In his second inaugural address on January 21st, 2013, President Obama said, “We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government…” In this article, I’ll highlight a few examples of new ideas and technologies being implemented to transform the US government and make it more responsive to the needs of research institutions and research administrators.
Congress.gov website launched by the Library of Congress. This new website will eventually replace the Thomas.gov website, launched in 1995, with new an updated technology and an easier-to-use interface that is accessible on the multitude of devices in use today like cellphones and tablets in addition to laptop and desktop computers.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) moved further toward 100% electronic application submission. During 2012, the NIH began accepting administrative supplement applications electronically, and also started accepting award transfers and successor-in-interest (type 6 and 7) applications electronically. Further, NIH initiated a pilot test of their new ASSIST web-based application submission portal for multi-project applications in January 2013.
The White House initiated We the People, a website for the public to “engage their government on the issues that matter to them”. Users can post petitions and sign those posted by others. An official response will be posted to any petitions that reach the signature threshold. The White House has also released a mobile app and it is just one example of a growing library of mobile applications and websites being provided to put government information in the public’s hands.
SAM– the System for Award Management – is a new web system that came online during 2012 that will eventually consolidate the functions of several pre-existing services: Central Contractor Registry (CCR), Federal Agency Registration (FedReg), Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA), and the Excluded Parties List (EPLS) were consolidated in Phase I into SAM. Later phases will incorporate eSRS (Electronic Subcontracting Reporting System), FPDS (Federal Procurement Data System), WDOL (Wage Determinations OnLine), PPIRS (Past Performance Information Retrieval System), FedBizOpps (Federal Business Opportunities) and CFDA (Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance).
USAspending.gov provides a wealth of information on federal awards, as mandated by the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006. Prime recipient data is provided by federal agencies and sub-recipient data is provided through quarterly reporting by prime awardee institutions.
Recovery.gov provides users with a wealth of data on how Recovery Act funds have been spent. Users can see where Recovery Act funds went, what projects were funded, how many jobs were created and other information about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The data available through Recovery.gov is made possible through quarterly reporting by award recipients and federal agencies. Broadly speaking the Recovery Act reporting process is being considered as a model for the future as part of the DATA Act, which effectively died with the close of the 112th Congress. It seems reasonable to expect that bills will be re-introduced into the Senate and House for consideration again in the 113th Congress, possibly taking into account modifications proposed by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va) when he introduced a Bill into the Senate in September 2012. Senator Warner’s Bill did not include establishing an independent oversight board.
Data.gov provides access to machine-readable datasets that can be used by independent developers to build applications and websites that expand access to important government data in ways beyond those imagined by the government agencies themselves.
Regulations.gov is a web portal providing access to proposed and final rules, notices, scientific and technical findings, and other supporting information. When agencies post a “notice of proposed rulemaking”, for example, you can find and read that notice on Regulations.gov and provide comments to the agency when appropriate.
FOIAonline is a component of the Regulations.gov website focused on managing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from federal agencies. Only a few agencies have signed on to participate in FOIAonline at the present time, but the goal is to develop this into a common portal that would allow users to submit FOIA requests, track the status of those requests, and search for requests submitted by others.
These are just some of the many electronic resources provided by the US Federal Government that may be particularly useful for research administrators.