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Monday, January 14, 2019 News

A Huge Win for Open Data in the United States

Open Data

President Trump today signed into law the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act, a sweeping, government-wide mandate requiring U.S. federal agencies to publish all non-sensitive government information – including federally-funded research – as open data.

In a truly landmark development, the bill makes permanent the federal government’s commitment to Open Data and an “open by default” policy for all non-sensitive government data. The legislation codifies key pieces of President Obama’s 2013 Open Data Policy Memorandum into law.  Perhaps of most importance to our community, the bill provides crucial definitions of key terminology, including a strong definition of open license requirements, which will help to standardize implementation of open data practices across U.S. agencies. This will be particularly helpful for our efforts to harmonize data sharing practices for research data.

Specifically, the OPEN Government Data Act, which is included as Title II of the broader Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act:

  • Sets foundational expectations for all government data to be made open by default – including federally-funded research data;
  • Calls for government data assets made available by an agency to be published as machine-readable data, in an open format, and under open licenses;
  • Preserves protections for privacy and national security concerns; and,
  • Establishes and formalizes Chief Data Officers (CDO) at federal agencies with data governance and implementation responsibilities.

A section-by-section summary of the bill can be found here.

We’re indebted to the bipartisan leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives who supported and pressed for this legislation, including former Speaker Paul Ryan (WI-R), Senators Patty Murray (WA-D), Brian Schatz (HI-D), and Ben Sasse (NE-R), and Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-D). Passage of this bill would not have been possible without their legislative expertise and persistence up through the waning hours of the 115th Congress. Importantly, all pointed to the positive societal and economic returns as motivators for championing this legislation.

With such strong bipartisan congressional support, the bill signals a growing understanding of the power of using open as an enabling strategy to improve government efficiency and accountability, as well as drive innovation and economic development.

We’re also grateful for the leadership of our colleagues at the Data Coalition who spearheaded the Congressional advocacy efforts on this bill. SPARC joined the Coalition in 2016 specifically to amplify our community’s perspective and interests in legislation like this, and are thrilled to see that membership pay such critical dividends.

SPARC is looking forward to working with the Administration, through the federal agencies, and Congress to help ensure a smooth implementation of this landmark bill. We hope this is just the first of many “Open” wins in 2019, and are committed to doing everything we can to make that vision a reality.

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