Sunshine Week is a celebration of the public’s right to see U.S. government records. Initiated in 2005, Sunshine Week features events sponsored by groups interested in the public’s right to know about its government, including government agencies, news organizations, universities, and libraries. These public events are designed to raise awareness about how important openness and transparency in government are for a democratic society. This year, Sunshine Week is celebrated the week of March 14-20, encompassing the March 16 birthday of James Madison, known as the “father of the Bill of Rights.”
Sunshine Week events
A Sunshine Week events calendar describes each event, date and time, and how to register or join. For example:
- On March 15, Open the Government will host a panel discussion of the Trump Presidential Library and records, “What Presidents Do to Keep Us from Knowing What Presidents Do.”
- Also on March 15 is the New England First Amendment Coalition online webinar, “Keeping the Light On: Holding Government Accountable,” examining “the values of open and responsive government and how all citizens play a role.”
- The News Leaders Association webinar on March 18 features a discussion by journalists “on how they navigated barriers to public records to tell important stories about COVID-19, official misconduct and beyond.”
- Join the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on March 18 for an online discussion, “Truth Be Told: The Proliferation of Online Misinformation and Disinformation — And What We Can Do About It.” Sign up at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/truth-be-told-tickets-143849839743
- The DC Open Government Coalition is holding a webinar on Thursday afternoon, March 18. The full schedule is on their website. There are three panels exploring the laws about open data, meetings and records; education data; and accessing the state of access to D.C. records and agency compliance with public requests.
Federal agencies often celebrate Sunshine Week. This year, the events are virtual, including:
- The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) virtual event on Monday, March 15, features Senior U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth who’ll be discussing open government and the legal landscape (https://www.archives.gov/ogis/outreach-events/sunshine-week-2021). The public can watch the live stream at 1:00 PM on the 15th via the National Archives’ YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/USNationalArchives).
- The Department of Justice (DOJ) continues its practice of recognizing the efforts of individuals who have made significant contributions to the success of their agency’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) activities. The Eventbrite link can be accessed at https://www.justice.gov/oip/blog/department-justice-sunshine-week-virtual-2021-celebration.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) celebrated Sunshine Week by introducing a bill (H.R. 1929) to update the Presidential Records Preservation Act of 1978, assuring that good records management practices are applied to electronic messages.
Open Data Day
In actuality, the celebrations begin on Saturday, March 6, with Open Data Day, a global effort to bring together individuals interested in increasing access to information online. There are many online events this year, headquartered in the United States and abroad. Search for events in which you might wish to participate at https://opendataday.org/events/2021/.
NOVA students are informed citizens
Students should understand what information is available from the government and how to gain access to it. Participating in a Sunshine Week event might be your first step in discovering what to do when obstacles are in your way.
Watch this space throughout Sunshine Week (#SunshineWeek) for more about openness and transparency in government!