In January 2009, the President issued a Memorandum for the heads of Executive Departments and Agencies on Transparency and Open Government (White House 2009). 10 The Memorandum required the development of recommendations for an Open Government Directive to establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. In response, OMB issued an Open Government Directive in December 2009.
Four documents issued by the Executive Office of the President over a six-month period in 2013 define the scope and provide guidance on implementation of the new open data policy. These four documents were:
- Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research (Office of Science and Technology Policy 2013)
- Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information (White House 2013c)
- Open Data Policy—Managing Information as an Asset (OMB 2013a)
- Supplemental Guidance on the Implementation of M-13-13 “Open Data Policy—Managing Information as an Asset” (OMB 2013b)
Summaries of these documents are presented below.
10 Reprinted in Federal Register, vol. 74, no. 15, pp. 4685-4686.
1. Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research
This memorandum was issued on February 22, 2013 by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and calls for all federal agencies that are engaged in research and development to outline plans to provide public access to all results of scientific projects that are receiving federal funds. With respect to scientific data, OSTP requires that agencies maximize free public access to digitally-formatted data created with federal funds, while protecting privacy and proprietary information. This involves requesting that grant recipients outline data management plans and detail any reasons why their data cannot be made publicly accessible. OSTP also requests that agencies allow for the inclusion of appropriate costs associated with data management and access in federal grant proposals.
2. Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information
Executive Order 13642 was issued on May 9, 2013, and calls for a shift in the default policy in federal agencies toward that of free public access to information. The order describes government information as an asset, the dissemination of which is likely to create new jobs, provide inspiration for entrepreneurship, and stimulate the American economy. The order calls for the adoption of an Open Data Policy, as outlined in the OMB memorandum issued on the same day (and discussed next). The Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer were instructed to publish an online resource to assist agencies in their efforts to implement open data policies; Open Data Policy requirements were to be integrated into federal acquisition and grant-making; and agencies were to report quarterly on their progress, including a full analysis of risks to individual privacy and confidentiality.
3. Open Data Policy—Managing Information as an Asset
Memorandum M-13-13 was issued by OMB in conjunction with the Executive Order, establishes a framework to support effective information management strategies that will promote open data. Agencies are directed to adopt the following policies: use machine-readable and open formats; use data standards; remove all restrictions on distribution of public data (open license); and describe data using common core metadata (for example, origin, linked data, geographic location, time period/interval, and data quality). Agencies were requested to take the following actions:
- Create and maintain an enterprise data inventory
- Create and maintain a public data listing
- Create a process to engage with customers to help facilitate and prioritize data release
- Clarify roles and responsibilities for promoting efficient and effective data release practices
The memorandum gives particular attention to the protection of privacy and confidentiality, and the Mosaic Effect is noted as an issue of particular concern to this goal. Risk minimization guidelines include: collect or create only necessary and useful information; limit collection of identifying information; limit sharing identifying or proprietary information; take into account the levels of risk and potential harm that are associated with the dissemination of particular datasets; and consider information that is already public when releasing de-identified data (that is, be aware of the mosaic effect).
4. Supplemental Guidance on the Implementation of M-13-13 “Open Data Policy – Managing Information as an Asset”
This document, issued in August 2013, provides additional information and establishes minimum requirements for the objectives of the Executive Order and OMB Memorandum M-13-13. Minimum requirements for an Enterprise Data Inventory include submitting a schedule to OMB of how the agency plans to identify all its data; posting all datasets in machine-readable format to Data.gov; and updating the inventory schedule on a quarterly basis. Minimum requirements for a Public Data Listing include publishing all data that are described in the inventory metadata as public and publishing the data listing at www.[agency].gov/data.json. The minimum requirements to engage with customers are establishing a mechanism for receiving and reviewing customer feedback.