Technology & Policy
Information for Impact: Liberating Nonprofit Sector Data
Aspen Institute (January 2013)
Noveck, Beth Simone and Daniel Goroff
This report addresses the challenges to obtaining better, more usable data about the nonprofit sector to match the sector’s growingimportance. In 2010, there were 1.5 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States with $1.51 trillion in revenues. Through the Form 990 in its several varieties, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gathers and publishes a large amount of information about tax-exempt organizations. Over time, versions of the Form 990 have evolved that collect information on governance, investments, and other factors not directly related to an organization’s tax calculations or qualifications for tax exemption. Copies of these returns are available one at a time from the filers or from other sources. The IRS creates image files of Form 990 returns and sells compilationsof them to the subscribing public for a fee. Several institutions, particularly GuideStar, the Foundation Center, and the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) at the Urban Institute, use this IRS data to analyze and present information about individual nonprofits and about the sector as a whole.
Like other important data collected by governments, information contained in the 990s could potentially be far more useful if it were not only public but “open” data. Open data are data that are available to all, free of charge, in a standard format, published without proprietary conditions, and available online as a bulk download rather than only through single-entry lookup. Making the Form 990 data truly open in this sense would not only make it easier to use for the organizations that already process it, but would also make it useful to researchers, advocates, entrepreneurs, technologists, and nonprofits that do not have the resources to use the data in its current form. We argue that open 990 data may increase transparency for nonprofit organizations, making it easier for state and federal authorities to detect fraud, spur innovation in the nonprofit sector and, above all, help us to understand the potential value of the 990 data.
"Designing Deliberative Democracy" in Cyberspace: The Role of the Cyber-lawyer
9 B.U. J. Sci. and Tech. L. 1-71
The Electronic Revolution in Rulemaking
53 EMORY L. J. 1
Trademark Law and the Social Construction of Trust: Creating the Legal Framework for On-Line Identity
83 Wash. U. L. Q. 1733
The intellectual property system has fostered many debates, including recent ones, regarding how the system affects access to knowledge. Yet, before one can access, one must preserve. Two interconnected problems posed by the growth of online creation illustrate the predicament. First, unlike analog creations, important digital creations such as e-mails and word-processed documents are mediated and controlled by second parties. Thus, although these creations are core intellectual property, they are not treated as such. Service providers and software makers terminate or deny access to people’s digital property all the time. In addition, when one dies, some service providers refuse to grant heirs access to this property. The uneven and unclear management of these creations means that society will lose access to perhaps the greatest chronicling of human experience ever. Accordingly, this Article investigates and sets forth the theoretical foundations to explain why and how society should preserve this property. In so doing the Article finds that a second problem, which can be understood as one of control, arises.
This Article is the first in a series of works aimed at investigating the nature and extent of control one may have or exert over a work. As such, this Article begins the project by examining the normative theories behind creators’, heirs’, and society’s interests in the works. All three groups have interests in preservation, but the basis for the claims differs. In addition, an examination of the theoretical basis for these claims shows that the nature of the attention economy in conjunction with labor- and persona-based property theories support the position that in life a creator has strong claims for control over her intangible creations. Yet, the Article finds that historical and literary theory combined with recent economic theory as advanced by Professors Brett Frischmann and Mark Lemley regarding spillovers—positive externalities generated by access to ideas and information—reveals two points. First, these views support the need for better preservation of digital intellectual property insofar as it is infrastructure and has the potential for spillover effects. Second, although the creator may be best placed to manage and exert control of the works at issue, once the creator dies, literary, historical, and economic theory show that the claims for control diminish if not vanish. The explication and implications of this second point are explored elsewhere. This Article lays the groundwork for seeing that creators may need and have powerful claims for access and control over their works but that these same claims are necessarily limited by an understanding of the nature of creation and creative systems. The dividing line falls between life and death. The life and death distinction that this Article offers seeks to balance creators’ interests in control over a work and society’s interests in fostering later expressions and creations of new works. This Article examines the life side of the line.
Peer to Patent: Collective Intelligence and Intellectual Property Reform
20 Harv. J. L. Tech. 123
The patent system is broken. The Constitution intended for patents to foster innovation and the promotion of progress in the useful arts. Instead, the Patent Office creates uncertainty and monopoly. Underpaid and overwhelmed examiners struggle under the burden of 350,000 applications per year and a mounting backlog of 600,000. Increasingly patents are approved for unmerited inventions. What if we could make it easier to ensure that only the most worthwhile inventions got twenty years of monopoly rights? What if we could offer a
way to protect the inventor’s investment while still safeguarding the marketplace of ideas from bad inventions? What if we could make informed decisions about scientifically complex
problems before the fact, rather than trying to reform the system ex post? What if we could harness collective intelligence to replace bureaucracy?
This Article argues that we should reform the patent system by re-designing the institution of patent examination. Our existing legal mechanisms for awarding the patent monopoly are
constructed around the outdated assumption that only expert bureaucrats can produce dispassionate decisions in the public interest. Building upon what we have learned from online and off-line systems of collaboration, we can now use the tools available to combine the
wisdom of expert scientific communities of practice with the legal determinations of a trained Patent Office staff.
The patent system is broken. The Constitution intended for patents to foster innovation and
the promotion of progress in the useful arts. Instead, the Patent Office creates uncertainty
and monopoly. Underpaid and overwhelmed examiners struggle under the burden of
350,000 applications per year and a mounting backlog of 600,000. Increasingly patents are
approved for unmerited inventions. What if we could make it easier to ensure that only the
most worthwhile inventions got twenty years of monopoly rights? What if we could offer a
way to protect the inventor’s investment while still safeguarding the marketplace of ideas
from bad inventions? What if we could make informed decisions about scientifically complex
problems before the fact, rather than trying to reform the system ex post? What if we could
harness collective intelligence to replace bureaucracy?
This Article argues that we should reform the patent system by re-designing the institution
of patent examination. Our existing legal mechanisms for awarding the patent monopoly are
constructed around the outdated assumption that only expert bureaucrats can produce
dispassionate decisions in the public interest. Building upon what we have learned from online and off-line systems of collaboration, we can now use the tools available to combine the
wisdom of expert scientific communities of practice with the legal determinations of a
trained Patent Office staff.
A Complex(ity) Strategy for Breaking the Environmental Logjam (with David R. Johnson), in Breaking the LogJam: An Environmental Law for the 21st Century
NYU Environ. L. Rev. (Fall 2008)
Noveck, Beth (selected chapters)
In this essay, we explore how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) might use technology to improve the agency's level of scientific expertise and to obtain useful information sooner to inform EPA policymaking. By creating a self-reinforcing collaboration between government and networked publics, new web-based tools could help produce change within government and without - namely governmental decisions informed by better data obtained through citizen participation and civic action coordinated with governmental priorities. The agency has the opportunity to help break the logjam of environmental policymaking by developing transparent and participatory mechanisms for expert citizen participation. The key insight is not to throw open the floodgates to undifferentiated public input, but to design group-based processes that enable online communities to collaborate on finding and vetting information for agencies.
The Networked State
Harvard University Press
Noveck, Beth Simone
The Internet Backbone and the American Metropolis
Information Society, Jan-March, Vol. 16 Issue 1, p35-47, 13p.
Moss, M. L. & Townsend, A.
Despite the rapid growth of advanced telecommunications services, there is a lack of knowledge about the geographic diffusion of these new technologies. The Internet presents an important challenge to communications researchers, as it threatens to redefine the production and delivery of vital services including finance, retailing, and education. This article seeks to address the gap in the current literature by analyzing the development of Internet backbone networks in the United States between 1997 and 1999. We focus upon the intermetropolitan links that have provided transcontinental data transport services since the demise of the federally subsidized networks deployed in the 1970s and 1980s. We find that a select group of seven highly interconnected metropolitan areas consistently dominated the geography of national data networks, despite massive investment in this infrastructure over the study period. Furthermore, while prosperous and internationally oriented American cities lead the nation in adopting and deploying Internet technologies, interior regions and economically distressed cities have failed to keep up. As information-based industries and services account for an increasing share of economic activity, this evidence suggests that the Internet may aggravate the economic disparities among regions, rather than level them. Although the capacity of the backbone system has slowly diffused throughout the metropolitan system, the geographic structure of interconnecting links has changed little. Finally, the continued persistence of the metropolis as the center for telecommunications networks illustrates the need for a more sophisticated understanding of the interaction between societies and technological innovations.
Electronic Government, Transparency, and Performance Management in the Governance of Cities
a paper presented at the United Nations/Metropolitan Seoul Conference on EGovernance, Seoul, Korea, August,
(with Thomas Horan), in Zimmerman, Rae and Horan, T., eds., Digital Infrastructures: Enabling Civil and Environmental Systems through Information Technology. London, UK: Routledge,
An invisible network of digital technology systems underlies the highly visible networks of roads, waterways, satellites, and power-lines. Increasingly, these systems are becoming the ''infrastructure's infrastructure'' providing a crucial array of data on network demand, performance, reliability, and security. Digital Infrastructures presents an interdisciplinary analysis of the technological systems that envelop these networks. The book balances analyses of specific civil and environmental infrastructures with broader policy and management issues, including the challenges of using IT to manage these critical systems under crises conditions.
Digital Infrastructures addresses not only the technological dimension but, importantly, how social, organizational and environmental forces affect how IT can be used to manage water, power, transport and telecommunication systems. The book is organized four sections. First, fundamental themes of policy, management, and technology are presented to frame the domain of digital infrastructures. Second, the way in which information technologies are applied in specific infrastructure sectors provides an in-depth assessment of what the advantages and disadvantages have been over time. Third, cross-cutting themes of economics, earth systems engineering, and international sustainability show how various systems perspectives approach some of the barriers to integrating information technology and infrastructure. Finally, the concluding section looks at some of the new directions and challenges being posed by issues such as security.
Digital Infrastructures is the first integrated treatment of how IT technology is fundamentally affecting how critical infrastructures are managed. It is geared to provide the new infrastructure professional with state of the art concepts, methods, and examples for use in creating public policies, strategic plans, and new systems. It will be an essential book for upper level undergraduate and graduate courses in infrastructure management, critical infrastructure, environmental systems management, and management of IT systems.