The Data Foundation, founded in 2016, is the only industry-focused open data research organization in the United States. Through research, education, and programming, the Foundation illuminates the benefits of transforming government information into standardized, open data. In 2016, the Foundation published research reports on the DATA Act and the national open data movement; conducted educational programs to teach federal leaders how to standardize and publish spending information as open data; and hosted Data Transparency 2016, the nation’s largest-ever open data policy conference, in Washington.

Across all modes of government reporting and compliance, it makes sense to replace document-based information flows with standardized, open data. Open data is cheaper to generate, store, and analyze than unstructured documents.

The Data Foundation has establish a fellowship to support focused engagement around open data in grant reporting. 

The federal grant industry uses a complex array of forms, filings, and systems to administer over $600 billion in federal grants each year, more than 80% of which are distributed to state and local governments. Most grant reports are document-based: grantees must compile and submit forms to apply for, receive, and report back on grant awards. Even where grant information is submitted electronically, the lack of a standardized data structure means every submission is unique and information cannot be automatically delivered to all the people and entities who need it.


The Grant Innovation Fellow’s goals will include:

  • Educating of grantees and the organizations supporting them on the value of standardized data, and helping them to test software and processes to use HHS’ data dictionary to automate their reporting and management.

  • Persuading grantor agencies to embrace HHS’ data dictionary - first as a means of managing their grant forms and later as the exclusive data structure for collecting reports.

  • Engaging state and local governments, with their unique challenges as both grantees and grantors, on the benefits of establishing a single structure for all levels of reporting.

  • Supporting HHS and OMB in further developing HHS’ data dictionary into the full-scale standardized data structure that the federal grant industry needs. HHS must publish the data dictionary as open data for unrestricted development; HHS and OMB must refine the data dictionary to add additional dimensions to model the architecture of grant reporting; and OMB must ultimately decide to certify the data structure for use across all federal grant programs.

  • Encouraging technology and consulting firms to create products and services that use standardized data structures to automate grant reporting and management.

    In short, the Grant Innovation Fellow’s activities will lead the whole federal grant industry to support, test, use, and realize a standardized data structure. 



Jenata Spencer, Grant Innovation Fellow

Jenata Spencer, Grant Innovation Fellow


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On January 12, the Grant Innovation Fellow convened a Roundtable with stakeholders including government, tech sector, grantees, and philanthropic and non-profit organizations. Read the recap blog here!


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