44 U.S. Code § 3511(a) mandates that “the head of each agency shall, to the maximum extent practicable, develop and maintain a comprehensive data inventory that accounts for all data assets created by, collected by, under the control or direction of, or maintained by the agency.” These comprehensive data inventories have specific requirements, are distinct from “data catalogs,” and are not restricted to public datasets.

Another portion of federal law, 44 U.S. Code § 3505(c), requires that “[t]he head of each agency shall develop and maintain an inventory of major information systems (including major national security systems) operated by or under the control of such agency.”

Our FOIA request 📄 to the Department of the Interior (DOI) seeks all records that contribute to the agency’s fulfillment of those two requirements.

Notably, the DOI’s Chief Data Officer led a federal working group in the production of an April 2022 report underscoring the importance of agency data inventories.

The agency does publish a listing of datasets via https://data.doi.gov/data.json, that file appears to be substantially incomplete. For instance: Only 57 entries reference non-public datasets, all maintained by the National Park Service (and none by other subagencies); only five entries reference datasets maintained by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and only one by the Bureau of Reclamation, both numbers being far below the realistic number of datasets those subagencies maintain.


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