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Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility and Integrity of Information Disseminated by the Department of Transportation (DOT)

Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility and Integrity of Information Disseminated by the Department of Transportation (DOT)

I. What is the Background and Purpose of These Guidelines?

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is issuing guidelines to implement Section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (PL 106-554). The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) previously issued Government-wide guidelines under Section 515, which direct Federal agencies subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. Chapter 35) to establish and implement written guidelines to ensure and maximize the quality, utility, objectivity and integrity of the information that they disseminate. DOT's guidelines apply to a wide variety of substantive information dissemination activities in order to meet basic information quality standards set forth by Section 515. Under Section 515, the Department is responsible for carrying out the OMB information quality guidelines as well as for implementing its own guidelines that are set forth in this document. Consequently, when this document refers to "the guidelines," it should be taken to refer to the OMB guidelines, as applied to DOT programs and activities, as well as the DOT guidelines themselves, unless the context suggests otherwise.

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide a framework under which DOT will provide affected persons an opportunity to seek and obtain correction of information maintained and disseminated by DOT that does not comply with these guidelines. DOT has designated the Departmental Chief Information Officer (CIO) as the senior official responsible for DOT compliance with these guidelines. Heads of Departmental Organization are responsible for ensuring proper implementation of these Departmental guidelines. These final guidelines are effective October 1, 2002.

In implementing these guidelines, the Department acknowledges that ensuring the quality of information is an important management objective that takes its place alongside other Departmental objectives, such as ensuring the success of agency missions, observing budget and resource priorities and restraints, and providing useful information to the public. The Department intends to implement these guidelines in a way that will achieve all these objectives in a harmonious way.

II. Who are the DOT Organizations to Which These Guidelines Apply?

These guidelines apply to the following DOT organizations.

DOT organizations may adopt further guidance, consistent with these guidelines, applying to the specifics of their programs and information products.

III. What are the Scope, Nature and Legal Effect of These Guidelines?

    The Scope: These guidelines apply to certain information (both statistical and non-statistical) disseminated by DOT on or after October 1, 2002, regardless of when the information was first disseminated. Maintenance of information on DOT web sites or paper files does not, in itself, subject information disseminated before this date to the guidelines. However, the Department's policy is to treat as subject to the guidelines information that we maintain in a way that is readily available to the public and that continues to play a significant, active role in Department programs or in private sector decisions. These guidelines apply to all media (printed, electronic, or in other form). As is the intent of OMB's guidelines , DOT's guidelines will focus primarily on the dissemination of substantive information (e.g., reports, analyses, studies, summaries) rather than information pertaining to basic agency operations.
    The standards of these guidelines apply not only to information that DOT generates, but also to information that other parties provide to DOT, if the other parties seek to have the Department rely upon or disseminate this information or the Department decides to do so. For example, suppose that a trade association, in commenting on a proposed rule, supplies a scientific or technical study or an economic analysis in support of its position on what the final rule should say. In order for DOT to rely on this information in a subsequent DOT dissemination of information (e.g., as part of the basis cited for decisions in the final rule), the quality of the trade association's information would have to be consistent with these guidelines. Likewise, if the Department disseminates information originally created by, for example, a contractor or consultant, these guidelines would apply.
    The types of Departmental information not subject to these guidelines are outlined in Section IV.
    Nature and Legal Effect: These guidelines are policy views of DOT. They are not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legally binding regulations or mandates. These guidelines are intended only to improve the internal management of DOT and do not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity, by any party against the United States, its agencies (including the Department of Transportation or any DOT organization), officers, or employees, or any person.

IV. What Types of Information are Not Subject to These Guidelines?

The following information is not subject to these guidelines:

  1. Distribution of information that is intended to be limited to government employees, agency contractors or grantees;
  2. Distribution of information that is intended to be limited to intra- or interagency use or sharing of government information; responses to requests under FOIA, Privacy Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act or other similar laws;
  3. Predisclosure Notification to Submitters of Confidential Commercial Information (FHWA Notice N1320.6);
  4. Distribution limited to correspondence with individuals or persons (regardless of medium, e.g., electronic mail). The possibility of further distribution by the recipient does not cause such correspondence to be subject to these guidelines. However, information sent by letter to a wide variety of individuals (e.g., a "Dear Colleague" letter sent to heads of all recipients of financial assistance from a DOT operating administration) would be subject to coverage under these guidelines;
  5. Archival records disseminated by Federal agency libraries, websites, or similar Federal data repositories; (e.g., inactive or historical materials in DOT libraries and other data collections - including bibliographies or responses to reference requests pertaining to such materials);
  6. Public filings, such as material filed by DOT or non-DOT parties in DOT Dockets or by DOT in other agencies' dockets. For example, a study filed in the DOT docket by a commenter on a proposed rule does not become subject to these guidelines simply because it has been filed there. However, if the Department chooses to rely on the study in the rulemaking or another information product, the Department's study would become subject to these guidelines because of the Department's use of it;
  7. Information intended to be limited to subpoenas and adjudicatory processes. For the purpose of these guidelines, these processes would include:
  • Court or administrative litigation (e.g., briefs and attachments, or other information that the Department submits to the court or other decision maker);
  • Administrative enforcement proceedings conducted by the Department;
  • Civil rights and personnel complaints and reviews conducted by the Department (e.g., under Titles VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act; Sections 501, 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise matters);
  • Debarment and suspension matters, 49 CFR Part 29 (Federal-aid contracts) and 48 CFR Part 9 (direct contracts);
  • Merit System Protection Board matters (Sections 7511, 7543, and 70701 of Title 5, United States Code);
  • Matters before the Board of Correction of U.S.C.G. Military Records (Section 1552 of Title 10, United States Code and Part 52 of Title 33, Code of Federal Regulations (1996));
  • USCG Commandant decisions on Appeal and Review of Suspension and Revocation Proceedings, Sections 7702 and 7704, Title 46, United States Code)
  • Locomotive engineer certification matters, 49 CFR Part 240, Subpart E-Dispute Resolution procedures;
  • Hyperlinks to information that others disseminate (as well as paper-based information from other sources referenced but not adopted or endorsed by DOT);
  • Views or opinions, where the presenter makes it clear that what is being offered is someone's opinion rather than fact or the Department's views;
  • Information presented to Congress as part of the legislative or oversight processes (e.g., testimony of DOT officials, information or drafting assistance provided to Congress in connection with pending or proposed legislation or oversight) that has previously been subject to the guidelines, is primarily a statement of the views of the Department on an issue, or is provided to a member of Congress who then disseminates it publicly. However, the Department would treat studies or other factual information products that are presented to Congress, and that have not previously been subject to these guidelines, as being covered.
  • Press releases and other information of an ephemeral nature, advising the public of an event or activity of a finite duration - regardless of medium. Information products referenced in such releases may be subject to the guidelines, however (e.g., a study referred to in a press release); and
  • Procedural, operational, policy, and internal manuals prepared for the management and operations of DOT that are not primarily intended for public dissemination. This includes personnel notices such as vacancy announcements.
  • V. What General Standards of Quality are DOT Organizations Implementing?

    DOT has traditionally utilized standards, policies, and other operational guidelines to ensure the quality of all its disseminated information. Incorporating these guidelines further reinforces DOT's commitment of meeting higher standards of quality prior to disseminating information to the public. The Department has made implementation of these guidelines a part of its performance plan, including performance goals and standards.

    To ensure compliance with these guidelines, each DOT organization has appointed a data quality official who will serve as the liaison for implementing these guidelines within its organization. Each DOT organization is responsible for modifying appropriate information technology and administrative policies to comply with these guidelines.

    OMB's guidelines define "quality" as an encompassing term comprising utility, objectivity, and integrity. Therefore, the guidelines sometimes refer to these statutory terms, collectively, as "quality." At a minimum, a basic standard of quality will be ensured and established for all DOT 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 these guidelines. Specifically, DOT will set the following standards at levels appropriate to the nature and timeliness of substantive information to be disseminated.

    a. Utility: DOT organizations will assess the usefulness of the information to be disseminated to the public. The originating office will continuously monitor the information needs and develop new sources or revise existing methods, models, and information products where appropriate;

    b. Objectivity: DOT organizations will ensure disseminated information is accurate, clear, complete, and unbiased, both as to substance and presentation, and in a proper context. The originating office will use reliable data sources and sound analytical techniques. To the extent possible and consistent with confidentiality protections, the originating office will identify the source of disseminated information so that the public can assess whether the information is objective.

    The Department intends to follow a policy of determining, in consultation as appropriate with relevant scientific and technical communities, when it is useful and practicable to apply reproducibility standards to original and supporting data. In making such determinations, the Department will be guided by commonly accepted scientific, financial or statistical standards, as applicable. With respect to analytic results, the Department's policies favor sufficient transparency about methods to allow independent reanalysis by qualified members of the public. In situations where public access will not occur (e.g., because of confidentiality requirements or the use of proprietary models), the Department's policy is to apply and document especially rigorous robustness checks. In any case, the Department's policy is to provide the maximum feasible transparency with respect to specific data sources, quantitative methods, and assumptions used.

    In OMB's guidelines, one of the aspects of ensuring objectivity deals with the use of peer review. For information products to which peer review is relevant, OMB's guidelines create a rebuttable presumption that the information meets the OMB guidelines' objectivity standards if the data and analytic results have been subject to formal, independent, external peer review. Anyone seeking to rebut this presumption (i.e., as part of the request for correction process) would have the obligation of demonstrating that the information was not substantively accurate, clear, complete, or unbiased, both as to substance and presentation, and in a proper context.

    With respect to influential scientific information disseminated by the DOT organizations regarding analysis of risks to human health, safety, and the environment, DOT organizations will adopt, with respect to the analysis in question, quality principles of the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1996 (42 U.S.C. 300g-1(b)(3)(A) & (B), except where the agency adapts these principles to fit the needs and character of the analysis. These principles are as follows:

    • Use the best available science and supporting studies conducted in accordance with sound and objective scientific practices, including peer-reviewed studies where available.
    • Use data collected by accepted methods or best available methods (if the reliability of the method and the nature of the decision justifies the use of the data).
    • In the dissemination of influential scientific information about risks, ensure that the presentation of information is comprehensive, informative, and understandable. In a document made available to the public, specify, to the extent practicable:
      • Each population addressed by any estimate of applicable effects.
      • The expected risk or central estimate of risk for the specific populations affected.
      • Each appropriate upper bound or lower-bound estimate of risk.
      • Each significant uncertainty identified in the process of the risk assessment and studies that would assist in reducing the uncertainty.
      • Any additional studies, including peer-reviewed studies, known to the agency that support, are directly relevant to, or fail to support the findings of the assessment and the methodology used to reconcile inconsistencies in the scientific data.

    c. Integrity: DOT's policy is to ensure that information is protected from unauthorized access, corruption or revision (i.e., make certain disseminated information is not compromised through corruption or falsification). The Department is highly protective of information collected under pledges of confidentiality. To ensure integrity of information disseminated electronically, the departmental CIO has implemented an aggressive Information Technology Security Program (ITSP). This Program, which complies with the computer security provisions of the Paperwork Reduction Act covers all DOT information, data and resources collected, stored, processed, disseminated, or transmitted using DOT information systems, to include the physical facilities in which the information, data and resources are housed. The ITSP applies to all DOT employees, specifically those in positions of public trust, contractors, subcontractors and other users of DOT information technology and related resources. For example, Departmental policy, as stated in the Department's Information Resources Management Manual (DIRMM) , states that all DOT web managers are responsible for establishing appropriate security safeguards for ensuring the "integrity" of the information disseminated on the web sites and complying with The Privacy Act of 1974, as amended , to ensure appropriate disclosure of information.

    DOT is also subject to several other statutory requirements to protect the information it gathers and disseminates. These include, but are not limited to: The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Government Information Security Reform Act ; OMB Circular A-130 (Management of Federal Information Resources, dated 12/12/85; revised 11/28/00), 49 U.S.C. 111(i) (BTS establishment) and the Trade Secret Act (18 U.S.C. 1905)

    d. Accessibility: In 2001, the Departmental CIO issued a policy to ensure accessibility to all persons. This policy applies to all Departmental electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by DOT organizations on or after June 21, 2001 unless covered by one of the following conditions: 1) micro-purchases made prior to January 1, 2003 (FAR 39.204(a); or 2) conformity would impose an undue burden on the agency (FAR 39.204(e) and 36 CFR 1194.2).

    DOT's policy is to ensure that all disseminated information (including electronic and information technology media) is accessible to all persons (see DOT Section 508 Policy Statement ).

    VI. What Additional Standards of Quality are DOT Organizations Implementing for Statistical Information?

    The 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) created the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) within the Department of Transportation (DOT). Among other things, it made BTS responsible for: "issuing guidelines for the collection of information by the Department of Transportation required for statistics ... in order to ensure that such information is accurate, reliable, relevant, and in a form that permits systematic analysis." (49 U.S.C. 111 (c)(3))

    A parallel requirement for developing guidelines emerged in the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 . It tasked the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to "develop and oversee the implementation of Government wide policy, principles, and guidelines concerning statistical collection procedures and methods; statistical data classification; statistical information presentation and dissemination; timely release of statistical data; and such statistical data sources as may be required for the administration of Federal programs." (44 U.S.C. 3504 (e)(3))

    The Department's Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) has established additional guidelines covering the Department's statistical programs. These guidelines (for statistical information) are based on structured planning, sound statistical methods and the principle of openness. Structured planning maintains the link between user needs and data system design. Sound statistical methods produce information (data and analysis results) that conforms to that design. Openness ensures that users of statistical information can easily access and interpret the information.

    Each section of the statistical guidelines (Section VI a-e below) begins with a statement of principles, which contain definitions, assumptions, and rules or concepts governing action. The principles are followed by guidelines, which are specific recommended actions. Finally, each section concludes with references and examples.

    To access DOT's Statistical Data Quality Guidelines click on section links below or refer to the Appendix of this report for a complete version of these guidelines.

    1. Planning Data Systems
    • Data System Objectives
    • Data Requirements
    • Methods to Acquire Data
    • Sources of Data
    • Data Collection Design
  • Collection of Data
    • Data Collection Operations
    • Missing Data Avoidance
  • Processing Data
    • Data Editing and Coding
    • Handling Missing Data
    • Production of Estimates and Projections
    • Data Analysis and Interpretation
  • Dissemination of Information
    • Publications and Disseminated Summaries of Data
    • Micro data Releases
    • Source and Accuracy Statements
    • Pre-Dissemination Reviews
  • Evaluating Information Quality
    • Data Quality Assessments
    • Evaluation Studies
    • Quality Control Systems
    • Data Error Correction

    VII. What Processes Does DOT Utilize to Ensure Information QUality Before It Is Disseminated?

    DOT's policy is to conduct a pre-dissemination review on all information it disseminates on or after October 1, 2002. During this review, each DOT organization may utilize internal peer reviews and other review mechanisms to ensure the quality of all disseminated information. The costs and benefits of using a higher quality standard or a more extensive review process will be considered in deciding the appropriate level of review and documentation. With respect to information collection requirements covered by the PRA, the Department will ensure that these requirements are consistent with the guidelines and will so state in the PRA submission to OMB. The main components of DOT's pre-dissemination review policy are the following:

    1. Allow adequate time for reviews, consistent with the level of standards required for the type of information to be disseminated. Consult with others (e.g., other DOT organizations, the public, State governments, etc...) that have a substantial interest in the proposed dissemination of the information.
    2. Verify compliance with these guidelines (i.e., utility, objectivity, integrity and accessibility requirements) as well as other DOT organization specific guidance/procedures;
    3. With respect to information a DOT organization believes to be "influential," maintain internal records of what additional standards will be applied to ensure its quality. Refer to Section XI of these guidelines for a discussion concerning how to think about the application of the term "influential" to DOT's information;
    4. Ensure that the entire information product fulfills the intentions stated and that the conclusions are consistent with the evidence;
    5. Indicate origin of data (when including data from an external source); and
    6. Ensure that each program office can provide additional data on the subject matter of any covered information it disseminates.

    VIII. What are DOT's Procedures Concerning Requests for Correction of Information?

    May I request a correction of information from the Department?

    If you are affected by information that the Department has disseminated on or after October 1, 2002 (i.e., if you are harmed because the information does not meet the standards of the guidelines or a correction of the information would benefit you), you may request that the Department correct that information. We regard information originally disseminated before October 1, 2002, as being subject to this correction process if it remains publicly available (e.g., it is posted on a DOT website or the Department makes it available on a generally distributed information source) and it continues to play a significant, active role in Department programs or in private sector decisions.

    Where do I submit a request for correction of information?

    You may make a request for correction of information or request for reconsideration via the Department's on-line correction request form (which can be accessed from the Department's Docket Management System (DMS) or the Department's customer support web site. ( Access DOT's online request form here .) Although we prefer a completed on-line form, we will also respond to request in written form, by letter or fax, to the following address:

      U. S. Department of Transportation (DOT)
      Office of Dockets and Media Management
      SUBJECT: Request for Correction of Information
      Room PL-401
      400 7th Street, S.W.,
      Washington, DC 20590
      Fax number: 202/366-7202

    Note: If you are making a request for reconsideration, you should include a reference to the initially assigned DOT docket number. This will enable DMS personnel to correctly place your reconsideration request in the same docket as your initial request.

    How does the Department process incoming requests for correction?

    We will post Incoming requests for correction, requests for reconsideration and DOT organizational responses on the DMS website. DMS will electronically notify designated data quality officials in DOT organizations that a request for correction/reconsideration is pending. In the event that DOT staff receive requests for correction/reconsideration by another means (e.g., mail to a DOT office), the staff will refer the request to the Office of Dockets and Media Management for inclusion in the DMS.

    You should be aware that the Department is not required to change, or in any way alter, the content or status of information simply based on the receipt of a request for correction. For example, DOT need not withdraw an information product from a website just because a request for correction has been received with respect to it. Nor does the receipt of a request, or its consideration of by the Department, result in staying or changing any action of the Department. The receipt of a request for correction likewise does not affect the finality of any decision of a DOT organization.

    What Should You Include in a Request for Correction of Information?

    In keeping with the non-regulatory nature of these guidelines, this guidance- for the content of requests for correction of information - is not intended to constitute a set of legally binding requirements. However, DOT may be unable to process, in a timely fashion or at all, requests that omit one or more of the requested elements. DOT will attempt to contact and work with requesters to obtain additional information when warranted.

    The following information is also provided on the electronic form mentioned in Section VIII (b) above.

    1. You should include a statement that a request for correction of information is submitted under DOT's Information Dissemination Quality Guidelines;
    2. You should include your name, mailing address, fax number, or e-mail address, telephone number and organizational affiliation, if any;
    3. Privacy Act Statement: DOT is authorized to obtain certain information under Section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001 (Public Law No. 106-554, codified at 44 U.S.C. § 3516, note). Information (as identified in Section VI) will be needed to process requests and allow DOT to reply accordingly. This information is needed to respond to your request and initiate follow-up contact with you if required. Please do not send us your Social Security Number. You are advised that you do not have to furnish the information but failure to do so may prevent your request from being processed. The information you furnish is almost never used for any purpose other than to process and respond to your request. However, we may disclose information to a congressional office in response to an inquiry made on your behalf, to the Department of Justice, a court, other tribunal when the information is relevant and necessary to litigation, or to a contractor or another Federal agency to help accomplish a function related to this process;
    4. You should describe how the information in question affects you (e.g., how an alleged error harms you, and/or how the correction will benefit you);
    5. You should clearly identify the report, data set, or other document that contains the information you want the Department to correct. Please be as specific as possible, include such identifying characteristics as title, date, how information was received (e.g., web-accessed);
    6. You should clearly identify the specific information that you want the Department to correct. Please be as specific as possible, include such identifying characteristics as the name of DOT agency that originated the data, title, date, etc. For example, you should not rely solely on general statements that allege some type of error. Requests for information that are specific and provide evidence to support the need for correction will likely be more persuasive than requests that are general, unfocused, or simply indicate disagreement with the information in question;
    7. You should specify, in detail, why you believe the information in question is inconsistent with the Department's and/or OMB's information quality guidelines (i.e., how the information fails to meet standards of integrity, utility, and/or objectivity);
    8. You should specify your recommendations for what corrections DOT should make to the information in question and reasons for believing that these recommended corrections would make the information consistent with the DOT's and/or OMB's information quality guidelines;
    9. You should include any documentary evidence you believe is relevant to your request (e.g., comparable data or research results on the same topic).

    May the Department reject a request for correction of information?

    Once the appropriate data quality official has received your request for correction of information from DMS, he/she will review your request and answer the following questions to determine if your request for correction is a valid request:

    1. Did DOT (as opposed to some other person or organization) actually disseminate the information you are requesting to be corrected?
    2. Are you a person affected by the information in question?
    3. Is the information about which you are requesting a correction from DOT covered by these Guidelines (see Section IV)?
    4. Is your request frivolous or not germane to the substance of the information in question?
    5. Has DOT responded previously to a request that is the same or substantively very similar? (Note: This does not mean that the Department would automatically reject a second or subsequent information correction request concerning the same information product. If one party made a request concerning one aspect of the information product, and a second party made a request concerning a different aspect of the same product, for example, our two requesters sought correction on substantively divergent grounds, it could be appropriate for the Department to consider both.).
    6. With respect to information in a final rule, final environmental impact statement, or other final document on which there was an opportunity for public comment or participation with respect to the compliance of the information with these guidelines, could interested persons have requested the correction of the information at the proposed stage?

    If the DOT organization determines that the answer to 1,2, or 3 is "no" or that the answer to Question 4, 5, or 6 is "yes," DOT has the discretion to reject your request without responding to it on its merits.

    If DOT rejects your request on these grounds, the DOT organization will send a written response explaining why. Normally, the DOT organization will send this response within 60 calendar days of receiving your request. The DOT organization will file this response in the DMS.

    If the DOT organization does not reject your request on these grounds, it will consider the request on its merits.

    Who has the burden of proof with respect to corrections of information?

    As the requester, you bear the burden of proof with respect to the necessity for correction as well as with respect to the type of correction you seek.

    What determinations does the Department make concerning a request for correction of information?

    If the DOT organization considers your request on its merits (that is, does not reject it for one of the reasons in paragraph (e) above), DOT will make the determination whether information subject to the DOT information quality guidelines complies with the guidelines. In doing so, the Department will consider whether the information or the request for correction is stale. If DOT did not disseminate this information recently (i.e., within one year of your request), or it does not have a continuing significant impact on DOT projects or policy decisions or on important private sector decisions, we may regard the information as stale for purposes of responding to a correction request, unless the complainant can show that he or she is affected by its dissemination. If we determine that information subject to the DOT information quality guidelines does not comply with the guidelines, the Department will decide what correction is appropriate to make in order to ensure compliance. It should be noted that while the Department's policy is to correct existing information when necessary, the Department is not obligated to generate new or additional information to respond to requests for correction.

    Except with respect to information covered in VIII (e)(6) of these guidelines, the DOT organization provides a written response directly to the requester

    The DOT organization will normally issue this response within 60 calendar days of receiving the request. If the DOT organization's response will take significantly longer than this period, the DOT organization will inform the requester that more time is required and indicate the reason why and an estimated decision date. This written explanation to the requester will also be filed in DMS.

    How does the Department process requests for correction concerning information on which the Department has sought public comment?

    Information in rulemakings and other documents concerning which public participation and comment are sought are subject to these guidelines. However, the Department may respond to requests for correction concerning such information through a different process than we use for other types of information. When the Department seeks public comment on a document and the information in it (e.g., a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), studies cited in an NPRM, a regulatory evaluation or cost-benefit analysis pertaining to the NPRM; a draft environmental impact statement; a proposed policy notice or aviation order on which comment has been sought; a request for comments on an information collection subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act), there is an existing mechanism for responding to a request for correction. This mechanism is a final document that responds to public comments (e.g., the preamble to a final rule).

    Consequently, our response to a request for correction of such information will normally be incorporated in the next document we issue in the matter.

    The Department would consider making an earlier response, if doing so (1) would not delay the issuance of the final action in the matter; and (2) the Department determined that there would be an unusually lengthy delay before the final document would be issued or the requester had persuaded the Department that there was a reasonable likelihood that the requester would suffer actual harm if the correction were not made before the final action was issued.

    Once again, the DOT organization will place its response in the DMS. As noted above in VIII (d), a DOT organization may reject a request for correction with respect to information in a final document if there was an opportunity for public comment or participation with respect to the compliance of information to these guidelines and interested persons could have requested the correction of the information at the proposed stage.

    IX. How Do You Seek Reconsideration of the Department's Decision on a Request for Correction?

    1. You may request reconsideration under this section if you have requested a correction of information under these guidelines, and you are not satisfied with the DOT organization's response. You should request reconsideration within 30 days of the date you received the DOT organization's decision on your original request for correction.
    2. You should send your request in the same manner, and to the same address, as provided in Section VIII of these guidelines. When completing the electronic DMS form, you need only complete Section II"Request for Reconsideration".
    3. If there is an existing process for reconsidering a particular sort of information disseminated by DOT, the DOT organization will make use of that process. For example, if the information relates to a final rule a DOT organization has issued, and the DOT organization has an existing process for handling requests for the reconsideration of a final rule, the DOT organization would use that process. If the information relates to a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the DOT organization may handle the request as though it were a request for a Supplemental EIS. If you state that you do not seek any change in the ultimate outcome of the process - such as a change in the content of the rule or the EIS - and the Departmental organization agrees that a correction is appropriate and can be made without adversely affecting that outcome, the Department will respond to you as provided in paragraphs (4) - (6) of this section.
    4. In the absence of an existing applicable reconsideration process, the DOT organization will designate a reconsideration official. This official should be someone who can offer objectivity (i.e., was not involved in making the decision on the original request for correction or in producing the underlying information) and who has a reasonable knowledge of the subject matter. The official can either be within the DOT organization to which the request for reconsideration pertains or in another DOT organization. In the case of a request concerning influential information, the Department will designate a panel of officials to perform this function, and we may do so in other appropriate cases. Typically, such a panel would include one person from the DOT organization that made the initial determination and two from other DOT organizations.
    5. The reconsideration official will determine if additional corrective action is needed. This determination may pertain to the specific correction that is appropriate in a given case as well as to the issue of whether correction is merited at all. The reconsideration official will issue a written response to the requester stating the reasons for the decision.
    6. The DOT organization will normally issue this response within 60 calendar days of receiving the request for reconsideration. If the DOT organization's response will take significantly longer than this period, the DOT organization will inform the requester that more time is required and indicate the reason why and an estimated decision date. This response will be filed in the DMS. The reconsideration official's determination will also be filed in DMS.

    X. What are the Department's Reporting Requirements?

    The Departmental Office of the Chief Information Officer will provide annual reports to OMB (which will include the number and nature of complaints received concerning agency compliance as well as how complaints were resolved) beginning January 1, 2004.

    XI. What are the Definitions Associated with These Guidelines?

    DOT has adopted the definitions of terms set forth in The Office of Management and Budget's Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies . The following information explains further the way that DOT uses some of these terms.

    Influential: The following discussion is intended as guidance for DOT officials and other interested persons in determining whether scientific, financial, or statistical information is influential within the meaning of OMB's guidelines. This definition is important because it determines the level of scrutiny afforded to information.

      The OMB guidelines define "influential" information as information that the agency reasonably can determine "will have or does have a clear and substantial impact on important public policies or important private sector decisions." The guidelines assign to DOT the task of defining this term in ways appropriate to the agency and its various programs.
      The Department emphasizes that to be influential; information must have a clear and substantial impact. A clear and substantial impact, first of all, is one determined to have a high probability of occurring. If it is merely arguable that an impact will occur, or if it is a close judgment call, then the impact is probably not clear and substantial. It is necessary to be very sure before designating information as influential. The impact must be on "important" public policy or private sector decisions. 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.
      OMB's guidelines' definition of this term applies only to scientific, financial, or statistical information. The definition does not address other types of information, no matter how important the information may seem to be. It should also be noted that the definition applies to "information" itself, not to decisions that the information may support. Even if a decision or action by DOT is itself very important, a particular piece of information supporting it may or may not be "influential."
      In rulemaking, influential information is scientific, financial, or statistical information that can reasonably be regarded as being one of the major factors in the resolution of one or more key issues in a significant rulemaking, as that term is defined in Executive Order 12866. This part of this standard reflects the "clear and substantial impact" language in the OMB guidelines language. The reference to key issues on significant rules reflects the "important" public policy language of the guidelines.
      In non-rulemaking contexts, DOT will consider two factors - breadth and intensity - in determining whether information is influential.
      Every decision DOT makes based on disseminated information is important to someone. That does not mean that disseminated information used for each decision is influential, as the term is used in the guidelines.
      In determining whether information is influential, DOT organizations should consider whether the information affects a broad range of parties. Information that affects a broad, rather than a narrow, range of parties (e.g., an entire industry or a significant part of an industry, as opposed to a single company) is more likely to be influential.
      Departmental organizations will also consider whether the information has an intense impact. Information that has a low cost or modest impact on affected parties is less likely to be influential than information that can have a very costly or crucial impact. In considering whether information has a high-intensity impact, DOT organizations would generally find that the same kinds of factors that cause a rule to be an economically significant rule, as defined in Executive Order 12866, would lead us to judge the impact of information in non-rulemaking context to be intense. Even in the absence of these factors, however, we could determine that information has an intense impact. This determination calls for the application of sound case-by-case judgment by officials knowledgeable of the issues and parties involved.
      Information that has an intense impact on a broad range of parties would be regarded as influential. Information that affects a broad range of parties, with a low-intensity impact, or information that affects a narrow range of parties, with a high-intensity impact, may or may not be influential. In making this determination, the Department would also take into account the overall magnitude of the impact of the information, not only its impact on a per capita or per unit basis.
      Departmental organizations may designate certain classes of information as "influential" or not in the context of their specific programs. Absent such designations, DOT organizations will determine whether information is influential on a case-by-case basis, using the principles articulated in these guidelines.
      The "influential" designation is intended to be applied to information only when clearly appropriate. DOT organizations should not designate information products or types of information as influential on a regular or routine basis. Nor should DOT organizations actually place an "influential" label in the title page or text of an information product.

    Reproducibility. 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.

    Dissemination. As provided in OMB's guidelines, these guidelines apply only to information disseminated on or after October 1, 2002. The fact that an information product that was disseminated by DOT before this date is still maintained by the Department (e.g., in DOT's files, in publications that DOT continues to distribute on a website) does not make the information subject to these guidelines or to the request for correction process. As noted above, the Department's policy is to treat as subject to the guidelines information that we maintain in a way that is readily available to the public and that continues to play a significant, active role in Department programs or in private sector decisions.

      For example, suppose that DOT first issued a study in 1999. The study is relied upon in a 2000 DOT organization publication, and the DOT organization makes the publication available on its website. This study is not subject to these guidelines or to the request for correction process just because it is "archived" in an available paper publication or website. However, if DOT issues a notice of proposed rulemaking in 2003 that relies on the same study, then it becomes subject to these guidelines - because it then has been disseminated (or, one might say "re-disseminated") after October 1, 2002.

    Departmental organizations. Offices within the Office of the Secretary, Operating Administrations (OA), offices, divisions, and comparable elements of the DOT.

    Departmental Chief Information Officer (CIO). The Departmental CIO is the senior management official responsible for the DOT Information Dissemination Quality Program.

    Data Quality Administrator (DQA). Designated representative in the Office of the CIO (S-80) responsible for compiling agency reports and serving as agency liaison to OMB.

    Data Quality Official (DQO). The DQO serve as the point of contact for the Departmental CIO/Data Quality Administrator and will be responsible for implementing these guidelines within their organization.

    Docket Management System (DMS). DMS is an electronic, image-based database in which all DOT docketed information is stored for easy research, and retrieval.

    Docket. A docket is an official public record. DOT publishes and stores online information about proposed and final regulations, copies of public comments on proposed rules, and related information in the DMS. DOT uses this docketed material when making regulatory and adjudicatory decisions, and makes docketed material available for review by interested parties. Specific documents covering the same issues are stored together in a docket.

    Transparency: Includes both presentation and the reporting of information sources and limitations.