Bay Citizen, applied for a limited exemption from PACER fees to research potential judicial conflicts in California. Such fee waivers are typically given to academics and nonprofits “to avoid unreasonable burdens and to promote public access to information.” CIR is a nonprofit organization.
[HT to Gary Price at InfoDocket for alerting us to this report!]
This report is an update of a 2001 GAO report on the dissemination of technical reports. It offers quite a bit of information as to the scope of work done by the NTIS and the costs associated with that work. Don't forget to read Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Commerce for additional context from NTIS/Department of Commerce. GAO's conclusion states:
...Charging for information that is freely available elsewhere is a disservice to the public and may also be wasteful insofar as some of NTIS’s customers are other federal agencies. Taken together, these considerations suggest that the fee-based model under which NTIS currently operates for disseminating technical information may no longer be viable or appropriate.
In light of the agency’s declining revenue associated with its basic statutory function and the charging for information that is often freely available elsewhere, Congress should consider examining the appropriateness and viability of the fee-based model under which NTIS currently operates for disseminating technical information to determine whether the use of this model should be continued. (P. 29)
Given that GAO's conclusions -- along with NTIS comments about the conclusions -- are that 1) NTIS offers a valuable service of access to the federal scientific literature but 2) their current fee-based cost-recovery model is not sustainable, I have some suggestions for NTIS moving forward. These suggestions speak to the need for greater access AND preservation of NTIS technical reports and a better long-term funding model:
1) Technical reports would be the perfect space for an OpenAccess model in which the costs would be borne by the organizations creating the reports. Offering technical reports online for free would also fit well with the open data goals and initiatives as laid out by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The statute under which NTIS operates states that it must be "financially self-sustaining, to the fullest extent feasible, by charging fees for its products and services." But the statute doesn't state who must pay those fees. Maintaining the NTIS database of technical reports should be borne by the organizations which created the information in the first place.
2) NTIS should institute a digital preservation plan that includes long-term storage in the LOCKSS-USDOCS program. I've had good discussions about this in the past with NTIS staff. With the future of NTIS in doubt, now is the time to assure that their valuable work to this point is not wasted or lost to the digital sands of time.
3) Distribute metadata for bulk download in the same fashion as the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) does for its reports. This allows libraries to add MARC records to their library catalogs for increased access.
4) Expand the reach of the Federal Science Repository Service by partnering with academic libraries. Many academic institutions are building digital repositories (ie., Stanford Digital Repository (SDR)) and would be interested in hosting and giving access to this information.
What GAO Found
As a component of the Department of Commerce, the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) is organized into five primary offices that offer the public and federal agencies a variety of products and services. As of late October 2012, NTIS was supported by 181 staff, all except 6 of which held full-time positions. NTIS reports its progress toward agency goals to the Deputy Secretary of Commerce, and the Director of NTIS reports to the Director of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology. In addition, NTIS receives oversight of its functions and strategic direction from an advisory board with members appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. NTIS's product and service offerings include, among other things, subscription access to reports contained in its repository in both print and electronic formats, distribution of print-based informational materials to federal agencies' constituents, and digitization and scanning services.
NTIS revenues are generated exclusively from direct sales or subscriptions for its products and services. NTIS reported that net revenues from all its functions (products and services) totaled about $1.5 million in fiscal year 2011. However, over most of the last 11 years, its costs have exceeded revenues by an average of about $1.3 million for its products. While NTIS has not recovered all of its costs for products through subscriptions and other fees, it has been able to remain financially self-sustaining because of revenues generated from its services such as distribution and order fulfillment, web hosting, and e-training. The NTIS strategic plan states that the electronic dissemination of government technical information by other federal agencies has contributed to reduced demand for NTIS's products. As a result, the agency is taking steps to reduce its net costs, such as improving business processes and increasing the breadth and depth of its collection.
NTIS's repository has been growing with mostly older reports, but the demand for more recent reports is greater. Specifically, NTIS added approximately 841,500 reports to its repository during fiscal years 1990 through 2011, and approximately 62 percent of these had publication dates of 2000 or earlier. However, the agency was more likely to distribute (by direct sale or through a subscription) reports published more recently. For example, GAO estimated that 100 percent of the reports published from 2009 through 2011 had been distributed at least once, while only about 21 percent of reports published more than 20 years ago had been.
Of the reports added to NTIS's repository during fiscal years 1990 through 2011, GAO estimates that approximately 74 percent were readily available from other public sources. These reports were often available either from the issuing organization's website, the federal Internet portal (http://www.USA.gov), or from another source located through a web search. Reports published from 1990 to 2011 were more likely to be readily available elsewhere than those published in 1989 or earlier. Further, GAO estimated that 95 percent of the reports available from sources other than NTIS were available free of charge. NTIS's declining revenue associated with its basic statutory function and the charging for information that is often freely available elsewhere suggests that the fee-based model under which NTIS currently operates for disseminating technical information may no longer be viable and appropriate.
Why GAO Did This Study
NTIS was established by statute in 1950 to collect scientific and technical research reports, maintain a bibliographic record and repository of these reports, and disseminate them to the public. NTIS charges fees for its products and services and is required by law to be financially self-sustaining to the fullest extent possible.
GAO was mandated by Congress to update its 2001 report on aspects of NTIS's operations and the reports in its collection. Specifically, GAO's objectives were to determine (1) how NTIS is currently organized and operates, including its functions, current staffing level, reported cost of operations, and revenue sources; (2) the age of and demand trends for reports added to NTIS's repository; and (3) the extent to which these reports are readily available from other public sources. To do this, GAO reviewed agency documentation, analyzed a sample of reports added to NTIS's collection from fiscal years 1990 through 2011 (reports from the period since GAO's last study and other older reports), and interviewed relevant agency officials.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is suggesting that Congress reassess the appropriateness and viability of the fee-based model under which NTIS currently operates for disseminating technical information to determine whether the use of this model should be continued. In comments on a draft of this report, the Department of Commerce stated that NTIS believes GAO's conclusions do not fully reflect the value that the agency provides. However, GAO maintains that its conclusions and suggestion to Congress are warranted.
For more information, contact Valerie C. Melvin at (202) 512-6304 or email@example.com
Ever heard the term "bit rot" or wondered what actually happens when electronic files go bad? The Atlas of Digital Damages is a collection of files with corrupted bits, so you can visually see what happens. The Atlas is a flickr album, or rather "a staging area for collecting visual examples of digital preservation challenges, failed renderings, encoding damage, corrupt data, and visual evidence documenting #FAILs of any stripe." So, in addition to viewing these examples, you too can contribute examples to help build the Atlas' collection. A blog post by Barbara Sierman, from the National Library of the Netherlands, first posed the question and well, folks ran with the idea and created this "crowd sourced effort" to document digital degradation. See, "Where is our atlas of digital damages?".
I discovered this nifty item while reading through the November Digital Preservation Newsletter from the Library of Congress (there's lots of great project updates and information, especially on the geospatial digital preservation front in there - so go check it out!)
and check out the LOCKSS project for digital preservation approaches and methods to prevent bit rot on a large scale.
[This post was nicely sent to us by our pal Kris Kasianovitz, International, State and Local Government Information Librarian at Stanford. If others want to send us items of interest, please send them to freegovinfo AT gmail DOT com. Thanks Kris!!]
This is good news that GPO is going to go through the Trustworthy Digital Repositories (TDR) audit process for FDsys! The audit process looks at a repository to assure both its technical AND organizational infrastructure are in place for the long-term preservation of its digital objects and assets.
To my mind then, 2 of the most important pieces of the TDR audit process are "digital object management" -- including especially ingest of content -- AND "appropriate, formal succession plan, contingency plans, and/or escrow arrangements in place in case the repository ceases to operate or the governing or funding institution substantially changes its scope." I hope that the process looks at GPO's participation in the LOCKSS-USDOCS program as one of its key pieces in terms of "appropriate, formal succession plan, contingency plans, and/or escrow arrangements."
In January 2013, the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) will begin an audit process for GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) to become a certified Trustworthy Digital Repository (TDR).
GPO completed an internal audit of FDsys in 2011. It is very imp>rtant to ensure FDsys stakeholders, including Federal depository libraries and the general public, that GPO’s official system of record provides permanent public access to Government information ingested into it. TDR certification from an external party offers such assurances, and other benefits as well.
The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is conducting the audit. They will use metrics and criteria published by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Research Libraries Group (RLG), and CRL, which are the basis for ISO Standard 16363 for Trusted Digital Repositories.
During the audit CRL will examine elements such as organizational infrastructure, governance, policy framework, funding, digital object management, ingest, access, preservation, metadata, and technologies, technical infrastructure, and security. For more details about the elements and measures see Trustworthy Repositories Audit & Certification: Criteria and Checklist.
Completion of the CRL audit is expected by September 2013. GPO is the first Federal agency to seek external certification as a Trustworthy Digital Repository.
Read more about the audit and certification process from fdlp.gov.
Today, the NY Times published an article "Nonpartisan Tax Report Withdrawn After G.O.P. Protest" which points to the increasing politicization of the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the non-partisan think tank of the US Congress.
The CRS report, by researcher Thomas Hungerford, concluded:
The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.
However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. As measured by IRS data, the share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. At the same time, the average tax rate paid by the top 0.1% fell from over 50% in 1945 to about 25% in 2009. Tax policy could have a relation to how the economic pie is sliced—lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.
Huffington Post interviewed Mr Hungerford, who stood by the report:
"Basically, the decision to take it down, I think The New York Times article basically got it right, that it was pressure from the Senate minority to take it down," Hungerford said. "CRS reports go through many layers of review before they're issued and as far as the tone and the conclusions go, people who specifically look at the writing and the tone said it was okay. So it's not going to be that and as I can tell you outright, I stand by the report and the analysis in the report."
To the NY Times' credit, they posted a copy of the report in their story. We're hosting a copy on FGI servers for your convenience.
More from the NY Times:
The Congressional Research Service has withdrawn an economic report that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economy theory, after Senate Republicans raised concerns about the paper’s findings and wording.
The decision, made in late September against the advice of the agency’s economic team leadership, drew almost no notice at the time. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, cited the study a week and a half after it was withdrawn in a speech on tax policy at the National Press Club.
But it could actually draw new attention to the report, which questions the premise that lowering the top marginal tax rate stimulates economic growth and job creation.
“This has hues of a banana republic,” Mr. Schumer said. “They didn’t like a report, and instead of rebutting it, they had them take it down.”
Republicans did not say whether they had asked the research service, a nonpartisan arm of the Library of Congress, to take the report out of circulation, but they were clear that they protested its tone and findings.
Don Stewart, a spokesman for the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Mr. McConnell and other senators “raised concerns about the methodology and other flaws.” Mr. Stewart added that people outside of Congress had also criticized the study and that officials at the research service “decided, on their own, to pull the study pending further review.”
Here's something to add to the 'ol RSS reader (or twitter @crunchgov if that's your thang. TechCrunch, one of the better sites for news and information about tech and the tech industry, today launched CrunchGov to track on government and tech policy-making. The site will have 3 three initial CrunchGov products (report card, policy database, and legislation crowdsourcing). Read more about it on their post explaining the CrunchGov roll-out as well as their methodology/FAQ behind the site.
Welcome to TechCrunch’s tech policy platform, CrunchGov, a portal for sourcing the most thoughtful people and ideas to facilitate more informed policymaking. Currently, it consists of three areas: a congressional report card, a database of technology legislation, and a crowdsourced legislative utility for contributing ideas to pending bills.
In the wake of mass online protests against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), officials were eager to learn more about the concerns of those who work in technology and find ways to craft more informed policy. CrunchGov is our attempt at helping policymakers become better listeners, and technologists to be more effective citizens.
Randall Munroe has outdone himself. XKCD, the "webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language," just posted another amazing, wall-sized infographic, this one depicting the historical ideological swings of left, right and center of the US Senate and House of Representatives (here are Randall's other *huge* and hugely fascinating infographics).
Be sure to read the side boxes and especially the one on methodology of how ideology was calculated. He meticulously accounts for the historical shift in the left/right spectrum between Republicans and Democrats.
That is all.
For those that missed the fall 2012 Depository Library Conference -- and for those who want to go back and check their notes -- you'll be happy to know that the DLC conference proceedings are now online! There were many informative and interesting sessions of course. But one in particular I'd like to highlight was Chris Brown's presentation, "Fiche Online: A Vision for Digitizing All Documents Fiche" (PDF). I'm excited to see that Chris Brown is moving ahead with this project as I've been thinking of a project similar to this for a long time -- and have been requesting purchase of a scanner able to do batch scanning for a few years in order to work on this (one of these days, that proposal will get funded!). But what really piqued my interest was when Chris mentioned that he'd like to change the mindset on digitization projects. He called for not only digitization, but the public sharing of metadata (he called it a "record distribution model"). In this model, digitizing libraries would make their records available via harvest/FTP or some other method and other libraries would then be able to ingest those records into their own discovery environments. I wholeheartedly agree!!
Chris' presentation and mind-shift proposal are connected to the following FREE O'Reilly webinar in which Pilar Wyman, the President of the American Society for Indexing (ASI), will discuss the very idea that Chris has proposed. Hope you can "attend"!
Adding Value with Metadata: Open up the Index
Friday, November 9, 2012
10AM PT, San Francisco
6pm - London | 1pm - New York | Sat, Nov 10th at 5am - Sydney | Sat, Nov 10th at 3am - Tokyo | Sat, Nov 10th at 2am - Beijing | 11:30pm - Mumbai
Presented by: Pilar Wyman
Duration: Approximately 60 minutes.
In this webcast presentation we'll explore new paths for reusing content metadata for discovery and recommendations. Indexes are one of the most detailed metadata sets available for your content, and can be used to search, recommend, explore, and create buyers for your publications.
We'll talk about:
- baseline metadata
- semantic markup
- whether you need controlled vocabularies across multiple publications
- displaying mashups of multiple indexes
- incorporating social input
About Pilar Wyman
Pilar Wyman is the President of the American Society for Indexing (ASI), the voice of excellence in indexing. A veteran freelance indexer with her own successful business, she is also an active member of the ASI Digital Trends Task Force, which was formed in 2011 to address the continuing and rapidly increasing evolution of book publishing from traditional print to eBook formats. The DTTF was a key player in the recent International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) inclusion of indexes in the EPUB standard, and continues to work with the IDPF Indexes Working Group. Within her own indexing and via the DTTF, Pilar and ASI are currently engaged with publishers, hardware manufacturers, and software developers to design and create smart indexes for the digital age.
NARA and NOAA join Old Weather Project to crowdsource transcription of historic naval ship weather logsSubmitted by jrjacobs on Wed, 2012-10-24 10:45.
According to today's press release from NOAA, the National Archives (NARA) and NOAA are teaming up and joining the Old Weather Project hosted at Zoonivers.org to crowdsource the transcription of historic ships' logs in order to extract critical environmental data. The Old Weather Project began over 2 years ago with British Royal Navy log books -- 16,400 volunteers have transcribed 1.6 million weather observations so far! Transcribed data produced by Old Weather volunteers will be integrated into existing large-scale data sets, such as the International Comprehensive Ocean Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS). Human volunteers are so important in this case because Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technologies cannot currently recognize hand-written text.
Before there were satellites, weather data transmitters, or computer databases, there were the ship’s logs of Arctic sea voyages, where sailors dutifully recording weather observations. Now, a new crowdsourcing effort could soon make of the weather data from these ship logs, some more than 150 years old, available to climate scientists worldwide.
NOAA, National Archives and Records Administration, Zooniverse — a citizen science web portal — and other partners are seeking volunteers to transcribe a newly digitized set of ship logs dating to 1850. The ship logs, preserved by NARA, are from U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Revenue Cutter voyages in the Arctic between 1850 and the World War II era.
Organizers hope to enlist thousands of volunteers to transcribe scanned copies of logbook pages via the Old Weather project with an eye to Information recorded in these logbooks will also appeal to a wide array of scientists from other fields – and professionals from other fields, including historians, genealogists, as well as current members and veterans of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.
[HT to Gary Price at InfoDocket for calling our attention to this project!]