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OMB Data Quality Standards (1-25-05)

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In an effort to ensure that information released by the US Government is accurate, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released Information-Quality Guidelines on February 22, 2002. These were In accordance with the Data Quality Act (Section 515 of Public Law 106-554) OMB issued guidelines to promote "the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies.'' The OMB also directed all federal agencies to draft their own guidelines to correct information that did not comply with those released by OMB by October 1, 2002. Of particular interest to the geoscience community are scientific findings promulgated by federal agencies.

Recent Action

Legislation is expected to be introduced and considered by the 109th Congress in the near future. Please check back soon for updates.

Previous Action

On December 17th the White House Office of Management and Budget issued "peer review" guidelines aimed at formalizing the process of science performed by government agencies undergoing outside review. Science used by the U.S. EPA, the Department of the Interior, the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to support major rules and regulations will be subject to review by non-governmental experts for the first time under these new standards.
According to Greenwire, supporters of the guidelines -- in the Bush Administration and industry -- say that the guidelines will help ensure that federal policy is shaped by sound scientific practices. But critics claim the guidelines are an effort by the executive branch to seize control of the release of scientific information and slow the creation of new federal rules.

The guidelines separate scientific information meriting peer review into two types. The first requires federal agencies to appoint an independent peer review panel for science supporting rules or policies costing industry, states or local governments more than $500 million in any year. While this is a higher cost threshold than industry officials wanted, Sean Moulton, a information policy analyst at OMB Watch, said OMB can effectively order an agency review by designating this type of science "highly influential." The second type of science affected by the guidelines is "influential scientific information," such as risk assessments, environmental and natural resources computer modeling, data and other technical analyses. Agencies can subject these types of scientific information to the same rigorous peer review as highly influential science or they can get them peer reviewed by a small group of experts in one environmental or natural resources discipline.
Agencies can subject influential scientific information to the lower level of peer review, but the guidelines direct agencies to "choose a peer review mechanism that is adequate" based on a variety of factors including whether science is new, the extent of prior peer reviews, and the expected costs and benefits that will result from its use. "More rigorous peer review is necessary for information that is based on novel methods or presents complex challenges for interpretation," the rule states.

Greenwire reported that the White House substantially revised the guidelines since they were first proposed in September 2003 (see Among the changes is a proposal that would grant federal agencies the right to release scientific documents about an "emerging public health or medical risk" without first getting OMB approval. Another change OMB made was to make clear that science already reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences is not subject to the peer review guidelines.

The new guidelines can be found online at


The Federal Information Quality Act

From the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness:
"Federal agencies regularly publish information on which influential policies or decisions are made that have significant impact on the economy of a region or even the entire nation or that can influence wrong decisions about public and private investments, opportunities and other issues. States, cities, counties, as well as private and public organizations, and citizens in general have had difficulties getting the federal agencies to either substantiate the information published or correct the information to ensure its quality. Martha Lynn Craver in her recent Kiplinger Report stated that "for years, regulated industries have complained that too often, regulations cannot be backed up by solid data."

In response to the public's concerns, Congress issued the Information Quality Act OMB Section 515. This act 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."

Effective October 1, 2002, Federal agencies must have in place their own implementing guidelines that include "administrative mechanisms allowing affected persons to seek and obtain correction of information maintained and disseminated by the agency" that does not comply with the OMB guidelines. These guidelines require the agencies to provide annual reports on the number and nature of complaints and how the complaints were handled beginning January 2004.

OMB defines information "quality" as information that offers utility, objectivity and integrity to information consumers where: OMB defines information "quality" as information that offers utility, objectivity and integrity to information consumers where:

  • Utility is the usefulness of the disseminated information to the intended consumers.
  • Objectivity is that the disseminated information is presented in an accurate, clear, complete and unbiased manner and, as a matter of substance, is accurate, reliable and unbiased.
  • Integrity refers to security: the protection of information from unauthorized access or revision (modification) to ensure that the information is not compromised through corruption or falsification.

Agencies must define these terms in a rigorous, operational fashion to ensure that they have a shared understanding with their customers of the information provided."

For online access to the agency specific OMB guidelines go to the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness Website

Sources: The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, Greenwire, White House Office of Management and Budget.

Contributed by David R. Millar 2004 AGI/AAPG Fall Semester Intern

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on January 25, 2005.

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