This page is a list of frequently asked questions about the database, definitions, methodology, etc. If you don’t see your question answered here please contact us and we’ll answer it.
- Would you include innovation being done to make the government more efficient, or able to use greener energy?
- How did you pick these categories?
- If a project showed up in multiple sources, how did you decide what to use?
- How is ARRA data included in the Tracker?
- How are loan programs and guarantees counted?
- Would you include innovation being done to make the government more efficient, or able to use greener energy? We have included it in the case where innovation is explicitly being done to make a broadly usable solution. For example, DARPA has many projects which will allow them to create or use energy in smarter ways throughout the military. If the intention is to address a specific situation, we have not included it. For example, we have not included any of the efforts to make the Capitol or other buildings more energy efficient, as the ones we have seen are all situation specific.
- How did you pick these categories? We didn’t establish this initial set of categories until we’d looked at a large number of projects. We tried a few different categorization schemes, and found that the important things were that a) you could easily understand it, and b) most projects would fall clearly into a specific category. Using these criteria this set of categories stood out.
- If a project showed up in multiple sources, how did you decide what to use? Many current projects showed up in multiple documents, and projects from FY09 and FY10 showed up in documents for multiple fiscal years. In general we used data that was a) most recent, and b) most specific, or at the smallest level of project granularity. The most recent document should have the firmest data, i.e. more is understood about the actual spending than at earlier times. The most specific data allowed us to allocate accurately to categories, and generally had the best project description.
- How is ARRA data included in the Tracker? The tracker counts American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) investments separately from fiscal year sums because it is difficult to track when these grants were distributed. This means that total investment in FY2009 and FY2010 was actually higher if ARRA investment is added to the actualized budget total. For information on the distribution of ARRA grants, see this trends analysis.
- How are loan guarantees and programs counted? The federal government backs loan guarantees by appropriating a subsidy cost, which usually represents the estimated cost of default. Unfortunately, subsidy costs by project are not publicly available. In order to maintain a higher level of transparency, the Tracker reports loan guarantees at the project level with the amount indicating the full amount of the loan. Loan guarantees are counted within the fiscal year in which the subsidy cost was appropriated, rather than by project-level agreement date. (This mainly applied to the Department of Energy Loan Programs.)