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OJP INFORMATION QUALITY GUIDELINES

Introduction and Purpose

The purpose of this guidance is to provide an overview of the Office of Justice Programs' (OJP) efforts to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated to the public. Additionally, this guidance describes the agency's administrative mechanisms for affected persons to seek and obtain correction of information disseminated by OJP that is not considered to comply with OJP, Office of Management and Budget (OMB), or Department of Justice (DOJ) information quality guidelines.

OMB's guidelines define "quality" as comprising utility, objectivity, and integrity. Accordingly, at a minimum, OJP's Information Quality Guidelines requires its components to (1) assess the usefulness of the information to be disseminated to the public by continuously monitoring information needs, developing new information sources, or revising existing methods, models, and information products where appropriate; (2) ensure disseminated information is accurate, clear, complete, reproducible, and presented in an unbiased manner by using reliable data sources, sound analytical techniques and documenting methods and data sources; and (3) is protected from unauthorized access, corruption, or revision (i.e., make certain disseminated information is not compromised through corruption or falsification) by having in place protocols and policies for securing its information as required by the Computer Security and Government Information Security Reform Acts. For disseminated statistical information: any statistical information disseminated will be based on (1) the promotion of sound statistical methods and (2) the principle of transparency.

The Office of Justice Programs

The Office of Justice Programs is composed of five bureaus: the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and two program offices: the Community Capacity Development Office and the Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education. OJP's American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Affairs Desk coordinates AI/AN-related programmatic activity across the bureaus and program offices and serves as an information resource center for American Indian and Alaskan Native criminal justice interests.

Through the programs developed and funded by its bureaus and offices, OJP works to form partnerships among federal, state, and local government officials to control drug abuse and trafficking; reduce and prevent crime; rehabilitate neighborhoods; improve the administration of justice in America; meet the needs of crime victims; and address problems such as gang violence, prison crowding, juvenile crime, and white-collar crime.

Scope and Applicability of Guidance

This document provides guidance to OJP components and informs the public of the agency's policies and procedures to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated to the public. OJP's guidelines are operative in the absence of more specific guidelines adopted by OJP components, and apply only to information disseminated by the agency, as defined in these guidelines. Other information distributed by the agency that is not addressed by these guidelines (described below) remains subject to any applicable agency policies and correction procedures.

The OJP Information Quality Guidelines represent the practices, priorities, and policy views of OJP. These guidelines are not legally enforceable and do not create any legal rights or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable by law or equity, by any party against the United States, its agencies (including the DOJ or any DOJ component), officers, or employees, or any person, nor do they impose any legally binding requirements or obligations on the agency, its components, or the public. Additionally, nothing in these guidelines affects any otherwise available judicial review of agency action. The guidelines do not override other compelling interests such as privacy, trade secrets, intellectual property, and other confidential protections. The guidelines do not apply to opinions where the agency's presentation makes it clear that the material is being offered as someone's opinion rather than fact or the agency's views. In addition the guidance does not apply to information disseminated in the following contexts:

  • Information limited to government employees or agency contractors or grantees;

  • Information for intra-or inter-agency use or sharing of government information;

  • Responses to requests for agency records under the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act or other similar law;

  • Distribution limited to correspondence with individuals or persons;

  • Press releases and public filings;

  • Information relating to subpoenas, or adjudicative processes;

  • Archival records disseminated by federal agency libraries or similar federal data repositories;

  • Information presented to Congress (as part of the legislative or oversight processes; e.g., testimony of officials, information or drafting assistance provided to Congress in connection with pending or proposed legislation) that is not simultaneously disseminated to the public; and procedural, operational, policy and internal manuals prepared for the management and operations of OJP that are not primarily intended for public dissemination.

Effective Date

These guidelines will become effective on December 1, 2002, and will cover information disseminated on or after December 1, 2002, regardless of when the information was first disseminated. With the exception of those categories of information listed in the previous section, the OJP guidelines apply to any communication or representation of knowledge such as facts or data, in any medium or form, including textual, numerical, graphic, cartographic, narrative, audiovisual forms, or from a web page, but does not include information disseminated by others or accessible through hyperlinks to another source from an OJP web page.

Background

Section 515 of the Treasury and General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (PL 106-554) 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." OMB's guidance (Feb. 22, 2002, Federal Register Volume 2, No. 67 at 8452) requires that OJP, as part of the Department of Justice: 1) issue information quality guidelines ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated; 2) 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 OMB guidelines; and 3) report annually to the Director of OMB the number and nature of complaints received by the agency regarding agency compliance with the guidelines.

Oversight/Management Responsibility

OJP's Office of Budget and Management Services (OBMS) is responsible for the overall implementation and oversight of OJP's Information Quality Guidelines, collecting and tracking complaints, and ensuring and maximizing quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated to the public. Beginning January 1, 2004, OBMS will provide annual reports to the Office of Management and Budget (to include the number and nature of complaints received concerning agency compliance as well as how complaints were resolved).

Standards for Disseminated Information

OJP components will review all information dissemination products for their quality (including objectivity, utility, and integrity) before they are disseminated. A basic standard of quality will be ensured and established for all information prior to its dissemination. In addition, on-going disseminated information will be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure all information is current and complies with established guidelines. OMB's guidelines define "quality" as an encompassing term comprising utility, objectivity, and integrity. Therefore, the guidelines sometimes refer to these three terms, collectively, as "quality." For the purpose of the OMB guidelines, the definitions below apply:

Utility: OJP will assess the usefulness of the information to be disseminated to the public. Utility is achieved by continuously monitoring information needs and developing new information sources or by revising existing methods, models, and information products where appropriate.

Objectivity: OJP will ensure disseminated information, as a matter of substance and presentation, is accurate, reliable, and unbiased. Objectivity is achieved by using reliable data sources, sound analytical techniques, and documenting methods and data sources.

Integrity: OJP will ensure information is protected from unauthorized access, corruption, or revision (i.e., make certain disseminated information is not compromised through corruption or falsification). To ensure integrity of information disseminated, OJP has in place programs and policies for securing its information as required by the Computer Security and Government Information Security Reform Acts and is highly protective of information collected under pledges of confidentiality.

Prior to dissemination, OJP will:

  • allow adequate time for reviews, consistent with the level of standards required for the type of information to be disseminated;

  • ensure compliance with these quality guidelines (i.e., utility, objectivity, and integrity requirements);

  • provide methodologies, origins of data, limitations of the information, etc., whenever possible, as part of information dissemination; and

  • ensure that the information fulfills the intentions stated and that the conclusions are consistent with the evidence.

Sound statistical methods: Sound statistical methods produce information (data and analysis results) that is accurate, reliable, and unbiased. Guidelines to promote sound statistical methods would cover the planning of statistical data systems, the collection of statistical data, and the processing of statistical data (including analysis).

Transparency: Transparency refers to a clear description of the methods, data sources, assumptions, outcomes, and related information that will allow a data user to understand how the information product was designed or produced. Guidelines to ensure transparency in statistical information covers the dissemination of information, including both presentation and the reporting of information sources and limitations.

For influential information: When information is defined as influential there is an added level of scrutiny afforded this information, to include the need to ensure it is reproducible. At OJP, influential information is that which is expected to have a genuinely clear and substantial impact at the national level, or on major public and private policy decisions as they relate to federal justice issues. The accuracy of this information is significant due to the critical nature of these decisions. A clear and substantial impact, first of all, is one that the agency is firmly convinced has a high probability of occurring. To determine that there is a clear and substantial impact, the agency must have greater certainty than would be the case for many ordinary factual determinations. The impact must be on "important" public policy or private sector decisions that are expected to occur. Even if information has a clear and substantial impact, it is not influential if the impact is not on a public or private decision that is important to policy, economic, or other decisions. This designation should be used only in exceptional situations.

At OJP, the responsibility for determining if information is influential lies with the Bureau or Program Office that disseminates the information. OJP may designate certain classes of information as either influential or not in the context of their specific programs. Absent such designations, OBMS will determine whether information is influential on a case-by-case basis, using the principles articulated in these guidelines. OBMS will also ensure that designations across OJP are not contradictory.

Reproducibility: Means that documented methods are capable of being used on the same data set to achieve a consistent result. For more information on this term, please refer to OMB's guidelines.

Information Correction Request and Appeal Process

Submitting a Request for Correction

The OMB guidelines require federal statistical agencies to provide redress for "affected persons" (67 F.R. 8459). Because the dissemination of information of the highest possible quality is an important function of OJP, and the agency has determined that it is the public's right to receive accurate data and information, OJP has determined to define "affected persons" as broadly as possible. There is no limitation on who may seek the correction of information disseminated by OJP. Any individual, unit of government at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels, or private organization has the right to seek the correction of OJP furnished information, if the complaining entity in good faith and on a nonfrivolous basis believes that OJP failed to comply with its Information Quality Guidelines.

All requests for correction of OJP information must be submitted by letter, fax, or e-mail to Office of Justice Programs, Office of Budget and Management Services, (Information Quality Guidelines Request for Correction), 810 Seventh Street, NW, Washington, DC 20531, USA; Facsimile: 202-616-3472; E-mail: askobms@ojp.usdoj.gov.

Requests for correction should include the following information:

  • Statement that the request for correction of information is submitted under OJP's Information Quality Guidelines.

  • Requestor's contact information, including name, title (if any), mailing address, telephone number, fax number (if any), e-mail address (if any), and organizational affiliation (if any).

  • The name of the OJP report or data product to be corrected, including the date of issuance or other identifying information, such as the uniform resource locator (URL) of the web page.

  • A detailed description that clearly identifies the specific information contained in the report or data product for which a correction is being sought.

  • An explanation that describes how the information is incorrect or fails to meet either the OMB, DOJ, and/or OJP Information Quality Guidelines.

  • An explanation that describes how the alleged error harms or how a correction would benefit the requestor.

  • A recommendation for how the information should be corrected and that describes the requestor's position for why OJP should adopt those recommendations.

  • Any supporting documentary evidence, such as comparable data or research results on the same topic, that will help in evaluating the merits of the request.

Requestors should be aware that they bear the "burden of proof" with respect to the necessity for correction as well as with respect to the type of correction being sought. The failure to fully explain the nature of the correction being sought and/or to provide contact information may cause significant delays in an agency response. OJP will base its decision on the merits of the information provided by the requestor and will refrain from contacting the requestor to obtain additional information when the submission is incomplete.

Review of the Request for Correction

The request for correction will be processed by the Office of Budget and Management Services (OBMS). Based on the explanation and evidence submitted with the request for correction, OBMS will conduct a thorough review of the information being challenged, the processes that were used to create and disseminate the information, and the conformity of the information and those processes with both OMB's, DOJ's, and OJP's Information Quality Guidelines.

After it has completed its review, OBMS will determine whether a correction is warranted, and, if so, what corrective action should be taken. Any corrective action will be determined by the nature and timeliness of the information involved and such factors as the significance of the error on the use of the information, the magnitude of the error, and the cost of undertaking a correction.

Response to the Request for Correction

Information will not be changed until the review is complete. A data correction request may be rejected by the OBMS as frivolous under any of the following four circumstances:

  1. the request fails to establish a direct causal link between the perceived error and the agency's compliance with its Data Quality Guidelines,
  2. the request is devoid of substantial merit on its face,
  3. the request is unsupported by substantial evidence,
  4. the claim is of a nature that is not generally corrected by federal agencies.

OBMS will respond to the requestor by letter, e-mail, or fax within 60 calendar days of receipt of the claim. The response will explain the findings and the actions to be taken (if any) in response to the complaint. If the request requires more than 60 calendar days to resolve, OBMS will inform the requestor and provide an estimated decision date.

Request for Reconsideration of Decision

If the requestor disagrees with the agency's decision, the requestor may file a request for reconsideration by letter, fax, or e-mail to Office of Justice Programs, Office of General Counsel, (Information Quality Guidelines Reconsideration), 810 Seventh Street, NW, Washington, DC 20531, USA; Facsimile: 202-616-3472; E-mail: askogc@usdoj.gov. Persons requesting reconsideration should submit written material to support their case for reconsideration. They need not resubmit the information originally submitted to support the request for correction. Requests for reconsideration must be submitted to OJP within 35 calendar days after the date of the agency's original decision. Requests for reconsideration that are received by OJP after the 35-calendar day deadline may be denied.

A reconsideration official will be designated by OBMS to review the information in question and make a decision regarding the request based on the material submitted in support of the request for reconsideration, the original request for correction, and the agency's original decision. OBMS will then respond to the requestor by letter, e-mail, or fax. The response will explain the Reconsideration Official's decision and the actions OJP will take (if any) in response to the request for reconsideration. OJP will respond to all requests for reconsideration within 45 calendar days of receipt.