February 15, 2014
On February 15, Public Record Media will present a talk on overcoming challenges to public records access at the 2014 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
PRM executive director Matt Ehling will speak on a panel entitled “Data Availability: Making Sure the Gift Keeps Giving.” Other presenters include David Reitze of the California Institute of Technology, and Catherine Grosso of Michigan State University.
Find the full presentation here. The abstract is below:
Access to Government Data: Examining and Overcoming Barriers
In 1966, Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which provided the public with unprecedented access to stores of government data. Many states later followed suit, and enacted their own statutory schemes to permit broad-based data accessibility. The open-government architecture that resulted has become a fundamental tool of the press, policy makers, academics, and the public. It has enabled reportage, scientific analysis, historical research, government oversight, and policy formulation.
Despite the existence of sophisticated public information mechanisms, ready access to government data remains elusive in certain circumstances, and several trends are exerting pressure on the nation’s open-government infrastructure. Such trends include the increased use of security claims as a basis for withholding previously public data, increasing agency non-compliance with statutory mandates, recalcitrance on the part of private contractors who hold government data subject to disclosure under public records laws, and a reduction in funding for open government compliance.
An examination of contemporary case studies demonstrates the impact of these trends on government data architectures. An analysis of specific responses to the trends at work in the case studies – ranging from statutory adjustments to court rulings – provides insights into how the nation’s open government architecture may be buttressed or reinvigorated to face current challenges. Specific tools for acquiring government data in the face of agency non-compliance are identified and discussed within the context of current trends.