Section III: Steps Taken to Increase Proactive Disclosures
Please answer the following questions to describe the steps your agency has taken to increase the amount of material that is available on your agency websites. In addition to the questions below, you should also describe any additional steps taken by your agency to make and improve proactive disclosures of information.
- Describe your agency's process or system for identifying "frequently requested" records required to be posted online under Subsection (a)(2) of the FOIA. For example, does your agency monitor its FOIA logs or is there some other system in place to identify these records for posting.
Yes. The Department employs a number of ways to identify records for proactive disclosure. OpDivs frequently use the established threshold of three requests for the same information to identify records of substantial public interest, either through manually tracking FOIA requests or from identifying requests for the same records from an electronic tracking system. Additionally, information is gathered from program areas and offices about significant policy documents that may be candidates for proactive disclosure. Public affairs and communications staff also provide input and suggestions for department records that may be proactively disclosed.
- Does your agency have a distinct process or system in place to identify other records for proactive disclosure? If so, please describe your agency’s process or system.
- Please note that this question is directed towards proactive disclosure of records that go beyond frequently requested records required to be posted under Subsection (a)(2) of the FOIA.
As communicated in the DHHS Open Government Plan, the department is committed to making health and human service data open and easily accessible, as evidenced by DHHS websites such as www.healthdata.gov and the OpDiv research resources at http://www.hhs.gov/programs/research/research-hhs-operating-divisions.html. In addition, department program areas or components may have records or data that they are considering making publicly available, and may contact their FOIA Office if they have concerns or questions regarding disclosure. The FOIA Offices within the Department encourage proactive posting of information.
- When making proactive disclosures of records, are your agency's FOIA professionals involved in coding the records for Section 508 compliance or otherwise preparing them for posting? If so, provide an estimate of how much time is involved for each of your FOIA professionals and your agency overall.
- Please note that this question is directed at the efforts of actually posting the records online once all disclosure determinations have been made. For example, efforts to load the records in your web content platform or making the releasable documents accessible in compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The Department’s professional FOIA staff are not routinely involved in the mechanics of coding or converting records into a format that is 508 compliant. CMS indicated that some of their FOIA staff have conducted 508 compliance checks. As indicated by our response to Question 5 below, making certain types of department records 508 compliant presents challenges.
- Has your agency encountered challenges that make it difficult to post records you otherwise would like to post?
Yes; please see the Department’s response to Question 5 below.
- If so, please briefly explain those challenges.
The Department has found that making documents and records compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act continues to be a challenge for many OpDivs, as remediation can be both technically challenging, expensive, and lengthy. For example, charts, graphs, handwritten notes, illustrations, tables, scientific formulae, and photographic and scientific images all present significant challenges and, in some cases are virtually impossible, to make Section 508 accessible.
- Provide examples of material that your agency has proactively disclosed during the past reporting year, including links to the posted material.
CDC proactively posted the information about the following subjects on the CDC web site at http://www.cdc.gov/od/foia/signfoi.htm : 3M respirators; credit card holders of the CDC; FOIA request logs; 2014 West Virginia Chemical Release; Chinese drywall, and; FOIA Response Performance.
CMS proactive disclosures included the following:
- https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Regulations-and-Guidance/Downloads/OOP-Cost-Comparison-Tool-Bulletin_06-03-2015.pdf (Bulletin describing a cost comparison tool for plan shoppers in the FFM.)
- https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Data-Resources/marketplace-puf.html (Health Insurance Marketplace data for the 2016 marketplace public use files.)
- https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Data-Resources/health_plan_finder_data.html (Consumer and researcher data on health plan)
- Referring Provider Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies (DMEPOS) Public Use File (PUF) - https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/Medicare-Provider-Charge-Data/DME.html
FDA proactively disclosed a number of data sets, such as http://govdashboard.fda.gov/, which relate to inspections, compliance and recalls. This dynamic online tool presents information in an easy-to-read graphical format and provides access to the underlying data, enabling the public to see related data and trends. Users can also view, download and manipulate the data. In addition, FDA components continue to create web pages for specific issues of heightened consumer or media interest, to better inform the Agency’s constituency without requiring the submission of a FOIA request. For example, FDA has posted extensive information in the reporting period on such subjects as:
- Drug compounding:
- Food Safety (http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/default.htm)
Blue Bell Ice Cream Recall
- Compounding Pharmacy Inspections
- Use of Antimicrobials in Veterinary Practice
- Dietary Supplements
- Deeming of Tobacco Products
- Flu Vaccine
FDA also posts a number of records on a regular basis, including the following:
Weekly Enforcement reports
Advisory Committee packages and transcripts
Tobacco Retailer Letters
Clinical Investigator Correspondence
Agendas, rosters, background packages, and minutes of Advisory Committee Meetings
Inspection records and firm responses
Field Work Plans
FDA Track Updates (which includes tracking of FOIA metrics)
Consumer Advisories and Alerts for blood products and vaccines
HRSA proactive disclosures included the HRSA Data Warehouse, which contains data from multiple source systems within HRSA and from external sources: http://datawarehouse.hrsa.gov/data/data.aspx
NIH proactively disclosed a wide range of information and data, as illustrated by the following:
- Meeting Materials including Agendas, Minutes and Presentations (select examples):
NIH Council of Councils: https://dpcpsi.nih.gov/council/06192015agenda, https://dpcpsi.nih.gov/council/06192015presentations,
Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health:
Scientific Management Review Board:
The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity:
National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences Advisory Council/Cures Acceleration Network Review Board: https://ncats.nih.gov/advisory/council
National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
- NIH: Data, Images and Videos (select examples):
The National Institutes of Health continued its collaboration with LabTV, the online video platform where young medical researchers across America tell their personal stories in an engaging and authentic way. The goal of LabTV is to encourage more young people to consider careers in the sciences by providing them with video profiles of young researchers with whom they can identify. These video profiles are really mini-documentaries about each researcher (including photos and additional b-roll of the researchers in their labs). To date, over 200 interviews with researchers and students have been posted. The project has extended to the production of a series of profiles featuring NIH Institute and Center directors and senior staff: https://www.youtube.com/user/WatchLabTV.
Monitoring the Future survey results released each fall: Overview:
Survey data: http://monitoringthefuture.org/data/14data.html#2014data-drugs.
The Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study documentation:
The National Institute on Drug Abuse videos that explain a comprehensive drugged driving study using state of the art driving simulator:
Videos of the Behavioral and Social Sciences Lecture Series lectures:
Milena’s Clinical Trial Story (video):
Nueva Esperanza Para Las Enfermedades Del Corazón (video):
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) databases: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gds/?term=vahedi,
NIAMS image database that supports the Osteoarthritis Initiative: https://niams-imaging.nci.nih.gov/ncia/login.jsf.
National Institute of Nursing Research videos (posted to its YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/NINRnews which include the briefing NINR hosted on the research implications of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life; Dr. MarySue Heilemann’s lecture, “From the Silver Screen to the Web: Portrayals of Nursing in Media"; and Dr. Dunbar-Jacob’s lecture, “Scientific Pursuit of Effective Medication Adherence."
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development infographics and video interviews that communicate research and research findings:
Data on Age and the Workforce; March 25, 2015
- NIH: Miscellaneous (select examples):
Information on contracts undergoing re-competition under the Certified Generic ENDS for Clinical Research (posted with the solicitation on FedBizOpps):
A comprehensive resource explaining NIH’s large scale, longitudinal Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study: http://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2015/09/grant-awards-mark-launch-landmark-adolescent-brain-cognitive-development-abcd-study.
A comprehensive resource pulling together evidence based information on women and substance abuse: http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/women-drugs and http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/summary.
April 2015 Report to Congress of Trans-NIH Research Conducted in Fiscal Year 2014:
The Office of Research on Women’s Health (ORWH) online NIH Outreach Toolkit: How to Engage, Recruit, and Retain Women in Clinical Research, which includes literature review, best practices, and case studies - http://orwh.od.nih.gov/toolkit/.
ORWH infographic on How Sex and Gender Influence Health and Disease:
ORWH Fact Sheet on Studying Sex to Strengthen Science:
The Heart Truth for African American Women: Take Action:
Evidenced-Based Management of Sickle Cell Disease: Expert Panel Report, 2014,
Records related to an FDA Inspection of the NIH Clinical Center Pharmaceutical Development Section: http://www.cc.nih.gov/phar/pdfs/483.pdf.
National Human Genome Research Institute educational public programming materials related to the Smithsonian Exhibit “GENOME: Unlocking Life’s Code”
The analysis of NIH funding and 4 different measurements of disease burden, with accompanying explanatory language, conducted by the Office of Science Policy, in collaboration with the Office of Extramural Research:
Pain: Hope Through Research:
Parkinson’s Disease: Hope Through Research:
Progressive Supranuclear Palsy fact sheet:
Autism Spectrum Disorder fact sheet:
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences factsheets on topics, including Partnerships for Environmental Public Health, Obesity and the Environment, and Children’s Health – Why the Environment Matters:
National Toxicology Program sets of summaries and associations of study results based on frequently asked questions posed by the public:
Information on Disease Burden: (http://report.nih.gov/info_disease_burden.aspx.
Report on Investigation of Allegations of Noncompliance with the Public Health Service Policy on Humane Care and Use of Laboratory animals at Primate Products Inc.; September 8, 2015:
The National Institute of Mental Health Recovery After Initial Schizophrenia Episode (RAISE) initiative website which contains resources for patients and families: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/schizophrenia/raise/index.shtml.
The National Institute of Nursing Research pediatric palliative care brochure for patients and their families, “Palliative Care for Children: Support for the Whole Family When Your Child Is Living with a Serious Illness:”
The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee public comments for 2007-2014: https://iacc.hhs.gov/public-comment/listing.shtml.
OIG proactively posts OIG reports and publications (http://www.oig.hhs.gov/reports-and-publications/index.asp). In addition, OIG uses a subscriber service to announce updates to its website; by simply providing an email address, a subscriber will be notified whenever the OIG website is updated.
- Did your agency use any means to publicize or highlight important proactive disclosures for public awareness? If yes, please describe those efforts.
- For example, this can be done through social media or with the offering of e-mail subscription services.
The Department uses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest and GooglePlus to communicate and disseminate information to the public.
- If there are any other steps your agency has taken to increase proactive disclosures, please describe them here.
CMS posts its FOIA logs on a recurring basis and continues to work with the agency’s contracting office to post frequently requested contracts.
- Section I: Steps Taken to Apply the Presumption of Openness
- Section II: Steps Taken to Ensure that Your Agency Has an Effective System in Place for Responding to Requests
- Section III: Steps Taken to Increase Proactive Disclosures
- Section IV: Steps Taken to Greater Utilize Technology
- Section V: Steps Taken to Improve Timeliness in Responding to Requests and Reduce Backlogs