Our mission

Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Law Library of Congress deposits their legal reports in HeinOnline

According to a new post on the Law Library of Congress In Custodia Legis blog, the Law Library of Congress Legal Reports are now being made available on the subscription legal database HeinOnline. They state that they will continue to publish these important historical legal reports on their law.gov site. There are currently 4072 reports on law.gov.

Please note that HeinOnline is a subscription database — and one to which my library has long subscribed and for good reason! — so these law reports are only freely available via the LOC site. I hope the Law Library will continue to make their legal reports freely available via law.gov. It would be a travesty if these public domain legal reports were sequestered behind a subscription pay wall thus taking them out of the public domain for all intents and purposes.

The benefit of having them on HeinOnline is that researchers with institutional access to Hein can find LOC legal reports within a wider corpus of legal materials including case law, law reviews, US code, US Serial Set, international resources and a whole host of other special and specialized legal collections. HeinOnline also makes bibliographic records available so that libraries can include those materials in their library catalogs. But that benefit does not extend to the general public — unless the general public were to go into an Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) library near them (many if not all of the academic and legal libraries who are FDLP members will also subscribe to HeinOnline and allow on-site access to their subscription databases 😉 ).

Among the many resources that the Law Library is renowned for is the preparation of legal reports on foreign, comparative, and international law topics. As we continue to publish contemporary and historical legal reports on law.gov on a weekly basis, the Law Library of Congress is proud to announce that our legal reports will now also be accessible via HeinOnline. These reports are written by foreign law specialists at the Law Library and cover 300+ jurisdictions, addressing specific legal issues in a particular country or providing a comparative analysis of legal and legislative approaches to an individual problem across a multitude of countries. They are often written in response to requests from Congress or executive branch agencies and may be cited as expert resources. Some of the reports on the Law Library’s website date back to the 1940s, providing a historical glimpse into important legal questions from that time.

To access the Law Library of Congress Legal Reports when visiting HeinOnline, you can simply search “Law Library of Congress Legal Reports,” or browse the databases by name where the Law Library of Congress is currently at the bottom of the left column … The oldest law report in the collection was published in 1911, and there are currently 4,000 legal reports published by the Law Library of Congress on HeinOnline.

Impact of the 2022 OSTP memo: A bibliometric analysis of US federally funded publications, 2017–2021

On August 25, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a memo (“Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research” or the “Nelson Memo” after OSTP director Alondra Nelson *) regarding public access to scientific research. This updated guidance eliminated the 12-month embargo period on publications arising from U.S. federal funding that had been allowed from a previous 2013 OSTP memo (citation: Holdren, J. (2013). Increasing access to the results of federally funded scientific research (notice the obamawhitehouse.archives.gov url 😉 ).

Using the Nelson memo as a jumping off place, Eric Schares, the Engineering & Collection Analysis Librarian at Iowa State University, did some very interesting analysis on the characteristics of US federally funded research for the period 2017 – 2021. He also helpfully made interactive versions of the graphs available at https://ostp.lib.iastate.edu/. This article was published open access, so it should be freely available at https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00237.

Citation: Eric Schares; Impact of the 2022 OSTP memo: A bibliometric analysis of US federally funded publications, 2017–2021. Quantitative Science Studies 2023; 4 (1): 1–21. doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/qss_a_00237

This study seeks to more deeply investigate the characteristics of U.S. federally funded research over a 5-year period from 2017–2021 to better understand the updated guidance’s impact. It uses a manually created custom filter in the Dimensions database to return only publications that arise from U.S. federal funding. Results show that an average of 265,000 articles were published each year that acknowledge US federal funding agencies, and these research outputs are further examined by publisher, journal title, institutions, and Open Access status. Interactive versions of the graphs are available at https://ostp.lib.iastate.edu/.

*Here is the archived link to the Nelson memo archived in the wayback machine because the base domain will change from whitehouse.gov to bidenwhitehouse.archives.gov at the end of the Biden administration.

ProPublica report shows long-standing ethics violations of Justice Thomas

A new bombshell report by ProPublica entitled “Clarence Thomas and the Billionaire” claims that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has long accepted but not reported lavish gifts of travel and lodging from a Republican megadonor named Harlan Crow.

According to this 2022 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report entitled “A Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court? Legal Questions and Considerations,” Supreme Court Justices are not held to the same ethics rules and standards compared to judges at other levels of the federal judiciary. But they are supposed to submit submit financial disclosures. Justice Thomas seems to have flaunted those minuscule ethics rules. His actions have repeatedly shown in recent years that perhaps there needs to be more strict ethics rules – and consequences! – for Supreme Court justices.

Happy 2023! The state of government information in 2023

Happy new year 2023! We hope all our readers had a relaxing holiday break and are ready to get back to the important work of preserving government information and assuring its long-term access!

In the latest First Branch Forecast — you really should subscribe to this important newsletter if you haven’t already! — a side comment about the findings of the January 6th Committee caught our attention. In discussing the release of the COmmittee’s final reports, as well as the many witness transcripts, Daniel Schuman noted “We’re linking to the PDF on the Wayback Machine because the Committee’s website will be toast in early January.”

This is the troubling reality we find ourselves in. Digital government information turns out to be extremely fragile and reliant on the political winds of Washington DC. The Government Publishing Office (GPO) captured the committee’s final report and various hearings (though NOT the various witness testimony transcripts that the committee has released to its website (of which I’m also linking to the Wayback Machine!)), the final report has already been published by a private company (in this case the New Yorker and Celadon Books), and the report will no doubt be be saved by Library of Congress, NARA, and various libraries around the country. But each of those will have their own URL rather than the official URL from the actual committee that did the work. It would be amazing if there were a system of permanent URLs (called PIDs) that stay permanent and point to all the copies in the same way that DOIs work for journal articles. I and many of my depository library colleagues are working hard on putting a system like this in place for US government information. It was one of FGI’s resolutions for 2020 and I’ve been busy working on the Depository Library Council (DLC) Working Group Exploring the Durability of PURLs and Their Alternatives (charge). The working group is finishing up its work and will soon release its final report and recommendations.

Let’s hope that 2023 is the year that electronic government information is collected, preserved, and made easily accessible for the public!

Government information in the news for 2022

The American Library Association’s Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) (of which I’m a member) has just published a solid list of government publications that made the news in 2022. Many thanks to Susanne Caro for putting together this guide, with submissions by Ben Amata, David Durant, Patrice McDermott, Albert Chapman, Vicki Tate, Ronnie Joiner, and Toby Green! While many of the publications were related to the investigation of documents illegally squirreled away at Mar-a-Lago (and which are helpfully separated in the right column of the guide), there were other publications that one might not even think of as “government publications” including the amazing first images from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope Webb Space Telescope.

First images of the Webb space telescope

Throughout the year government information specialists share document mentioned in the news. One of these individuals is Ben Amata who shares many articles and whose submissions make up the majority of these.

This years submission come from Ben Amata, David Durant, Patrice McDermott, Albert Chapman, Vicki Tate, Ronnie Joiner, and Toby Green.

Andrew Dudash, librarian at Penn State University Libraries has been working on a project to capture federal documents in the news. This great collection includes stories from previous years and is a great resource,

There are 100 stories listed but these are only a sample of documents that made the news. Of these there are 33 that are just related to the investigation of documents at Mar-a-Lago and those are in a separate section to the right.