Live-blogging the 2009 Vancouver PKP Conference

Publishing Freedom of Information: the Open Government Records Plug-In for OJS: The Session Blog

Friday, July 10th, 2009 (11:30 AM)
SFU Harbour Center (Sauder Industries Room 2270)

Presenter: Mark Weiler, PhD Candidate, Simon Fraser University


Freedom of information (FOI) legislation was enacted in Canada in 1983.  This legislation, in existence in various forms throughout the world, allows individuals to request access to government-held information.  In Canada, there is no formal database to allow interested parties to search for previously submitted FOI requests, or for the documents released as a result of these requests.

Session Overview – Session Abstract

Mark Weiler is interested in developing technologies that allow students and other academics to carry out historical research.  Recently, he became interested in the use of Open Journal Systems (OJS) and its capacity to make government-held knowledge more accessible to academics as well as to the general public.  This interest is in keeping with the aims and goals of the Open Access movement, namely, to make accessible information held by the government through Freedom of Information legislation.

Open Government Records (OGR), initially designed as a plug-in for OJS, helps journals to submit, track and publish FOI requests and the resulting correspondence and documentation that follows these initial requests.

The OGR website currently offers access to several FOI repositories touching on a number of areas of interest, including public servant curriculum and scholarships/grants.  What the website allows, above and beyond what a traditional print-published compilation of the FOI requests would, is the ability to offer access as the documents are obtained.

Commentary and Questions

The ensuing discussion highlighted a number of the potential uses of the OGR technology.  Notably, journalism schools were felt to be likely beneficiaries.  This type of repository could help inform work on government policy, public servant salaries, etc…  There was concern, however, that journalists may be reluctant to submit FOI requests to a database for fear of being “scooped”.

Another area of discussion concerned to potential use of this type of technology to help users submit information requests to journals in order to obtain more information about their corporate structure and partnerships.

Related links

Below are a series of links to websites and societies dedicated to civic action and freedom of information;

Open Government Records – The OGR website, with its FOI repositories.

Visible Government – A Canadian NGO website dedicated to increasing government transparency.

What Do They Know? – Database of UK FOI requests.

MySociety – UK civic action website.


Weiler, M. (2009). Publishing freedom of information: the open government records plugin for ojs. PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-08, from