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Update to Management Directive 3.17, NRC Information Quality Program

On April 24, 2019, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued M-19-15, "Improving Implementation of the Information Quality Act" (OMB, Executive Office of the President, OMB M-19-15, Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies; Issuance of "Improving Implementation of the Information Quality Act" (2019)). M-19-15 reinforces, clarifies, and interprets agency responsibilities under the Information Quality Act (IQA) and subsequent OMB guidelines issued pursuant to the IQA (Pub. L. No. 106-554, § 515(a) (2000); ;Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies (67 Federal Register (FR) 8,452; Feb. 22, 2002); Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review (70 FR 2,664; Jan. 14, 2005).) In sum, the IQA requires that executive branch agencies, including the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), use sufficient internal processes to ensure the "quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity" of information before its dissemination to the public. For information the agency identifies as "influential," as that term is defined in the IQA and OMB guidelines, additional requirements apply, including the need to conduct a peer review of the information before its dissemination. The IQA also requires agencies to develop an administrative mechanism through which members of the public may seek correction of information disseminated by the agency not in conformance with these guidelines.

The NRC describes the IQA in Management Directive (MD) 3.17, "NRC Information Quality Program" (Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) Accession No. Main Library (ML16105A321), which was last updated in June 2016. MD 3.17 describes the agency's commitment to information quality and, among other things, incorporates OMB guidance on information quality, peer review, and procedures for information correction requests described above. MD 3.17 includes the procedures for the NRC's annual data call to identify information products in development that require peer review before dissemination. Lastly, the NRC also maintains a public Information Quality Web site where affected members of the public can submit information correction requests.

The NRC is committed to each of the implementation updates in OMB M-19-15 (revised language for MD 3.17 in bold below).  The revised language will be incorporated into MD 3.17 upon its next issuance.

Directive Section II, "Objectives"

Conform to the NRC "Information Quality Guidelines" (67 FR 61695), October 1, 2002, OMB's "Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies" (67 FR 8452), and OMB Memorandum M-19-15, "Improving Implementation of the Information Quality Act."

Handbook Section I, "NRC Information Quality Guidelines"

D. NRC Quality Standards

3. NRC will impose the highest level of quality of influential scientific, financial, or statistical information, which the agency defines as information that forms the technical basis for a substantive rulemaking that has a substantial impact on an industry. The NRC may also deem other types of information as "influential," including any NRC information product listed in Table 1 of Exhibit 2 of this Management Directive, on a case-by-case basis. In determining what constitutes influential scientific, financial, or statistical information, NRC considers three principal factors:

(a) The information must have a clear and substantial impact that has a high probability of occurring.

(b) The information must impact regulatory decisions affecting a broad class of applicants or licensees. Although information contained in a regulatory decision for an individual applicant or licensee may have substantial impact, it is limited in its breadth, and therefore will not be deemed "influential" for the purposes of these guidelines.

(c) Whether the regulatory decision supported by the information would be difficult to reach in that information's absence, or if the regulatory decision would be deprived of its fundamental scientific underpinnings without the information (i.e., even where an NRC regulatory decision is of high importance, information supporting that decision still may not be considered "influential" if the decision could still be reached with the information's absence).

(d) The NRC is committed to ensuring that "influential" information is appropriately identified during the annual survey described in Section III of this Handbook. Program offices involved in the annual survey are highly encouraged to consult with the IQC during the annual survey process if there is uncertainty as to whether a particular information product qualifies as "influential" for purposes of these guidelines.

4. NRC applies the most rigorous procedures to ensure the quality of "influential" information. The reproducibility or original and supporting data for influential scientific, financial, or statistical information will be consistent with commonly accepted scientific, financial, or statistical standards. When reproducibility is not achievable through public access because of confidentiality protection or compelling interests, analytical results will receive especially rigorous reviews. NRC will describe the specific reviews, as well as the specific data sources, quantitative methods, and assumptions used. Consistent with OMB M-19-15 the NRC is also committed to the following with respect to ensuring the reproducibility of "influential" information:

(a) The NRC is committed to communicating influential information transparently by including a clear explication of underlying assumptions; accurate contextualization of uncertainties; and a description of the probabilities associated with both optimistic and pessimistic projections, including best-case and worst--case scenarios.

(b) When the NRC has performed analysis using a specialized set of computer code, the NRC is committed to making the code publicly available to the public for further analysis where consistent with applicable law and policy.

(c) When the NRC uses non-government sources to create influential information, the NRC is committed to communicating sufficient information on the characteristics of the data and analysis, including its scope (e.g., temporal or demographic), generation protocols, and any other information necessary to allow the public to reproduce the NRC's conclusions.

(d) The NRC is committed to prioritizing increased access to the data and analytic frameworks (e.g., models) used to generate influential information, consistent with any statutory, regulatory, and policy requirements for protection of privacy and confidentiality, proprietary data, and confidential business information.

F. Access and Use of NRC Data Subject to Information Quality Standards

Consistent with the Open, Public, Electronic, and Necessary Government Data Act (OPEN Government Data Act, Pub. L. No. 115-435, 132 Stat. 5534 (2019)); OMB Circular No. A-130, "Managing Information as a Strategic Resource"; OMB Memorandum M-13-13, "Open Data Policy—Managing Information as an Asset"; and OMB Memorandum M-14-06, "Guidance for Providing and Using Administrative Data for Statistical Purposes," the NRC is committed to the following:

  1. When the NRC makes information originally collected or developed by other Federal agencies available to the public in a cross-agency dissemination, the NRC will ensure the quality of information that it contributed to the cross-agency product and will clearly communicate that responsibility to the public.

  2. The NRC is committed to providing the public with sufficient documentation about each dataset it releases to allow data users to determine the fitness of the data for the purpose for which third parties may consider using it.  The NRC will safeguard privacy and confidentiality in the context of open data assets.

  3. The NRC will consider the potential for using existing data sources from both inside and outside the agency for statistical and research purposes, while protecting privacy and confidentiality.

  4. When designing or improving a data collection system, the NRC will solicit input about potential downstream uses of that data collection and will describe such uses in the Information Collection Request submitted to OMB for review under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

  5. If the NRC is considering secondary analysis of data that includes personally identifiable information, the NRC will coordinate with its Senior Agency Official for Privacy to meet all privacy requirements and manage privacy risks.

  6. The NRC will clearly document and communicate the quality of administrative data that have the potential to be used for statistical purposes.

Handbook Section II., "NRC Administrative Process for the Public to Submit a Request for Correction of Information"

Information Quality Coordinator (IQC) Actions

6. The IQC will respond to the requester within 45 calendar days of receipt by letter or e-mail, and the response will explain the findings of the review and any actions that NRC will take. The NRC's response should not opine on any policy position put forth by the requestor, or any NRC policy position that is supported by the data that is the subject of the ICR. Rather, the NRC's response should contain a point-by-point response to any data quality arguments contained in the ICR. The response should also refer to any peer review that directly considered the issue being raised in the ICR.

7. The response will contain information on how the requester can appeal the agency's decision.  If the request requires more than 45 calendar days to resolve, the ICQ will inform the requester that more time is required, state the reason why, and include an estimated decision date. This estimated decision date should not exceed 120 calendar days after receipt of the ICR without the concurrence of the requester. See appeal guidance, "How to Submit a Request for an Appeal".

Office Processing Actions

5. The IOC will provide the written determination to the IQC within 30 calendar days after the office's receipt of the action from the IQC.  In accordance with OMB M-19-15, the IQC is responsible for sharing draft responses to ICRs with OMB before sending the response to the requester.

NRC Receipt and Review of Appeals to ICR Decisions

8. The management official will limit the appeal review to the basis of the appeal and may consult with other Federal agencies or NRC employees in responding to the appeal, as appropriate. To ensure the integrity of the appeals process, the management official should not consult with the same NRC employees who were involved in the review and initial response to the ICR.

E. Responding to the Requester

1. The IQC will provide the response to the requester through a letter or e-mail within 30 calendar days. The response will contain the management official's determination. If the appeal requires more than 30 calendar days to resolve, the IQC will inform the requester that more time is required, state the reason why, and include an estimated decision date. This estimated decision date should not exceed 120 calendar days after receipt of the ICR appeal without the concurrence of the requester.

2. Per OMB M-19-15, the IQC is responsible for ensuring that draft responses to ICR appeals are shared with OMB before sending the response to the requester.

Handbook Section III., "NRC Guidelines for Applying the OMB Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review"

A. Identification of Scientific Information Subject to Office of Management and Budget Peer Review Guidelines

  1. Introduction

    1. On January 14, 2005, the OMB issued the "Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review" (70 FR 2664), hereafter referred to as the ("OMB Bulletin"). The OMB Bulletin requires that all agencies conduct a peer review of information that qualifies as "influential scientific information (ISI)" or as a "highly influential scientific assessment (HISA)" that the NRC intends to disseminate publicly. The NRC is committed to ensuring compliance with the OMB Bulletin when using scientific information, including third-party data or models, to support regulatory decisions.

C. Conduct of Peer Reviews

Peer reviews of ISI must meet the requirements in Section III.C.1 of this handbook. Peer reviews of HISA must meet the requirements in Section III.C.1 and the additional requirements in Section III.C.2 of this handbook. For most products, an ACRS or ACMUI review constitutes a peer review for information quality purposes. In all peer reviews of ISI and HISA, the NRC is committed to ensuring that peer reviewers are asked to evaluate the objectivity of the underlying data and the sensitivity of the agency's conclusions to analytic assumptions. Additionally, when influential information that has previously been peer reviewed changes significantly (e.g., as a result of the peer reviewer comments, additional agency analysis, or further consideration), the NRC is committed to ensuring that a second peer review is conducted in accordance with these requirements.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, July 24, 2019