We Make Access Happen: FOIA Q&A with OGIS Director Alina M. Semo | National Archives

“Sunshine Week (March 12-18) marks the moment every year when researchers, journalists, non-profit groups, and the people who make access to federal records happen spread the word about the importance of open access to public information.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which provides a right of access to federal records, is an important tool for viewing government information.

When Congress amended the FOIA in 2007, it created the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), which is part of the National Archives.

This part of the agency is tasked with reviewing FOIA policies, procedures, and compliance across federal agencies, and also with resolving FOIA disputes between federal agencies and requesters.

OGIS Director Alina M. Semo shares with National Archives News why Sunshine Week is important at the National Archives, what FOIA is, and how the National Archives makes access happen in light of so many requests for information….”

Response to the proposed themes for a 5th U.S. National Action Plan on Open Government – Governing Digital

“Last week, the U.S. government posted a summary of the feedback they have heard on making government more inclusive and responsive and invited the American public to read and share these summaries, and let the White House know what we thought of them by December 9, 2022 by emailing opengov@ostp.eop.gov. The following is the response we sent today….

A new Open Government Directive issued by President Biden that explicitly requires all federal employees to embrace the spirit and principles of open government, from the administration of the Freedom of Information Act to the proactive disclosure of public information to the public in the open, accessible formats required by the Open Government Act to the responsive, collaborative approach to civic engagement and public information that Americans should expect from our public officials and civil servants. Make in press freedom and Internet freedom the planks of a bridge to the next century of access to information. Enshrine public access to public information as a defining priority of this administration, building on the foundations laid by generations past to erect an enduring architecture of open governance for our democracy….”

Ige’s Rationale To Veto The Public Records Bill Doesn’t Pass The Smell Test – Honolulu Civil Beat

“And yet Gov. David Ige is using tortured logic and ignoring solid data in determining that he may veto a bill that would go a long way in increasing transparency in government.

Instead of respecting the facts, the compromises and the hard work that went into the unanimous passage by the Hawaii Legislature in May of Senate Bill 3252 — as well as the broad support from public interest, good government and media groups — Ige appears to have been swayed instead by the irrational fear from his own department heads that the legislation would somehow place an enormous burden on them to respond to public records requests.

SB 3252 would cap the costs charged for reproduction of certain government records and waive all charges when an electronic format is available and when the record’s disclosure is in the public interest….”

Merrick Garland Orders More Open Access to Government Documents – WSJ

“Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal agencies to “apply a presumption of openness” when fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests, after lawmakers pressed him to increase transparency as the denial rate for such inquiries has risen in recent years.

Information that might be considered exempted from release shouldn’t be withheld unless an agency can identify a “foreseeable harm or legal bar to disclosure,” Mr. Garland said in a memo Tuesday….”

Merrick Garland Orders More Open Access to Government Documents – WSJ

“Attorney General Merrick Garland directed federal agencies to “apply a presumption of openness” when fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests, after lawmakers pressed him to increase transparency as the denial rate for such inquiries has risen in recent years.

Information that might be considered exempted from release shouldn’t be withheld unless an agency can identify a “foreseeable harm or legal bar to disclosure,” Mr. Garland said in a memo Tuesday….”

The FBI Is Hiding an Unpublished Police Use-of-Force Database From FOIA Requesters

“For the past several years, the FBI has been trying to collect information from police departments around the country on their use of force, but it has yet to publish any reports or statistics based on that data because of lackluster participation from law enforcement. Now, a civil rights group says the FBI and Justice Department are stonewalling its attempts to get the underlying reports submitted to the program.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has been trying to obtain raw reports from law enforcement agencies submitted to the FBI’s National Use-of-Force Data Collection program. However, the FBI has rejected its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and the Justice Department has denied the Leadership Conference’s appeal.”

Line-by-line data of clinical trial audit – a Freedom of Information request to Health Research Authority – WhatDoTheyKnow

“This FOI is filed on behalf of TranspariMED.

The FOI relates to the HRA’s “Clinical Trial Registration Audit Report” covering trials receiving ethics approval during H1 2018:

Please provide the following information:

1. A copy of the full data set that formed the basis for the report of September 2015, including all lines and columns included in the original data set. Please provide the data in Excel format. In case you do not provide the full data set, please redact (rather than delete) the data fields not released, leaving intact the corresponding line and/or column headings.

2. An estimate of the total HRA staff workload involved in performing this audit, using FTE person-days as the metric.

Please note that in response to a similar previous request, the HRA found that it is in the public interest to release this information:

Please also note that in its previous response (linked above), the HRA provided a data set that was barely usable. Please provide a data set that is comprehensible and fully usable in order to avoid the need to manage a request for internal review….”

Open Access: A citizen’s guide to discovering who holds your info – and what’s in there

“When people think of getting information from public bodies, they often think of Freedom of Information (FOI). But when it comes to accessing records which contain your personal information, there are now more avenues than FOI.

Of course, it’s still a useful route – while many think of the FOI request as the preserve of journalists for stories about politicians’ expenses or the behind the scenes of some dubious government decision, in fact of the nearly 40,000 FOI requests last year, nearly 60% were for personal information….”


Prime minister’s department says granting FOI request on taxpayer-funded research would ‘prejudice’ government | Scott Morrison | The Guardian

“Scott Morrison’s department and his political office have rejected freedom of information requests for access to taxpayer-funded research undertaken by Jim Reed, a long-term researcher for Liberal party pollster Crosby Textor.

Reed, who now runs his own agency, Resolve Strategic, was awarded a $541,750 contract by limited tender in April to undertake market research related to Covid-19 for the prime minister’s department.


Another contract of similar value was awarded to Reed by the Treasury on a recommendation from Morrison’s department. Officials have confirmed the market research has been shared with both the prime minister and treasurer’s offices.

Guardian Australia requested access to the market research and correspondence pertaining to it, but Morrison’s department rejected the application on a number of grounds, including that disclosure would “substantially prejudice the Australia government’s ability and capacity to effectively respond to the most critical issues facing Australia at the current time”. …”

Contracts Library – SPARC

“A number of libraries and consortia have provided the full text of Big Deal licenses. These provide useful information about the terms and conditions publisher may seek to include in their standard agreements. For tips on how to acquire additional contracts not listed here, see our “Freedom of Information Requests” guide. If you have an agreement that can be lawfully shared here, please contact us. We’ve also compilled tips on pushing back against confidentiality clauses and NDAs. …”

Christian Gutknecht on Twitter: “5 months after my FOI request, we finally know what the @unil and the @HEPVaud is paying for Elsevier. #openaccess @OpenScienceUNIL @freiedokumente @smetille https://t.co/J0TT18FTkj https://t.co/wZ9GmLexJb” / Twitter

From Google’s English:  “Your correspondence received on October 11, 2020 has captured our full attention. We have the pleasure to send you the requested information contained in the following document:

• Read & Publish pilot agreement between swissuniversities and Elsevier (“Elsevier

Subscription Agreement ”) for the years 2020-2023, page 12.

The amount that the BCU Lausanne will pay for the perimeter of the University of Lausanne (incl.

HEP Vaud) for the years 2020-2021-2022-2023 for this license amounts to:

2020: EUR 1’229’064.32

(excl. VAT)

2021: EUR 1’253’645.61

(excl. VAT)

2022: EUR 1’281’728.45

(excl. VAT)

2023: EUR 1’307’248.11

(excl. VAT)


We specify that the 2022 and 2023 prices are estimates because they are subject to correction in

according to the effective number of articles published by the University of Lausanne in 2020 and 2021.

Within the meaning of article 12 of the law of 24 September 2002 on information (Llnfo; BLV 170.21),

we are required to provide you with an answer within 15 days of the

receipt of your request. However, given the difficulty in obtaining validations

required, we inform you that we have rendered our decision upon receipt of the

written confirmations from the Data Protection and Right to Information Authority and

the Administrative and Public Law Court of the Cantonal Court that no appeal has been registered.

In compliance with article 11 Llnfo, we hereby confirm that no fee

you will not be asked for the work done to date following your request.”

The first statewide, open access dataset tracking public records requests in New Jersey – ScienceDirect

Abstract:  State freedom of information laws are vital mechanisms for providing public access to government records and supporting civic engagement through the effectuation of a public policy of transparency at the state level within the United States, not unlike their federal counterpart, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). New Jersey state law facilitates public access to government records under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Codified at N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq., OPRA applies to state, county and local public authorities but exempts the judicial and legislative branches from its disclosure requirements. Since OPRA took effect in 2002, it has been difficult to track the full extent of law’s impact across New Jersey’s 21 counties, 565 municipalities, and numerous state agencies, school districts and independent authorities, all of which must individually respond to requests under the law. To the best of the author’s knowledge, no official source has compiled detailed metadata tracking the content and disposition of OPRA requests at the state, regional and municipal levels within New Jersey using individual requests, and authorities rarely proactively disclose their responses to requests they receive, necessitating further data collection to support research into the impacts of this law. This article presents the OPRAmachine dataset: data containing detailed metadata on public records requests submitted to state & local public authorities in New Jersey since October 2017 collected through the implementation of information and communication technologies (ICT) to facilitate the freedom of information request process. The data was collected using an open-source web interface that allowed users to submit an OPRA request to public authorities, with responses stored in a database and made available via the internet. After their request received a response, users were asked to answer a single survey question describing the status of their request, with their answer used to classify the request. Descriptive statistics, tables and frequencies were produced for the dataset and are included in this article. These data will assist state policymakers and other interested parties with assessing trends in OPRA requests across multiple types of public authorities & geographic regions. These data can inform more efficient government records management procedures, foster civic engagement by increasing government transparency and can inform the development of possible reforms to the OPRA law by showing trends in requests & responses that can be used to evaluate the law’s implementation throughout the state.