New HHS Process for Ongoing Data Prioritization, Release and Monitoring
Equal in importance to the exciting new data sets and tools we are releasing is the new process which we will be implementing at HHS in 2010 for the identification, prioritization, publication, and monitoring of data releases. Since the debut of our initial Open Government Plan on April 7, we have launched this process, which will adhere to the following key principles:
- HHS will continually review current inventories and portfolios of data sets and tools and identify high value data sets and tools for electronic dissemination in support of Transparency and Open Government goals. Reviews are anticipated on a quarterly basis.
- At the planning stage for any new data development endeavor or major revision of existing data development efforts, and throughout the life of the project, HHS will identify opportunities for transparency, data sharing and dissemination though electronic posting of datasets. These dissemination activities will become part of the project or system plan for the data project. Since the debut of our initial Open Government Plan on April 7, we have implemented this guidance as part of our HHS Enterprise Architecture program and incorporated it into the ongoing monitoring of IT projects and investments that are accomplished using HHS’s IT investment life cycle planning and execution processes. As opportunities for data sharing and dissemination are identified, they will be evaluated and adjudicated by the HHS Data Council.
- HHS will protect the confidentiality of individually identifiable information in any public data releases, including publication of data sets on the web. Recognizing that the risks of disclosure of personal identifiable information mount as more and diverse data sets are released into the public domain, HHS will lead and support ongoing research into strategies to protect confidentiality while maintaining public access to data. As new approaches evolve, HHS will incorporate them into its data release policies.
- HHS will consider specific audiences, market segments and communication objectives in its data development and dissemination programs.
- HHS will undertake efforts to foster the use and utility of the data it disseminates publicly through the web and seek feedback from data users.
- HHS will ensure the quality, objectivity, integrity and utility of the substantive data it disseminates through compliance with HHS and Agency Information Quality Guidelines. http://aspe.hhs.gov/infoquality
- HHS will employ feedback, outreach and evaluation mechanisms regarding the value and utility of the information we disseminate and use that information to enhance and improve our data products and services in a continuous quality improvement cycle.
Our updated data sharing process will be enmeshed into the department’s core strategic planning, budgeting, and information technology planning activity in 2010. Key points:
- HHS will embed data experts on the strategic planning and management teams for each of the Secretary’s strategic initiatives and cross-departmental priorities. The role of the data experts will be to 1) provide each strategic planning team with knowledge of current HHS data and information relating to the specific initiative, 2) assess data needs, gaps and opportunities, 3) develop plans and recommendations regarding the evaluation and performance information that will be used to implement and assess progress on the initiative, and 4) proactively identify and actively promote ways of sharing existing and new data with the public and key audiences in ways that adhere to transparency principles and advance the initiative. HHS’s Data Council will identify one or more experts for each initiative who will bring not only subject matter knowledge to the team but will also serve as a resource regarding available HHS data systems which may support the initiative as well as principles of performance measures, evaluation and information quality. The data experts themselves will convene on a regular basis as a cross-HHS team to coordinate their work and share best practices across the department. Plans and recommendations emerging from each initiative will be employed by the HHS Data Council in its overall data planning and investment priorities.
- Data production and sharing opportunities proactively targeted by each Secretarial initiative will be added to an ongoing stream of new data sets identified for publication on Data.gov through regular portfolio reviews conducted by each HHS agency and office and coordinated by the Data Council and CIO Council. The Data Council will ensure that data releases are screened for quality, privacy, security, and confidentiality risks before release. Data releases will be prioritized based on alignment with HHS’s strategic goals.
- At the planning stage for any new data development endeavor or major revision of existing data development efforts, and throughout the life of the project, HHS will proactively identify opportunities for transparency, data sharing and dissemination through electronic posting of datasets on Data.gov. These dissemination activities will become part of the project or system plan for the data project. This new aspect of data and systems planning will be incorporated into the core management processes, templates and criteria utilized by HHS’s information technology, investment review, and budgeting processes.
- Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are one of the most reliable ways to know what information the public wants. HHS will establish governance within its FOIA operations to promote the proactive publishing of information and include FOIA officers across the department in transparency and data sharing planning activities. This approach will not only improve public access to information but could also help reduce the FOIA request backlog.
- Records Management – the Open Government Directive requires that if an agency keeps records in an electronic format (including those available online), it should develop a plan for the timely publication of the underlying data in an open, easily-discoverable format, and “as granular as possible." HHS programs will analyze which records can be appropriately published and will develop a method to satisfy this Open Government requirement as we move forward with advancing the records management program. This activity will also assist in reducing the FOIA backlog, since some of the requests for information that HHS receives from the public are related to information that is contained in departmental records. HHS is engaged in an analysis of the current process for managing records and extending that process to the future of records management as a largely electronic process. This analysis will include an evaluation of which HHS electronic records may be the best candidates for publication to and review by the public.
- The Data Council will continue to oversee and manage the process of releasing information assembled via all of the sources above on our Open Government website, Data.gov and other mechanisms.
- A key principle underlying our Open Government work is promoting transparency while maintaining confidentiality. This will require an ongoing effort involving those developing the data and data users and is made all the more challenging by the increasing amount of data from a wide variety of sources that conceivably could be linked to confidential data. The linkage could yield valuable insights but could also lead to the disclosure of confidential information. This challenge is shared by agencies across the government. HHS will work with other agencies to develop confidentiality safeguards for data submitted to Data.gov that will increase the amount and scope of data disseminated while developing ways of preserving the confidentiality of the data's sources, whether individuals or businesses.
- HHS will engage in a proactive new program of monitoring, stimulating, and incorporating innovative and beneficial uses of our data.
- Beginning 3Q 2010, on our Open Government website and through systematic dialogue with key stakeholder groups (overseen by our Data Council), we will solicit examples of how our data has been used to generate benefit. We will seek to compile at least 30 such examples (insights, applications, visualizations, etc.) by the end of 2010 for publication on our Open Government website. This will help us shape our future data release strategy on an ongoing basis.
- We will establish an online forum in 3Q 2010 on our Open Government website that facilitates public discussion of barriers to innovation using our data (e.g., data format, lack of metadata, etc.). Through this forum and other channels, we will seek to gather a list of at least 10 such barriers for publication and discussion of next steps on our Open Government website by the end of 2010.
- Leveraging the new “challenges and prizes” platform to be made available across the government, we will initiate an “HHS Apps Challenge” – a public competition for the most innovative and beneficial applications built utilizing our data. Since the debut of our initial Open Government Plan, we have already executed two such challenges and launched a third:
- A competition for best visualization of community health data as part of the Sunlight Foundation’s Design for America competition -- see http://sunlightlabs.com/blog/2010/design-america-winners/ for results, announced at the end of May
- As part of this Community Health Data Initiative, HHS has collaborated with Health 2.0, Sunlight Foundation, and others to launch a third challenge, the Health 2.0 2010 Developer Challenge (www.health2challenge.org), with resulting applications to be showcased at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco in October
- Through the Community Health Data Initiative (a core “Open Government Flagship Initiative,” described in that section of our Open Government Plan), we are pioneering an approach that seeks both to (1) make key HHS data available and easy to access by the public and (2) proactively encourage a growing array of innovators from the worlds of technology, business, academia, public health, and health care to engage with the data and turn it into applications that create significant and growing public benefit
- The Initiative embodies the philosophy of “open data” and data sharing that is at the heart of our Open Government Plan. The core principle is that the government can help trigger enormous public good by implementing the idea of “government as platform,” supplying ever greater amounts of high quality, free government data to the public and marketing the availability of this data – which can then be turned into useful insights, applications, products, and services by private and public sector innovators from across the country, working with engaged consumers, providers, civic leaders, employers, researchers, and others
- The creation of a public-private “ecosystem” of data supply and use is the central objective of the initiative. We are proactively marketing HHS data on community health care, health, and health determinant indicators to innovators who can turn it into applications and programs that benefit the public. We are evangelizing energetically on behalf of the Initiative at conferences and other public forums and on the web, seeking to get many organizations and individuals outside HHS interested in participating in the Initiative’s ecosystem. We are working closely with organizations such as the Institute of Medicine and Health 2.0 to hammer out how we can all facilitate the ecosystem’s growth and development
- As showcased at the June 2 Community Health Data Forum, co-hosted by the Institute of Medicine and HHS, the Community Health Data Initiative is off to a very exciting start (see http://www.hhs.gov/open/datasets/initiative_launch.html). At this event, attended by 400 people in person and 300 people online, innovators demonstrated more than a dozen amazing applications that had been built or significantly improved using HHS data in less than 90 days, in response to an initial challenge issued by HHS in March
- We are setting the goal of at least 100 organizations meaningfully involved in the Community Health Data Initiative by June 2011 – defined as supplying data to the Initiative ecosystem or having built applications as part of the ecosystem
- We are also energetically exploring the potential of Semantic Web to enhance the value of our data and the ability of the public to engage with it. At its heart, the Semantic Web is an innovative extension of standard Web technologies to better deal with data on the Web, by providing a means to give Web addresses to data elements so they can be linked. As the Web of linked documents evolves to include the Web of linked data, we're working to maximize the potential of Semantic Web technologies and realize the promise of Linked Open Government Data at HHS. Since the one year anniversary of the launch of Data.gov this past May 2010, Data.gov is now one of the largest providers of semantic data. HHS is pleased to be leading this community of practice and their collaborative activities inside the Data.gov Program Management Office. In addition, we are working across HHS to best leverage the opportunities that this technology presents to linking HHS open government data across agencies, leveraging our federal government-wide Open Government for Health workgroup and Data Council to catalyze and coordinate these efforts. We believe that data quality and value will improve as more people engage with the data. In light of this, we'll begin to explore social media tools to facilitate the creation of metadata vocabularies and curation of their corresponding instance datasets, with both seen as objects of social collaboration. We think that the 'Social Data Web', where we combine the features and capabilities of the Social Web and the Web of Data, is a powerful idea that will lower our coordination costs and allow independent evolution and interlinking across government information domains while enhancing data quality. There are inspiring examples of socially managed data sites and many existing and emerging tools with strong Semantic Web support to leverage that we intend to explore in the future.
- By employing these processes for ongoing data prioritization, release, and monitoring, HHS intends to increase the value produced by its information resources in several ways. Consumers will be able to access information and benefit directly from using it personally, as when somebody planning to travel familiarizes themselves with disease risks and vaccinations. Beyond that type of use, HHS intends for the information to prove valuable for improving public administration, positively impacting how we and other levels of government can deliver services and accomplish our missions more effectively, more efficiently, more rapidly, and with higher levels of customer satisfaction. A third source of value is the ability for our information to bring new transparency to the health and health care sectors, helping generate insights and spark action to improve performance. A fourth source of benefit is the value of our information to research -- the ability of those discovering and applying scientific knowledge to locate, combine, and share potentially relevant information across disciplines to accelerate progress. Finally, we intend for our massive public information resources to have entrepreneurial value, to serve as a well-maintained community asset available to catalyze the development of new products and services that benefit the public and, in the process of doing so, generate private market economic growth fueled by innovation.