screenshot of report

The National Academy of Sciences in the U.S. has just published a new report, The Socioeconomic Effects of Public Sector Information on Digital Networks, edited by Paul Uhlir from the U.S. National Committee for CODATA.

There are lots of interesting contributions in the report, including from OKF Advisory Board member Chris Corbin, Communia Coordinator Juan Carlos De Martin, and Michael Nicholson of the PSI Alliance (who spoke at the 5th Communia workshop), as well as representatives of the UK’s Office of Public Sector Information and the Office of Fair Trading, and the U.S.’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Particularly interesting was Nancy Weiss from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’s quotations from Circular No. A-130, a U.S. government memorandum from 1996:

b. Government information is a valuable national resource. It provides the public with knowledge of the government, society, and economy — past, present, and future. It is a means to ensure the accountability of government, to manage the government’s operations, to maintain the healthy performance of the economy, and is itself a commodity in the marketplace.

c. The free flow of information between the government and the public is essential to a democratic society. It is also essential that the government minimize the Federal paperwork burden on the public, minimize the cost of its information activities, and maximize the usefulness of government information.

d. In order to minimize the cost and maximize the usefulness of government information, the expected public and private benefits derived from government information should exceed the public and private costs of the information, recognizing that the benefits to be derived from government information may not always be quantifiable.

e. The nation can benefit from government information disseminated both by Federal agencies and by diverse nonfederal parties, including State and local government agencies, educational and other not-for-profit institutions, and for-profit organizations.

f. Because the public disclosure of government information is essential to the operation of a democracy, the management of Federal information resources should protect the public’s right of access to government information.

k. The open and efficient exchange of scientific and technical government information, subject to applicable national security controls and the proprietary rights of others, fosters excellence in scientific research and effective use of Federal research and development funds.

In Part Three’s “Measuring the Social and Economic Costs and Benefits of Public Sector Information Online: A Review of the Literature and Future Directions”, there is also an interesting review of relevant work from 1998-2008.

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Dr. Jonathan Gray is Lecturer in Critical Infrastructure Studies at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London, where he is currently writing a book on data worlds. He is also Cofounder of the Public Data Lab; and Research Associate at the Digital Methods Initiative (University of Amsterdam) and the médialab (Sciences Po, Paris). More about his work can be found at and he tweets at @jwyg.

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