All posts by Brendan Buff

John Abowd of the Census Bureau Calls for Response to Federal Register Notice

By John Abowd, Associate Director for Research and Methodology at the US Census Bureau. 

The blog referenced below was just released on www.census.gov. It explains how our new disclosure avoidance methods protect confidentiality and fitness-for-use. More importantly, it calls attention to the Federal Register Notice posted here (https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/07/19/2018-15458/soliciting-feedback-from-users-on-2020-census-data-products) soliciting user feedback on the 2010 Census data products.

It is imperative that sophisticated data users respond to this FRN. As my new blog makes clear, we can control the fitness-for-use of the 2020 Census data products, but the Census Bureau cannot give every use case the same margin-of-error (just as we currently cannot give every statistic from the ACS the same MOE). The use case for the PL94-171 redistricting data is written into that statute. It is the only use case currently reflected in the design of the 2020 Census disclosure avoidance system. Other data users must  supply information that demonstrates how the categorical and geographic detail in historical summary and detailed data tables, national and state demographic profiles, and topical briefs translates into their own use cases.

Important Changes at the Economic Research Service

The Secretary of Agriculture announced on Thursday, August 9 that the Economic Research Service will undergo several significant changes in the coming year. USDA is moving ERS out of the Research, Education, and Economics area of the USDA to the Secretary’s Office of the Chief Economist.  The rationale is that this move will better align the missions of ERS and the Chief Economist.

In addition, most ERS and NIFA personnel will have to relocate outside of the Washington, DC metro area to an undetermined location. In fact, USDA also announced on August 9, its search for a site selection consultant to help with this process. Since the new locations have yet to be determined, it is possible that ERS and NIFA may be co-located when their new homes are found as expected by the end of 2019.

Finally, USDA recently announced that Mary Bohman, the Administrator of the Economic Research Service, will move to a new position the Office of the Administrator, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to serve as Associate Administrator (Economics), on September 2, 2018.

USDA Secretary Perdue provided the following reasons for these changes:

“1. To improve (their) ability to attract and retain highly qualified staff with training and interests in agriculture, many of whom come from our land-grant universities. (They’ve) seen significant turnover in these positions, and it has been difficult to recruit employees to the Washington, DC area, particularly given the high cost of living and long commutes.

2. To place these important USDA resources closer to many of (their) stakeholders, most of whom live and work far from the DC area.

3. To benefit the American taxpayers. There will be significant savings on employment costs and rent, which will allow more employees to be retained in the long run, even in the face of tightening budgets.”

These are controversial changes that have significant impacts on public statistics and signal intent by the Trump Administration to move forward on other changes to agencies, especially if they can be done through administrative action. Former USDA ERS Commission Katherine Smith Evans, now of the American Economic Association, recently wrote an editorial on proposed funding cuts for ERS – the agency faces significant threats to funding, staff, and mission.  APDU will keep you informed as further as this issue develops and will join with others to serve as your voice to address our shared concerns on these issues.

APDU Data Viz Award Winners Announced!

APDU received many excellent submissions for the 2018 APDU Data Viz Awards, and our expert review committee has concluded their deliberations. This was a difficult process with such great options to choose from – we are very grateful for the work put into developing and submitting these visualizations.

We would like to thank our review committee for their time and effort in evaluating the submissions. This year, Mike Crow of Crow Insight, Richard Schwinn of the SBA Office of Advocacy, and Ron Nakao of Stanford University served on the committee.

Without further ado, the winners this year include:

Federal Government

USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, “Making it Simple: Accessing U.S. Agricultural Statistics”

  • Sue King, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
  • Lorna Drennen, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
  • Rui Jiang, Penguin Labs

Researchers and Students

Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center, “Census 2020 Hard to Count Online Map”

  • Steve Romalewski, Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center
  • David Burgoon, Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center
  • Valerie Bauer, Center for Urban Research, CUNY Graduate Center

Researchers and Students

University of Baltimore, “GEOLOOM Co>Map: Cultural Mapping in Baltimore”

  • TJ ODonnnell, University of Baltimore
  • Christine Hwang, University of Baltimore
  • Stepthen Ansari, Blue Rasters
  • Seema Iyer, University of Baltimore

Private Firms

Population Reference Bureau, “Declines in Adult Death Rates Lag in the U.S. South”

  • Mark Mather, Population Reference Bureau
  • Paola Scommegna, Population Reference Bureau
  • Alex Friedhoff, District Analytics
  • Andrew Fenelon, University of Maryland

Congratulations to this year’s winners! Register for the 2018 APDU Annual Conference today to learn from awardees about how they created these excellent visualizations.

Why PolicyMap Loves the APDU Conference

By: Bernie Langer, PolicyMap

The first time I went to APDU, my first reaction was that I’d never before been around so many people who speak my language. We were talking about Census data, BLS data, education data, health data… I was around people who work on the same things that I spend my life working on. It was like visiting my home planet for the first time!

At PolicyMap, we’re concerned with collecting and mapping public data. We have a team that scours the web for new and interesting data, and ideas for what to do with it. We also have users that reach out and tell us what data they want us to add. Keeping up to date is important to us, and something we feel we do well. But just keeping current isn’t enough; we need to be ready to anticipate changes in the data universe.

And that’s why it’s so important to have a conference like APDU, where we can really hear what people around the country (and around the world) are talking about in the realm of public data. Experts, practitioners, data providers, and public officials are all there, discussing their work, their challenges, and their solutions.

One of the most valuable things we get from APDU is hearing from government data providers on the latest in their departments. There are usually various people from the Census speaking on topics ranging from the progress of the upcoming Census to the design of the ACS survey envelope. The Census Bureau isn’t the only game in town, and it’s great hearing from people at other organizations like the BLS and the National Center for Education Statistics.

After two days of sessions and conversations with fellow data people, you start to get a sense of big picture trends in data. Last year, there was a lot of talk about the possible decline of survey data in favor of administrative data and commercial data. Administrative data has really been the buzzword of the decade, and right now, it’s still the Wild West of data. APDU is a great forum for hearing about and discussing the best practices for working in this emerging area.

But what really makes APDU a necessary conference is the opportunity to meet people doing similar work across the country. Some of it is just sharing ideas and talking shop. But thanks to people we’ve met at APDU, we’re working on major new projects that wouldn’t have been otherwise possible.

This year, in addition to our APDU board representative, Elizabeth Nash, we’re sending our new Data Development Lead, Eliza Wallace, who will be attending for the first time. We’re looking forward to hearing about what’s being talked about in public data this year!

APDU Data Viz Awards: Call for Visualizations

The Association of Public Data Users (APDU) is pleased to announce the 2018 Data Viz Awards. We are once again soliciting creative and meaningful graphic designs that use publicly-available data (for example, data from the Census Bureau or Bureau of Labor Statistics) to convey a compelling point or story.

About the Award

APDU started the Data Viz Awards in response to our members’ growing need to communicate their data and research to a variety of audiences using graphic technologies and cutting-edge techniques. APDU hopes to engage data users and help them understand and share data for analysis and decision making.

The Data Viz Awards take pride in recognizing eye-catching and easy-to-comprehend images building on publicly-available data. Click here to view the award-winning visualizations from the 2017 APDU Data Viz Awards.

Winners will be invited to present at the 2018 APDU Annual Conference on July 17, 2018 in Arlington, VA. Winners in the “Researchers & Students” category will also receive a free APDU membership for 2018.

What We’re Looking For

APDU will select creative and compelling images, in four categories:

State/Local Government, including independent and quasi-independent agencies;

Federal Government, including independent and quasi-independent agencies;

Private firms, which can include consultancies, advocacy groups, or any other private firms using public data; and

Researchers & Students, which can include any visuals published or formally presented by researchers or students in higher education, think tanks, research organizations, nonprofits, or similar.

Submissions must have been made publicly available between June 2017 and May 2018. We are accepting submissions that appeared in a published research paper or article either in print or on the web, in a public presentation, as a stand-alone infographic, as a website feature, and/or as another official product.

Deadline: Friday, May 25, 2018

Create your own user feedback survey

State Data Sharing Initiative Reports Released!

We invite you to learn more about how to improve your economic and workforce development outcomes by using evidence to drive decision making.  The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) just released the report, “Advancing State Data Sharing for Better Economic and Workforce Development” and the tool “Legal Guide to Administrative Data Sharing for Economic and Workforce Development” that offer important lessons for states interested in enabling the responsible use of administrative records for program research and analysis.

Access to administrative records – wage records and corporate tax filings – can be invaluable for making evidence-based policy decisions.  Yet accessing those records can be difficult.  During the past 18 months CREC has been working with five states to determine solutions to data sharing challenges as part of its State Data Sharing Initiative.  The lessons learned are:

  1. States can “get to yes” by addressing cultural barriers to data sharing
  2. Clearly articulate the laws governing data sharing
  3. States need to dedicate resources to data sharing efforts
  4. Data sharing advocates must manage up and down to gain and sustain support
  5. Standardizing data sharing processes creates meaningful progress

The Legal Guide covers common issues when negotiating an agreement to securely share data and sets out guidance that facilitate the responsible use of administrative data for evidence-based policy making to the full extent of federal and state laws.

CREC has worked on the State Data Sharing Initiative over the past two years to inform more rigorous analysis of economic and workforce development programs by better understanding the barriers to accessing administrative records responsibly.  The project included research on the legislation guiding data sharing in all 50 states, assessments of improvements to evaluation efforts that fully respect taxpayer privacy, and technical assistance to five states that agreed to take significant action on their data sharing policies over an 18-month engagement.  All the research can be found on the website: www.statedatasharing.org.

In addition to these two papers, the State Data Sharing Initiative website also includes a variety of resources including:

  • A summary of key legislative language in all 50 states, plus companion federal legislation
  • A research report on the barriers to data sharing in the 50 states
  • A legal guide for preparing data sharing agreement based on frequently asked questions
  • A toolkit of case studies and examples of successes linked to data sharing
  • A list of relevant publications about a variety of data sharing and management issues
  • An executive highlights report summarizing lessons learned from the project

Check out this free resource, brought to you by CREC with funding support from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

APDU Conference: Call for Proposals

The 2018 APDU Annual Conference (to be held on July 17-18, 2018 in Arlington, VA) invites APDU members and friends to submit proposals for presentations and panels related to our theme, “Shaping the Future:  The Promise of Public Data to Inform Public & Private Sector Decisions”. The Conference will bring together data users and data producers for conversations and presentations across a wide variety of data and statistical topics, including but not limited to:

  • Statistical policy
  • Data collection, production, and delivery
  • Emerging data issues
  • New data sources and tools
  • Relevant data dissemination technologies

We invite proposals on any topic relating to public data, whether based on a particular project, data practice, or formal paper.  In keeping with the theme of the conference, our interest is in how changes in public data, research techniques, and other advances will impact the way decisions are made in both the public and private sectors.  For the 2018 Conference, we are interested in presentations focused on:

Navigating the Public Data Landscape

  • Identifying the Data You Need
  • Preserving Data Privacy and Security
  • Responsibly Sharing and Disseminating Data

Realizing the Potential of Public Data

  • Linking Datasets
  • Selecting Sound Methods for Analysis
  • Developing Effective Data Visualizations
  • Leveraging Administrative Data

Deploying Data to Inform Decisions

  • Using Public Data in the Private Sector
  • Using Public Data in the State, Local, and Nonprofit Sector
  • Informing Evidence-Based Policymaking

Submissions may be for a single presentation or a full panel (three presenters, plus a moderator). APDU may accept portions of a panel proposal to combine with other presenters. Submissions will be evaluated on the quality of work, relevance to APDU Conference attendees, uniqueness of topic and presenter, and thematic fit.

Please submit the proposal document available at this link to Brendan Buff at bbuff@crec.net. Please submit proposals by Wednesday, January 31, 2018. Proposers will be notified of our decision by February 28, 2018.

IMPORTANT DATES

Deadline:
January 31, 2018
Notification Date:
February 28, 2018
Registration Opens:
March 1, 2018
APDU Annual Conference:
July 17-18, 2018

 

Create your own user feedback survey

Changes to the ACS

The Census Bureau has announced its intention to revise the American Community Survey for 2019. Click here to view the file, with relevant changes highlighted.

You can view the Federal Register notice summarizing the changes here. Please consider submitting a comment if you have any concerns.

APDU Election Candidate Statements

The APDU election is underway and two candidates are up for election for Secretary and At-Large positions on the Board of Directors: Sarah Burgoyne of Claritas and Ron Nakao of Stanford University. See below their candidate statements:

Sarah Burgoyne
Director of Data Science
Claritas

As the Director of Data Science at Claritas, I lead our demographic and cartographic team in the use of data from the Decennial Census and the American Community Survey to produce small area population estimates. Prior to working at Claritas, I received my Master’s Degree in Sociology with a specialization in Applied Demography from Bowling Green State University. Currently, I am pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Sociology with a specialization in Family Demography, also at BGSU.

Being in the early stages of my career, I believe I bring a unique perspective to APDU, which allows me to work with other board members to form the next generation of public data users. As a member of the board, I will continue to represent the private sector as a champion for public data. Specifically related to the role of Secretary, I seek to continue serving APDU by providing minutes for meetings and helping chair sessions at the annual conference.

Ron Nakao
Economics, Data and Computational Social Science Librarian
Stanford Libraries

At Stanford, my duties include building the economics collection (data, books, journals, online resources), and consulting with faculty, research staff, and students on our collections and the use of statistical software. i serve as Stanford’s representative to ICPSR (Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research), the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, and the DDI (Data Documentation Initiative) Alliance. I am a long-time member of IASSIST (International Association for Social Science Information, Service, and Technology), and have previously served on the ICPSR Council and DDI Alliance Board.

APDU is a unique resource and advocate for federal statistical data. I was particularly impressed with the networking and cross-fertilization of ideas and work by attendees (including myself) at our last conference. I hope to bring my experience and connections in the academic/library world to the APDU Board and am particularly interested in helping to expand the connections and participation by the academic/library community with APDU.

APDU Annual Business Meeting

In a time of change in the federal statistical system and the federal government generally, APDU has been keeping you informed and prepared. Our Weekly Updates, annual conference, and webinars have kept us busy during 2017. Want to know what’s in store for 2018?

APDU is excited to announce our Annual Business Meeting on December 12, 2017, at 3 pm EST. The meeting will be convened by webinar and open to all APDU members.

The APDU Board of Directors will report on the state of the association, present this year’s accomplishments and goals for the coming year, and answer your questions. 

Agenda:

Call to Order & Welcome

Year in Review

  • Key Accomplishments
  • Annual Conference Report
  • Webinars
  • Advocacy Activities

APDU Administration

  • Bylaw Changes
  • Financial Report
  • Fall 2017 Election

Looking Ahead

  • Annual Conference
  • Upcoming Trainings and Webinars
  • Get Involved With APDU

Q&A