Call to action: Tell Congress you support the Bipartisan Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR)
Today (February 14, 2013), Senators Cornyn (R-TX) and Wyden (D-OR) and Representatives Doyle (D-PA), Yoder (R-KS), and Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act, a bill that will accelerate scientific discovery and fuel innovation by making articles reporting on publicly funded scientific research freely accessible online for anyone to read and build upon.
Every year, the federal government funds over sixty billion dollars in basic and applied research. FASTR will make these articles freely available for all potential users to read and ensure that articles can be fully used in the digital environment, enabling the use of new computational analysis tools that promise to revolutionize the research process.
Open Access Journal PeerJ Publishes First Articles
Multidisciplinary Open Access journal publisher PeerJ announced the publication of its first 30 peer-reviewed articles today. Co-founders Jason Hoyt, formerly chief scientist and VP for research and development for Mendeley, and Peter Binfield, formerly publisher of the Public Library Of Science (PLOS), launched PeerJ in June 2012. They quickly garnered support for the project, ultimately assembling an Editorial Board of 800 academics and an advisory board of 20 – five of whom are Nobel Laureates. PeerJ is now hoping that its business model can help make academic publishing more efficient and less expensive for both researchers and libraries.
California bill to release the state’s building codes online for free
Assemblyman Brian Nestande of California has introduced Assembly Bill 292, which would open source the California Code of Regulations (including the Building Codes!!). The summary reads: "This bill would provide that the full text of the California Code of Regulations shall bear an open access creative commons attribution license, allowing any individual, at no cost, to use, distribute, and create derivative works based on the material for either commercial or noncommercial purposes."
New GPO report suggests charging taxpayers twice for government info
The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) recently released their congressionally mandated report, Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age. NAPA’s five-member panel spent ten months conducting an audit of the Government Printing Office (GPO). The panel’s lengthy 166 page report does present some interesting, and at times, troubling thoughts.
On one hand the panel definitely grasps the difficult position that GPO is in considering that, with 97% percent of today’s federal documents are born digital, the GPO has had to make many changes over the past two decades. While much of the report is reasonable and responds to the needs of libraries, the public, and GPO itself, the section in Finding III-5, Government Information Dissemination and Access, is cause for concern. It gives some ideas on how GPO might ensure funding for FDsys in the future. One of these ideas is that "now might be the time to revisit charging the public for access to FDsys content."
What’s the Difference Between an Executive Order and a Directive?
The Obama Administration issued policy statements this week on critical infrastructure protection and cyber security, including measures to encourage information sharing with the private sector and other steps to improve policy coordination. Curiously, the Administration issued both an Executive order and a Presidential directive devoted to these topics.
"There are probably two significant differences between an EO and a PD, at least to my understanding," said Harold Relyea, who served for decades as a Specialist in American National Government at the Congressional Research Service. "First, in almost all cases, for an EO to have legal effect, it must be published in the Federal Register. Second, is the matter of circulation and accountability. EOs are circulated to general counsels or similar agency attorneys, which can be readily accomplished by FR publication. Again, a PD may be more selectively circulated, and this is done through developed routing procedures."
CISPA is Back; All Your Data Are Belong to Us
Barely a year after the defeat of SOPA, Congress is back to testing the waters for legislation that many internet users believe to be in violation of their fundamental rights to privacy and free expression. CISPA, a bill that would make it easier for corporations and the government to share internet users’ personal data, was officially re-introduced in the House on Wednesday. It’s already being rushed forward in the legislative process. The House Intelligence Committee is holding a full hearing on the bill today [Feb. 14] at 10 am. They will hear from four witnesses – all from the business sector and all known supporters of CISPA. No experts with concerns about privacy issues in the bill were invited to address the committee.
Mandatory Black Boxes in Cars Raise Privacy Questions
The Electronic Frontier Foundation urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today to include strict privacy protections for data collected by vehicle "black boxes" to protect drivers from long-term tracking as well as the misuse of their information.
Black boxes, more formally called event data recorders (EDRs), can serve a valuable forensic function for accident investigations, because they can capture information like vehicle speed before the crash, whether the brake was activated, whether the seat belt was buckled, and whether the airbag deployed. NHTSA is proposing the mandatory inclusion of black boxes in all new cars and light trucks sold in America. But while the proposed rules would require the collection of data in at least the last few seconds before a crash, they don’t block the long-term monitoring of driver behavior or the ongoing capture of much more private information like audio, video, or vehicle location.
Egyptian Court Orders 30-Day Ban On YouTube Over Hosting "The Innocence of Muslims" Video and There’s Plenty of Blame to Go Around
This weekend, the Cairo Administrative Court issued a 30-day ban order on YouTube and all other websites that host or link to content from the anti-Islam film "The Innocence of Muslims," which was protested worldwide after footage from the trailer was shown on Egyptian television. The court’s ruling may force the hand of the National Telecom Regulation Authority and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which have refrained from pursuing such a ban themselves.
It is unclear what the court hopes to gain by temporarily blocking access to YouTube. YouTube had voluntarily blocked access to the video in Libya and Egypt in mid-September – a clear breach of Google’s own policy of only removing content if it is found to be in violation on their Terms of Service or in response to a valid court order.
Freedom of Information
Congress Asking the Right Questions on FOIA
A recent letter from Congress to the Justice Department represents a positive development toward strengthening the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The letter (PDF), sent Feb. 4 by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asks what steps the government is taking on a number of key transparency improvements. The reforms, if implemented, could significantly improve the public’s access to information about critical topics such as food safety, compliance with environmental standards, and special interest influence in government decision making.
Open government advocates praised the letter. The Sunshine in Government Initiative said the letter asks "pointed questions," and the Washington Examiner’s Mark Tapscott wrote that it "could be the most comprehensive congressional review [of FOIA] in three decades."
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The Intersect Alert is a newsletter of the Government Relations Committee, San Francisco Bay Region Chapter, Special Libraries Association.