Two OTG partners conducted a survey of science, health, and environment reporters about obstacles they encounter trying to speak with federally employed scientists and obtain information from government agencies. The Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Society for Professional Journalists’ survey found many reporters “must go through the public information office to contact the subject matter expert within the agency in order to get an interview.” The full report is available here.
Several open government experts, including OpenTheGovernment.org’s Patrice McDermott and the National Security Archive’s Tom Blanton, discussed Hillary Clinton’s email mismanagement and the state of federal records management at the National Press Club last week. The panel is available here via C-SPAN. The two organizations were also represented at a National Declassification Center (NDC) event hosted by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). National Security Archive’s Nate Jones and OTG’s Katherine Hawkins contributed to the panel “What Secrets Do People Want to See?” Watch the full event, including an update from the NDC, here.
Improving federal spending transparency is a priority for many in the open government community, both inside and outside government. The Obama administration included commitments to improve spending transparency in its National Action Plans, and is working to implement the DATA Act, which promises to significantly increase public access to spending information. Reform efforts hit a snag, however, with the latest update to the White House’s spending information hub USAspending.gov. The website’s upgrades were intended to make the information more understandable using plain language, but also removed much of the site’s functionality by removing the keyword search and limiting searches for government contracts.
The Treasury Department says it is working to respond to the critical feedback. The Department has restored much of the bulk download capability and set up a GitHub page for feedback. According to USAspending.gov’s “What’s New” page, the Treasury team is also “working to implement additional search functionality including keyword search” and adding data archives.
OpenTheGovernment.org works with a consultant to place opinion pieces that make the case for open government. So far, our coalition partners have called for stronger whistleblower protections, called for improvements to the Freedom of Information Act, pushed for increased chemical safety, and much more. If you are interested in writing, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As we’ve mentioned previously, there are also opportunities to make concrete recommendations for the White House’s third National Action Plan for open government. If you have an idea the administration should include in its next plan, contribute to civil society’s model here.