Data Quality Act
The Data Quality Act (DQA) 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".
The DQA has been criticized by the scientific community and journalists as a ploy of corporations and their supporters to suppress the release of government reports contrary to their economic interests: "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."
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."
Text of the Act
(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.
Guidelines developed pursuant to Act
- OMB, Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies, Final Guidelines, with Request for Comments (Oct 1, 2001)
- OMB, Guidelines (Draft of Jan. 3, 2002)
- OMB, Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies, Final Guidelines (corrected), 67 Fed. Reg. 8452 (Feb. 22. 2002)
Guidelines developed by agencies pursuant to the Act and OMB guidelines
- Federal Trade Commission FTC Information Quality Guidelines
- Health and Human Services HHS Information Quality / Peer Review Ensuring the Quality of Information Disseminated by HHS Agencies
- NASA Requirements for Documentation, Approval, and Dissemination of NASA Scientific and Technical Information
- Patent and Trademark Office Information Quality Guidelines
- List of links to all Cabinet, Executive Agency, and Independent Regulatory Agency guidelines
- Susan Bisong, Federal Agencies Subject to Data Quality Act gives the historical background and purposes of the DQA (FindLaw)
- Information Quality Act, from the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy (SKAPP)
- Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, DataQualityAct.US
- OMB Watch, Data Quality Act
- GAO Report September 2005, Information Quality Act: National Agricultural Statistics Service Implements First Steps, but Documentation of Census of Agriculture Could Be Improved
- GAO report on implementation
- European conference on Data Quality, Data Quality Summit 2007
- Center for Regulatory Effectiveness,"The Data Quality Act: A revolution in the role of science in policy making or a can of worms?"
- Rick Weiss, The Washington Post, August 16, 2004, "'Data Quality' Law Is Nemesis Of Regulation"
- Chris Mooney, Boston Globe, 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"
- Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science (New York: Basic Books, 2005 [ISBN 0465046754]), ch. 8 ("Wine, Jazz, and 'Data Quality'"), pp. 102–20.
- Urs Gasser, "Information Quality and the Law, or, How to Catch a Difficult Horse"
- Catherine Campbell Meshkin, "Unchecked Data: A Tool for Political Corruption?" Engage Volume 11, Issue 3, December 2010
- Mooney, Chris (2005). The Republican War on Science. New York: Basic Books. p. 103.
- Campbell Meshkin, Catherine (December 2010). "Unchecked Data: A Tool for Political Corruption?". Engage 11 (3).
- U.S. Government Printing Office. "Information Quality Act". Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 7 January 2013.