Data Quality Act

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The Data Quality Act, (DQA), Information Quality Act, passed through the United States Congress in Section 515 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2001 (Pub.L. 106–554). Because the Act was a two-sentence rider in a spending bill, it had no name given in the actual legislation. The Government Accountability Office calls it the Information Quality Act, while others call it the Data Quality Act.

The DQA directs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to issue government-wide guidelines that "provide policy and procedural guidance to Federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies".[1]

The Data Quality Act is a regulatory reform vehicle used by special interest groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute, US Chamber of Commerce, the Salt Institute, the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, the Kansas Corn Grower's Association, the Triazine Network to challenge regulations and if necessary, to sue agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Institutes of Health for not meeting data quality requirements.[2] "As subsequently interpreted by the Bush administration . . . the so-called Data Quality Act creates an unprecedented and cumbersome process by which government agencies must field complaints over the data, studies, and reports they release to the public. It is a science abuser's dream come true."[3]

In a recent essay published in Engage, The Federalist Society's legal journal, the author held that unchecked data can become a tool for political corruption. "The DQA represents a classic case of 'slipping through the cracks.' Congress passed legislation that it failed to define, held no hearings on it, and developed no legislative history for it, leaving the details and their implementation to the very agency tasked with overseeing it. However, when that agency can be seen as a 'tool' of the executive, and in turn a 'tool' of the majority party, the only reasonable alternative is for the interpretation of the legislation to be left in the hands of the courts. An agency cannot be held to police itself."[4]

Text of the Act[edit]

Sec. 515.[5]

(a) In General. – The Director of the Office of Management and Budget shall, by not later than September 30, 2001, and with public and Federal agency involvement, issue guidelines under sections 3504(d)(1) and 3516 of title 44, United States Code, that provide policy and procedural guidance to Federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies in fulfillment of the purposes and provisions of chapter 35 of title 44, United States Code, commonly referred to as the Paperwork Reduction Act.

(b) Content of Guidelines. – The guidelines under subsection (a) shall –

(1) apply to the sharing by Federal agencies of, and access to, information disseminated by Federal agencies; and
(2) require that each Federal agency to which the guidelines apply –
(A) issue guidelines ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by the agency, by not later than 1 year after the date of issuance of the guidelines under subsection (a);
(B) establish administrative mechanisms allowing affected persons to seek and obtain correction of information maintained and disseminated by the agency that does not comply with the guidelines issued under subsection (a); and
(C) report periodically to the Director –
(i) the number and nature of complaints received by the agency regarding the accuracy of information disseminated by the agency; and
(ii) how such complaints were handled by the agency.

Data Quality Act as basis for law suits: industry versus federal scientists[edit]

The Competitive Enterprise Institute filed a lawsuit to prevent dissemination of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s "Climate Action Report 2002" published May 2002,[6] claiming the research did not meet requirements of the Federal Data Quality Act (FDQA) which came into effect in October 2002.[7] The case was dismissed in November 2003.[8]

In 2004 the Salt Institute, a salt-producers' association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued the Department of Health and Human Services in federal court using the Data Quality Act.[2] The suit alleged that federal scientists lacked evidence that salt was harmful to health. Although the case was dismissed, the Salt Institute appealed the decision.[9] The Journal of the American Dietetic Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) which is part of the is part of the US National Institutes of Health claim that the food industry is adding too much salt to foods.[9]

Guidelines developed pursuant to Act[edit]

OMB guidelines[edit]

Guidelines developed by agencies pursuant to the Act and OMB guidelines[edit]

External links[edit]



  1. ^ Simpson, Michael (2011), "Quality Data Act (Information Quality Act (IQA))", in Jordan, David Alan, Free Course Book for Course 3: Statutory Law and Intelligence 
  2. ^ a b Mooney, Chris (August 28, 2005), Thanks to a little-known piece of legislation, scientists at the EPA and other agencies find their work questioned not only by industry, but by their own government, Interrogations, Boston Globe, retrieved May 5, 2014 
  3. ^ Mooney, Chris (2005). The Republican War on Science. New York: Basic Books. p. 103. 
  4. ^ Campbell Meshkin, Catherine (December 2010). "Unchecked Data: A Tool for Political Corruption?". Engage 11 (3). 
  5. ^ U.S. Government Printing Office. "Information Quality Act". Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  6. ^ (PDF), Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of State, U.S., May 2002  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Horner, Christopher C. (February 9, 2003), CEI's Petition Against Further Dissemination Of EPA's "Climate Action Report 2002", Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), retrieved May 5, 2014 
  8. ^ Agree to dismissal: Competitive Enterprise Institute (plaintiff) v. George Walker Bush et al (defendants) (PDF), District of Columbia: United States District Court, November 4, 2003, retrieved May 6, 2014 
  9. ^ a b Ellison, Sarah (February 25, 2005), Despite Big Health Concerns, Food Industry Can't Shake Salt: Scientists Struggle to Find An Acceptable Substitute; Diners Are Hooked, Too, Wall Street Journal, retrieved May 5, 2014