Recovery Recommendations From I School Faculty Sent to the US Government

A consortium of 32 public interest groups recommends information and service architectures proposed by I School professors Erik Wilde and Eric Kansa and I School lecturer Raymond Yee to guide transparency measures for the $800 billion federal stimulus package.

In a letter sent Friday to the U.S. Office of Management & Budget (OMB), the Coalition for an Accountable Recovery officially recommended that the OMB incorporate Wilde, Kansa, and Yee's suggestions into its guidance on the implementation of the Recovery Act.

The recommendations focus on the use of data feeds for information transparency and discoverability.  The letter describes feeds by saying that "Data feeds are to the Web what wire services are to newspapers: continuous streams of (structured) information feeding into the same destination. Data feeds using standardized formats can be combined, aggregated, filtered, compared and republished immediately and automatically."

The authors' recommendations include:

  • Feeds should be easy to find. A transparency measure is not effective if it is hidden or remains obscure. Directories of feeds and guidelines for where to publish feeds should be developed.
  • Feeds need to conform to common, open standards (valid Atom).
  • Feeds need to clearly indicate links to retrieve relevant, structured reporting data. This structured data should be in an open XML-format uniformly applied by each agency.
  • Feeds need to archive data so that they not only deliver current information, but also make old entries and associated data easy to retrieve.

The recommendations are a response to the OMB's Initial Implementing Guidance for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, released on February 18, 2009, one day after the Recovery Act became law, and the updated guidelines, issued on April 3, 2009. The agency plans to issue another update in May 2009, based on public input and feedback received by April 17.

The Coalition for an Accountable Recovery is a consortium of 32 public interest groups, formed to promote accountability policies for both government agencies and companies that contract with or benefit from recovery spending. The coalition is sponsored in part by OMB Watch, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that advocates for transparency and accountability in the OMB.

Eric Kansa and Erik Wilde are both adjunct professors at the School of Information and are part of the school's Information & Service Design (ISD) program.  Raymond Yee is a lecturer who teaches the I School course "Mixing and Remixing Information."