“Constitution Day” celebrates the ratification of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. On this day, 230 years ago, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention gathered in Philadelphia, PA to sign this landmark document. The Constitution established our national government and fundamental laws, and continues to guarantee basic rights for U.S. citizens. The Bill of Rights became part of the U.S. Constitution in 1791.
You’ve heard the hype about Big Data. But how much of that data is available to the public? Private corporations control the access and distribution of data that they collect, and may be unwilling to share it or may charge high prices. The United States Government, however, has made a broad sweeping commitment to providing public access to data collected by federal agencies.
In 2009 the White House issued the “Open Government Directive” which required each federal agency to take prompt steps to expand access to information by making it available online in open formats. The stated goals of this directive were to increase accountability, promote informed participation by the public, and create economic opportunity.
As a starting point, each agency was required within 45 days to publish online in an open format at least three high-value data sets and register those data sets via Data.gov.
Data.gov was thus launched on May 21, 2009 as the official central portal for identifying open data sets from government agencies. It is updated nightly and currently includes information about 190,000 datasets, from 76 agencies and subagencies, and 56 states and local governments.
The “Open Government Directive” was followed in 2013 by an executive order signed by President Obama that made open and machine-readable data the new default for government information.
In addition to Data.gov, California and San Francisco have also established official portals for sharing government data:
While I was waiting for the bus to come to work at the USF Library this morning, I noticed the front page of today’s Examiner proclaimed, “Sky-high rents: SF tops the nation for median prices.” Naturally I plucked a copy from the newsstand and perused the article; anecdotally we all know it is nearly impossible to afford a rental in San Francisco these days (unless you’re working for one of the tech companies), but what hard data was the Examiner touting?
Turns out the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which samples small parts of the population every year in an effort to keep stats more updated than the usual 10 year Census cycle, released their 3 year estimates from 2010-2012 this week. That’s where the Examiner culled its data from.
The data collected and made available through the American Community Survey is handy for journalists writing news articles in the Examiner, but it is also handy for students writing research papers and preparing other school work.
If you’re itching to find a stat to back up a claim you’ve made, you can access the data from the American Community Survey, as well as the U.S. Census of Population and Housing and the Economic Census, in the database American FactFinder, linked from Gleeson Library Web site and also available through Gleeson’s Government Information portal.
The library subscribes to many other databases with lots of hard statistics as well. One of the quickest ways to find your way to these sources is to visit the library’s Start Your Research / Databases page and type statistics into the search bar at the top of the page. Auto-complete will give you a list of appropriate databases.
Happy Constitution Day, USF! September 17th is the 225th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Now, courtesy of The National Constitution Center, you too can become a signatory of the U.S. Constitution! Sign online at http://constitutioncenter.org/i-signed/
Here’s some Constitution Day trivia to impress your friends:
The U.S. Constitution is the oldest and shortest of all the written national constitutions in the world.
More than 11,000 amendments that have been introduced in Congress, but only 33 have gone to the states to be ratified, and only 27 have received the necessary approval from the states to actually become amendments to the Constitution.
Of the 27 amendments that have been approved, only one has ever been repealed — the Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition).
To get you in the spirit of Constitution Day and geared-up for the November elections (as well as fulfill your need to further procrastinate), here’s a video from The National Constitution Center on the role of the president and the executive branch in the U.S. Government:
For more information about the U.S. Constitution and Constitution Day, see Gleeson Library’s online guide or contact Carol Spector, the library’s Government Information Librarian.
A controversial bill called the “Research Works Act” has been introduced in Congress. This bill would end the current policy (that has been in effect since 2008) that requires any research funded by the NIH be made freely available to the public via Pub Med Central one year after publication in a journal.
The U.S. Constitution is celebrating its 224th birthday on September 17th. Check out recent books on the Constitution which are currently on display at the library. For additional information on the Constitution, see the library’s online guide.