Congressional Research Service Reports Now Officially Publicly Available

from the huge-news dept

For many, many years we've been writing about the ridiculousness of the Congressional Research Service's reports being kept secret. If you don't know, CRS is a sort of in-house think tank for Congress, that does, careful, thoughtful, non-partisan research on a variety of topics (sometimes tasked by members of Congress, sometimes of its own volition). The reports are usually quite thorough and free of political nonsense. Since the reports are created by the federal government, they are technically in the public domain, but many in Congress (including many who work at CRS itself) have long resisted requests to make those works public. Instead, we were left with relying on members of Congress themselves to occasionally (and selectively) share reports with the public, rather than giving everyone access to the reports.

Every year or so, there were efforts made to make all of that research available to the public, and it kept getting rejected. Two years ago, two members of Congress agreed to share all of the reports they had access to with a private site put together by some activists and think tanks, creating EveryCRSReport.com, which was a useful step forward. At the very least, we've now had two years to show that, when these reports are made public, the world does not collapse (many people within CRS feared that making the reports public would lead to more political pressure).

Earlier this year, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, there was a nice little line item to officially make CRS reports publicly available.

And, this week, it has come to pass. As announced by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, there is now an official site to find CRS reports at crsreports.congress.gov. It appears that the available catalog is still limited, but they're hoping to expand backwards to add older reports to the system (a few quick test searches only shows fairly recent reports). But all new reports will be added to the database.

The result is a new public website for CRS reports based on the same search functionality that Congress uses – designed to be as user friendly as possible – that allows reports to be found by common keywords. We believe the site will be intuitive for the public to use and will also be easily updated with enhancements made to the congressional site in the future.

Moving forward, all new or updated reports will be added to the website as they are made available to Congress. The Library is also working to make available the back catalog of previously published reports as expeditiously as possible.

This is a big deal. The public pays over $100 million every year to have this research done, and all of it is in the public domain. Starting now, we can actually read most of it, and don't need to rely on leaks to find this useful, credible research.


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 18 Sep 2018 @ 4:23pm

    Holy shit, the public domain is growing?

    Nobody tell Disney.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 18 Sep 2018 @ 5:10pm

      Re:

      Now that you mention it, I am trying to imagine what Disney might steal from this treasure trove. Given the subjects covered the possibilities might be enormous.

      More importantly, once Disney co-opts something from this segment of the Public Domain, does it preclude anyone else from using it? They have tried that tactic in the past.

      Will they have to pay the authors or would it be considered a work for hire, even though they didn't do the hiring and we did the paying?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 19 Sep 2018 @ 9:59am

        Re: Re:

        More importantly, once Disney co-opts something from this segment of the Public Domain, does it preclude anyone else from using it? They have tried that tactic in the past.

        It depends.

        You're still allowed to make your own adaptation of Snow White or Cinderella or The Jungle Book or whatever. But you'd better make sure it doesn't look too close to Disney's versions, and avoid any elements of those stories that were original to the Disney versions.

        And Disney may still C&D or sue you even if they don't have a case.

        (On the other hand, sometimes things slide. The Vertigo comic book series Fables, which was based around public-domain characters, included a Jungle Book pastiche that had King Louie in it. King Louie was not a character in Rudyard Kipling's original books; he's a Disney character -- but to the best of my knowledge Disney took no action.)

        Will they have to pay the authors or would it be considered a work for hire, even though they didn't do the hiring and we did the paying?

        If the legal author of a work is the federal government, then the work is public domain and may be freely reused or adapted without credit, compensation, or any other restriction.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Beau Hemian-Rhapsody, 18 Sep 2018 @ 6:59pm

    Being gov't, over 90% is CRAP. So, yay for free misleading!

    1,500 scientists lift the lid on reproducibility

    More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist's experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments.

    https://www.nature.com/news/1-500-scientists-lift-the-lid-on-reproducibility-1.19970

    O nly thing most academics are good at is getting grants.

    It's one big reason why I don't care about Elsevier "locking up" whatever "research".

    Therefore, most likely explanation here is someone's brother-in-law put over a scam for new system that will never meet even adequacy.

    That's reality. But of course, Masnicks cheer because seems to be a win for their notions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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