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MOSQUITO TRAP DATA FOIA
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What information/data/documents we would like to have:
Comprehensive mosquito trap data including the exact trap location, collection date, mosquito counts by genus, species, and type, and their attributes.
Who might know where this data is:
The person who checks mosquito traps is typing those results into some data system. That is the data system that this request targets.
Where this data can be found:
Our understanding is that this data can be dispersed and in varying formats, such as Excel or PDFs. We would like all of those raw data files. In the event that there is a more complex data system, we would like a csv data dump from the database.
Fully Detailed Request
We would like to apply advanced machine learning and Big Data analysis tools to mosquito trap data. Using this approach, we expect to gain insights that might improve our responses to mosquito borne illness.
Species of mosquitos have different incubation periods which are typically connected to rainfall. After a rainfall ends, different mosquitos should appear at different times. If we take historical mosquito trap data and combine it with historical weather data and geographic feature data, we can create a machine learning system that does a good job of predicting when a species of mosquito would be more common in a certain area.
If that approach works we might be able to create an app that could warn pregnant or potentially pregnant women when to avoid the outdoors and to carefully use insect repellant systems. We might also give local public health agencies better information about when to spray to control mosquitos.
Moreover, the mosquito data we are requesting could contribute to the theoretical basis for the CDC strategy for Zika containment. This is demonstrated by the fact that the CDC endorses specific mosquito traps for use in local public health department measurements, and that CDC scientists continue to use trap data in scientific articles. The CDC itself promotes the general consensus that trap data is the source of evidence for determining which species of mosquito are common in which area of the country. However, the data that has been published so far has neither the specificity or scale to support a Big Data analysis. We want to fix that problem.
This data might not yet be properly warehoused. It might be possible that this information is held in hundreds or thousands of excel spreadsheets.
If this data could be released as a cohesive dataset, it would be extremely valuable. However, this issue is so critical that we will accept data provided in any format that can be delivered immediately. We can do the work of merging different files into a cohesive dataset on our end.
It is also acceptable to release this information as it is being found, rather than waiting to find or build a comprehensive dataset. Please send us whatever you can find, as soon as you find it.
Please understand that we need specific locations and dates in order to make this approach viable. Currently, CDC data is listed at the county-level. Other currently available data lists “parts of town” where data was collected. That is insufficient for a geo-based Big Data analysis. In order to be effective, we need to merge data about where rainfall has occurred, with data about where mosquitos have appeared. This requires us to have accurate geocodes to within 200 feet of the actual mosquito trap location. There are multiple websites that you can use to discover the latitude and longitude of very specific locations by dropping pins on Google Maps (etc). We host one of these at http://tokengeo.com/.
Please take the time to geocode the locations where you have your mosquito traps, and include that information in your response to this request.
We believe you are obligated to answer this data request in a timely manner for the following reasons:
- Federal funds were used to create the mosquito trap data. As a result of federal funding, federal FOIA law should apply to the data that is generated as result. Given that even the design of the traps themselves was CDC funded research, there is no mosquito trap data that cannot be reasonably considered to be federally funded.
- If any federally sponsored research has ever been published using this data, if this data was used to inform federal studies, or if it was referenced in federal studies, then federal policy dictates that it should be released to the public automatically.
- Your state also has a freedom of information law. You are likely obligated to answer this request based on state level transparency laws as well as federal.
- Answering this request quickly could serve to create a dataset that might positively impact the current Zika outbreak and provide useful insights to mosquito borne illnesses. Your health department will have access to raw datasets that are uploaded by other health departments, and to analyses that might serve to improve your department’s mosquito response.
We hope that you will find reason #4 especially compelling. You have the option to focus on why this data release might be helpful to society at large rather than focusing on whether you are are actually obligated to answer the request. We have done everything we can to make contributing this data as simple as possible. If we can do anything else to make this process easier, do not hesitate to let us know.
Obviously, we will be providing all participants access to this data project with the data contributed by other public health organizations.
As a basis, we are specifically requesting the following mosquito trap data:
- Mosquito counts
- Trap location – Latitude/ longitude point as accurate as possible. If latitude/ longitude point is not available, then the closest physical mailing address to trap
- Trap date – as close to a day window as possible
- Type (banded legs, etc)
- Count of mosquitoes tested positive as carriers of the following:
- West Nile
- St Louis Encephalitis Virus
- Eastern Equine Encephalitis Virus
- Western Equine Encephalitis Virus
- La Crosse Virus
Please consider uploading your data to the website we maintain for mosquito data:
If you would like to send us a dropbox link for your data, please send the link to
If you are unable to upload or submit your data to the site, please mail your electronic data stored in DVDs to:
The DocGraph Journal
2450 Holcombe Blvd Ste 270
Houston, TX 77021
Universal Requests Rational
The DocGraph Journal (“DocGraph”) is a data journalism organization that uses Freedom of Information laws to create new datasets that are openly available to everyone. This section describes who we are, what we do and why it is important. This section will be helpful in framing this request, but all of the information required to actually answer this request is included in previous sections. If you are actually working on answering this data request, you can stop reading now.
We typically make data requests rather than requests for documents, and we describe this data request in detail above. This is not a request for documents, unless those documents contain the data that I am requesting. To our knowledge this data is not currently found, in a complete form, on other government websites or available through other means. Specifically, this data is not specified at http://health.data.gov, which is a comprehensive repository of what healthcare related data is available from the Federal Government to the public.
I am a data journalist whose work has frequently appeared in DocGraph.com and strata.oreilly.com. DocGraph’s work has been integrated into stories for the public by mainstream media including ProPublica, Academy of Healthcare Journalists, U.S. News, Wired Magazine and many others.
The public has a fundamental interest in tracking the quality of the healthcare that is funded by federal tax dollars. The public has interest, specifically, in reducing fraud, waste and abuse, in the quality of healthcare delivered, the degree to which stimulus funds for health IT have been spent appropriately, and the degree to which public health activities are effective. If for any reason you cannot clearly see how this particular request is in the public interest, please let me know and I will write you an additional specific justification.
Even without the fundamental journalistic exemption from fees, DocGraph has shown a track record of providing substantively greater public good than any economic benefit we extract from data sales. The fees that DocGraph charges for data are used to fund the considerable efforts we put into acquiring, merging, and processing data, and in supporting the community of data scientists who turn the data into meaningful insights for the public at large. Datasets obtained by DocGraph are typically released under an Open Source Eventually model (OSE). DocGraph ensures that entrepreneurs and researchers have early access to inexpensive data, and that eventually the public has access to the data for no cost. The last point helps to ensure that DocGraph’s economic interests are eventually “retired” in favor of the public’s interest.
The DocGraph process as a whole represents a mechanism for translating data FOIA requests into public benefits. Therefore, FOIA requests made by individuals at DocGraph are compatible, in spirit, with the Federal policy and executive order on Open Data, and certainly qualifies DocGraph as a “vehicle of information and opinion” that benefits the public at large. Almost all states have existing legislation or policy stating the same principles.
As a result of this policy of contributing the results of federal and state-level FOIA requests into the commons, DocGraph has been able to foster a community of data scientists, healthcare researchers and journalists who collaborate in the public interest to use Big Data techniques to leverage open data (either from DocGraph, healthdata.gov or elsewhere) in order to improve healthcare.
Please consider visiting DocGraph.com to see our community in action.
Previous FOIA requests from individuals at DocGraph have been used by entrepreneurs, academics, non-profits and other data journalists to perform Big Data analysis that has served to advance these public interests. DocGraph has demonstrated that a graph-based analysis of the healthcare system is effective at detecting bad actors, and more effectively coordinating care. The datasets have been used for fraud detection, to improve the performance of EHR systems, to improve the deployment of health information exchange and to improve the coordination of patient care.
If my request is denied in whole or in part, I ask that you justify all deletions by reference to specific limitations of the relevant Freedom of Information laws. I also expect you to release all segregable portions of otherwise exempt material. I, of course, reserve the right to appeal your decision to withhold any information or to deny a waiver of fees.
As I am making this request as a journalist and this information is of timely value, I would appreciate your communicating with me by email, rather than by mail, if you have questions regarding this request.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please provide expedited processing of this request which concerns a matter of urgency. As a journalist, I am primarily engaged in disseminating information. The public has an urgent need for information about federal, state and local governments with regards to healthcare payment reform efforts as well as other public health matters. This is also broadly a matter of significant impact to the healthcare of many members of the public. Because this is a fundamental data request, many of the benefits to the public are indirect because the data will be used by many different organizations in many ways. So far, multiple entrepreneurs, journalists, healthcare institutions and researchers have used our open datasets to provide innumerable public goods. I certify that my statements concerning the need for expedited processing are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Because this FOIA request does not include patient data, de-identified or otherwise, it cannot be denied based on privacy grounds. Mosquitos do not have privacy rights.
I am also aware that CMS/HHS and other government agencies do not answer FOIA requests for data that is available to the public elsewhere. This data is not already available at healthdata.gov or through ResDAC. We have attempted to search your website for this information, and we did not find it. I do sometimes request data that is an extension of what is publicly available, if you feel that the data that I am requesting if already public, please let me know and I will detail in writing how my request is distinct from what is already available for public download.
I look forward to your reply within 20 business days, as the statute requires.
Thank you for your assistance.
Data Journalist, with The DocGraph Journal