Friday, June 12, 2015

New Strategic Plan for the National Library of Medicine

According to a June 11, 2015 press release, the National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D, released a new strategic vision for the National Library of Medicine (NLM) created by a NLM Working Group. The vision will help ensure that NLM "remains an international leader in biomedical and health information." The Working Group believes "NLM has an important opportunity to play a key leadership role in one of the most exciting periods of biomedical history: data science is increasing rapidly, computational power is expanding at a breathtaking pace, the breadth and depth of digital health data are undergoing unprecedented and accelerating growth, a movement towards more interdisciplinary work and team science continues to gain momentum, a broad commitment to open science is becoming increasingly adopted, and the demand for services to support an ever more engaged and informed public is expanding." The group made six broad recommendations:
  • RECOMMENDATION #1. NLM must continually evolve to remain a leader in assimilating and disseminating accessible and authoritative biomedical research findings and trusted health information to the public, healthcare professionals, and researchers worldwide.
  • RECOMMENDATION #2. NLM should lead efforts to support and catalyze open science, data sharing, and research reproducibility, striving to promote the concept that biomedical information and its transparent analysis are public goods.
  • RECOMMENDATION #3. NLM should be the intellectual and programmatic epicenter for data science at NIH and stimulate its advancement throughout biomedical research and application.
  • RECOMMENDATION #4. NLM should strengthen its role in fostering the future generation of professionals in biomedical informatics, data science, library sciences, and related disciplines through sustained and focused training efforts.
  • RECOMMENDATION #5. NLM should maintain, preserve, and make accessible the nation’s historical efforts in advancing biomedical research and medicine, thereby ensuring that this legacy is both safe and accessible for long-term use.
  • RECOMMENDATION #6. New NLM leadership should evaluate what talent, resources, and organizational structures are required to ensure NLM can fully achieve its mission and best allocate its resources.

To see more including breakdowns within the recommendation, access the full report (PDF).

Friday, May 29, 2015

Sunlight Foundation Creating Database for Criminal Justice Data

The Sunlight Foundation, a national non-partisan, nonprofit organization committed to open government, has created an inventory of publicly and privately produced criminal justice data as the first step to creating a database. The inventory, Opening Criminal Justice Data, shows what data has been collected so far and provides an opportunity for people to submit their own data, statistics or a finished report. However, no information is given on the main page about how these submissions will be evaluated. Links to data and reports already submitted can be accessed by opening the Google spreadsheet. Most of the reports presently available are from official government agencies.

Audit of the Management of the International Space Station National Laboratory

The General Accounting Office (GA0) released a report covering the April 2014 to April 2015 management of the ISS (International Space Station) National Laboratory. The Highlights section of the report, International Space Station: Measurable Performance Targets and Documentation Needed to Better Assess Management of National Laboratory, explains the purpose of the audit and provides recommendations:
Why GAO Did This Study

The U.S. has spent almost $43 billion to develop, assemble, and operate the ISS over the past two decades. The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 required NASA to enter into a cooperative agreement with a not-for-profit entity to manage the ISS National Laboratory and in 2011 did so with CASIS. CASIS is charged with maximizing use of the ISS for scientific research by executing several required activities. Recently, questions have arisen about the progress being made to implement the required activities and the impact it has had on ISS’s return on the investment.

GAO was asked to report on the progress of CASIS’s management of the ISS National Laboratory. GAO assessed the extent to which (1) CASIS has implemented the required management activities, and (2) NASA and CASIS measure and assess CASIS’s performance. To perform this work, GAO reviewed the cooperative agreement between NASA and CASIS, CASIS’s annual program plans, and other documentation and interviewed ISS, CASIS, and NASA officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends NASA fully staff the ISS National Laboratory Advisory Committee; NASA and CASIS work together to develop measurable targets for CASIS’s metrics; and NASA begin documenting its annual review of CASIS’s performance. NASA partially concurred and CASIS did not concur with the first recommendation, but concurred with the other two. GAO continues to believe the first recommendation is valid, as discussed further in the report.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Massive National Recall of Takata Air Bags

According to a May 19, 2015 news release, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a national recall of certain types of driver and passenger side air bag inflators made by Takata. The recall, which started with those at highest risk due to age of vehicle and areas of high absolute humidity, is now nationwide with about 34 million vehicles involved. Even if your vehicle is not listed at present, the NHTSA advises you to keep checking the website as new entries continue to be added. The new website created to provide regular updates on the status of this and other recalls is

Thursday, April 30, 2015

New Fair Use Index from the U.S. Copyright Office

The U.S. Copyright Office has created a Fair Use Index "to make the principles and application of fair use more accessible and understandable to the public by presenting a searchable database of court opinions, including by category and type of use (e.g., music, internet/digitization, parody)." It includes a wide selection of cases regarding fair use (but not all) and is not a substitute for legal advice. Each decision includes "a brief summary of the facts, the relevant question(s) presented, and the court’s determination as to whether the contested use was fair." Browse all the cases, search for specific cases or review cases from specific courts. Usually only the highest court decision issued in a case is included. The index does not include the court opinions themselves, but provides citations to access those opinions through other free (Google Scholar, Justia, etc.) or commercial databases (Westlaw, LEXIS, etc.).

Monday, April 27, 2015

Humor EPA Style

Need a chuckle? The EPA has created a booklet of trash-related jokes entitled "American the Beautiful: a Collection of the Nation's Trashiest Humor." It's available for download from as a PDF, TIFF, or unformatted text.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Cuba: Issues for the 114th Congress

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report on April 17, 2015 entitled Cuba: Issues for the 114th Congress. The introduction states:
This report is divided into three major sections analyzing Cuba’s political and economic environment, U.S. policy toward Cuba, and selected issues in U.S.-Cuban relations. While legislative initiatives are noted throughout the report where appropriate, a final section of the report provides a listing of bills and resolutions introduced in the 114th Congress.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Importance of Data Occupations in the U.S. Economy

The Economics and Statistics Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce released a March 12, 2015 report entitled The Importance of Data Occupations in the U.S. Economy. The report identifies "occupations where data analysis and processing are central to the work performed" and measures "the size of employment and earnings in these occupations, as well as in the industries that have the highest concentration of these data occupations."

The key findings of the report are:
  • Employment where data is central to the job was about 10.3 million in 2013 (of which 1.6 million were government workers), or about 7.8 percent of all employment. However, including occupations where working with data is at least an important part of the job dramatically increases that number: to 74.3 million jobs, or over half of the workforce.
  • Hourly wages for private-sector workers in data occupations, which are concentrated in the broad categories of business and computer/mathematical occupations, averaged $40.30 in 2013, about 68 percent higher for all occupations
  • For these top data occupations, two-thirds or more of the workers have at least a college degree; in comparison about one-third of workers across all occupations have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Private sector industries with the highest concentration of data occupations added 1.8 million jobs over the last decade, representing about 31 percent of total private job growth which was four times faster than in private industries overall
  • Data intensive industries are located in many states, but the highest concentrations are in Washington, D.C.; Virginia; Massachusetts; Maryland; and Connecticut.