What is the Information Quality Act (aka Data Quality Act)? Sound Science Must Inform Federal Government Policies

The Information Quality Act ("IQA" aka DQA) requires federal government agencies to employ sound science in making regulations and disseminating information. It also provides a mechanism for people and companies to challenge government information they believe to be inaccurate. Business, consumer, environmental and conservation groups have all used it to pursue changes in government policies.

Nearly all federal agencies are subject to the IQA's rules, including "any executive department, military department, Government corporation, Government controlled corporation, or other establishment in the executive branch of the Government (including the executive office of the President), or any independent regulatory agency."

Implementation of the Information Quality Act is the responsibility of a subdivision of the Office of Management and Budget, the OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. By October 2002, each federal agency was required to:

  • Issue its own information quality guidelines ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information that it disseminates;
  • Establish administrative mechanisms to allow affected persons to seek and obtain correction of information maintained or disseminated by the agency that does not comply with OMB or agency guidelines;
  • Report periodically to OMB the number and nature of complaints received by the agency regarding the accuracy of its information and how such complaints were resolved.

Department of Justice guidelines require a response to Information Quality Act petitions within 60 days of filing. That response may include the scheduling of new reviews.

Under the Guidelines, the term "quality" encompasses "utility," "objectivity," and "integrity," meaning the information should be useful to the public, secure from unauthorized revision, and objective in its presentation and substance.

In order for public information to be considered objective, it must be presented in an accurate, clear, complete, and unbiased manner. Agencies must present the information in the proper context and identify both the sources of the information and the methods used to produce it, along with full documentation, so that the public can assess whether there may be reason to question its objectivity.

The information must be accurate, reliable and unbiased, and based on sound research methods. Information that is "influential scientific, financial, or statistical information" - that is, information that has a substantial impact on important public policies or private sector decisions - also must be reproducible to demonstrate its objectivity.