Silo Busting: The Challenges and Successes of Intergovernmental Data Sharing

Report by Jane Wiseman: “Even with the stumbles that have occurred in standing up a national system for sharing pandemic-related health data, it has been far more successful than previous efforts to share data between levels of government—or across government agencies at the same level.

This report offers a rich description of what intergovernmental data sharing can offer by describing a range of federal, state, and local data sharing initiatives in various policy arenas, such as social services, transportation, health, and criminal justice.

The report identifies seven common challenges that serve as barriers to more effective data sharing.  It uses insights developed from the range of case studies to identify key factors for successful intergovernmental data sharing, such as committed leadership, effective processes, and data quality. It then offers a set of recommendations to guide government officials on ways they could undertake data sharing initiatives, along with specific action steps they could take. For example, establishing an “ask once” goal for government data collection in order to reduce burdens on the public and businesses.

We hope this report provides leaders at all levels of government a roadmap that they can use to improve service delivery to the public and businesses, make better decisions about resource allocation in programs, and operate more seamlessly in serving citizens….(More)”.

Crowdsourcing Crime Control

Paper by Wayne A. Logan: “Crowdsourcing, which leverages the collective expertise and resources of (mainly online) communities to achieve specified objectives, today figures prominently in a broad array of realms, including business, human rights, and medical and scientific research. It also now plays a significant role in governmental crime control efforts. Web and forensic–genetic sleuths, armchair detectives, and the like are collecting and analyzing evidence and identifying criminal suspects, at the behest of and with varying degrees of assistance from police officials.

Unfortunately, as with so many other aspects of modern society, current criminal procedure doctrine is ill-equipped to address this development. In particular, for decades it has been accepted that the Fourth Amendment only limits searches and seizures undertaken by public law enforcement, not private actors. Crowdsourcing, however, presents considerable taxonomic difficulty for existing doctrine, making the already often permeable line between public and private behavior considerably more so. Moreover, although crowdsourcing promises considerable benefit as an investigative force multiplier for police, it poses risks, including misidentification of suspects, violation of privacy, a diminution of governmental transparency and democratic accountability, and the fostering of a mutual social suspicion that is inimical to civil society.

Despite its importance, government use of crowdsourcing to achieve crime control goals has not yet been examined by legal scholars. Like the internet on which it predominantly relies, crowdsourcing is not going away; if anything, it will proliferate in coming years. The challenge lies in harnessing its potential, while protecting against the significant harms that will accrue should it go unregulated. This Essay describes the phenomenon and provides a framework for its regulation, in the hope of ensuring that the wisdom of the crowd does not become the tyranny of the crowd….(More)”.

Digital Politics in Canada: Promises and Realities

Book edited by Tamara A. Small and Harold J. Jansen: “Digital Politics in Canada addresses a significant gap in the scholarly literature on both media in Canada and Canadian political science. Using a comprehensive, multidisciplinary, historical, and focused analysis of Canadian digital politics, this book covers the full scope of actors in the Canadian political system, including traditional political institutions of the government, elected officials, political parties, and the mass media. At a time when issues of inclusion are central to political debate, this book features timely chapters on Indigenous people, women, and young people, and takes an in-depth look at key issues of online surveillance and internet voting. Ideal for a wide-ranging course on the impact of digital technology on the Canadian political system, this book encourages students to critically engage in discussions about the future of Canadian politics and democracy….(More)”.

Lawmakers are trying to create a database with free access to court records. Judges are fighting against it.

Ann Marimow in the Washington Post: “Leaders of the federal judiciary are working to block bipartisan legislation designed to create a national database of court records that would provide free access to case documents.

Backers of the bill, who are pressing for a House vote in the coming days, envision a streamlined, user-friendly system that would allow citizens to search for court documents and dockets without having to pay. Under the current system, users pay 10 cents per page to view the public records through the service known as PACER, an acronym for Public Access to Court Electronic Records.

“Everyone wants to have a system that is technologically first class and free,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), a sponsor of the legislation with Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.).

A modern system, he said, “is more efficient and brings more transparency into the equation and is easier on the pocketbooks of regular people.”…(More)”.

The Politics of Technology in Latin America

Book edited by Avery Plaw, Barbara Carvalho Gurgel and David Ramírez Plascencia: “This book analyses the arrival of emerging and traditional information and technology for public and economic use in Latin America. It focuses on the governmental, economic and security issues and the study of the complex relationship between citizens and government.

The book is divided into three parts:

• ‘Digital data and privacy, prospects and barriers’ centers on the debates among the right of privacy and the loss of intimacy in the Internet,

• ‘Homeland security and human rights’ focuses on how novel technologies such as drones and autonomous weapons systems reconfigure the strategies of police authorities and organized crime,

• ‘Labor Markets, digital media and emerging technologies’ emphasize the legal, economic and social perils and challenges caused by the increased presence of social media, blockchain-based applications, artificial intelligence and automation technologies in the Latin American economy….(More)”.

Fixing financial data to assess systemic risk

Report by Greg Feldberg: “The COVID-19 market disruption again highlighted the flaws in the data that the public and the authorities use to assess risks in the financial system. We don’t have the right data, we can’t analyze the data we do have, and there are all sorts of holes. Amidst extreme uncertainty in times like this, market participants need better data to manage their risks, just as policymakers need better data to calibrate their crisis interventions. This paper argues that the new administration should make it a priority to fix financial regulatory data, starting during the transition.

The incoming administration should, first, emphasize data when vetting candidates for top financial regulatory positions. Every agency head should recognize the problem and the roles they must play in the solution. They should recognize how the Evidence Act of 2018 and other recent legislation help define those roles. And every agency head should recognize the role of the Office of Financial Research (OFR) within the regulatory community. Only the OFR has the mandate and experience to provide the necessary leadership to address these problems.

The incoming administration should empower the OFR to do its job and coordinate a systemwide financial data strategy, working with the regulators. That strategy should set a path for identifying key data gaps that impede risk analysis; setting data standards; sharing data securely, among authorities and with the public; and embracing new technologies that make it possible to manage data far more efficiently and securely than ever before. These are ambitious goals, but the administration may be able to accomplish them with vision and leadership…(More)”.

Public Value Science

Barry Bozeman in Issues in Science and Technology: “Why should the United States government support science? That question was apparently settled 75 years ago by Vannevar Bush in Science, the Endless Frontier: “Since health, well-being, and security are proper concerns of Government, scientific progress is, and must be, of vital interest to Government. Without scientific progress the national health would deteriorate; without scientific progress we could not hope for improvement in our standard of living or for an increased number of jobs for our citizens; and without scientific progress we could not have maintained our liberties against tyranny.”

Having dispensed with the question of why, all that remained was for policy-makers to decide, how much? Even at the dawn of modern science policy, costs and funding needs were at the center of deliberations. Though rarely discussed anymore, Endless Frontier did give specific attention to the question of how much. The proposed amounts seem, by today’s standards, modest: “It is estimated that an adequate program for Federal support of basic research in the colleges, universities, and research institutes and for financing important applied research in the public interest, will cost about 10 million dollars at the outset and may rise to about 50 million dollars annually when fully underway at the end of perhaps 5 years.”

In today’s dollars, $50 million translates to about $535 million, or less than 2% of what the federal government actually spent for basic research in 2018. One way to look at the legacy of Endless Frontier is that by answering the why question so convincingly, it logically followed that the how much question could always be answered simply by “more.”

In practice, however, the why question continues to seem so self-evident because it fails to consider a third question, who? As in, who benefits from this massive federal investment in research, and who does not? The question of who was also seemingly answered by Endless Frontier, which not only offered full employment as a major goal for expanded research but also embraced “the sound democratic principle that there should be no favored classes or special privilege.”

But I argue that this principle has now been soundly falsified. In an economic environment characterized by growth but also by extreme inequality, science and technology not only reinforce inequality but also, in some instances, help widen the gap. Science and technology can be a regressivefactor in the economy. Thus, it is time to rethink the economic equation justifying government support for science not just in terms of why and how much, but also in terms of who.

What logic supports my claim that under conditions of conspicuous inequality, science and technology research is often a regressive force? Simple: except in the case of the most basic of basic research (such as exploration of other galaxies), effects are never randomly distributed. Both the direct and indirect effects of science and technology tend to differentially affect citizens according to their socioeconomic power and purchasing power….(More)”.

Open government data, uncertainty and coronavirus: An infodemiological case study

Paper by Nikolaos Yiannakoulias, Catherine E. Slavik, Shelby L. Sturrock, J. Connor Darlington: “Governments around the world have made data on COVID-19 testing, case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths openly available, and a breadth of researchers, media sources and data scientists have curated and used these data to inform the public about the state of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is unclear if all data being released convey anything useful beyond the reputational benefits of governments wishing to appear open and transparent. In this analysis we use Ontario, Canada as a case study to assess the value of publicly available SARS-CoV-2 positive case numbers. Using a combination of real data and simulations, we find that daily publicly available test results probably contain considerable error about individual risk (measured as proportion of tests that are positive, population based incidence and prevalence of active cases) and that short term variations are very unlikely to provide useful information for any plausible decision making on the part of individual citizens. Open government data can increase the transparency and accountability of government, however it is essential that all publication, use and re-use of these data highlight their weaknesses to ensure that the public is properly informed about the uncertainty associated with SARS-CoV-2 information….(More)”

Tackling Societal Challenges with Open Innovation

Introduction to Special Issue of California Management Review by Anita M. McGahan, Marcel L. A. M. Bogers, Henry Chesbrough, and Marcus Holgersson: “Open innovation includes external knowledge sources and paths to market as complements to internal innovation processes. Open innovation has to date been driven largely by business objectives, but the imperative of social challenges has turned attention to the broader set of goals to which open innovation is relevant. This introduction discusses how open innovation can be deployed to address societal challenges—as well as the trade-offs and tensions that arise as a result. Against this background we introduce the articles published in this Special Section, which were originally presented at the sixth Annual World Open Innovation Conference….(More)”.

About: “As of December 2020, we have built a robust, open-source architecture to discover and explore nearly a half million people records and 5 million data points. From archival fragments and spreadsheet entries, we see the lives of the enslaved in richer detail. Yet there’s much more work to do, and with the help of scholars, educators, and family historians, will be rapidly expanding in 2021. We are just getting started….

In recent years, a growing number of archives, databases, and collections that organize and make sense of records of enslavement have become freely and readily accessible for scholarly and public consumption. This proliferation of projects and databases presents a number of challenges:

  • Disambiguating and merging individuals across multiple datasets is nearly impossible given their current, siloed nature;
  • Searching, browsing, and quantitative analysis across projects is extremely difficult;
  • It is often difficult to find projects and databases;
  • There are no best practices for digital data creation;
  • Many projects and datasets are in danger of going offline and disappearing.

In response to these challenges, Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities & Social Sciences at Michigan State University (MSU), in partnership with the MSU Department of History, University of Maryland, and scholars at multiple institutions, developed Enslaved: Peoples of the Historical Slave’s primary focus is people—individuals who were enslaved, owned slaves, or participated in slave trading….(More)”.