All posts by Brendan Buff

Trump Administration Indicates Support of 2020 Census

The Full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on October 12 provided some reasons for optimism regarding the Trump Administration’s support of the Census Bureau. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross testified before the committee and voiced support for appropriate funding of the 2020 Census. Further, the Administration plans to hire a comparable number of enumerators to the 2010 Census, which will be much more efficient due to the use of technology.  If you’d like to learn more about planning for the 2020 Census, consider attending the 2020 Census Quarterly Program Management Review on October 27 at 12:30 pm.

  • The Census Bureau must focus on modernizing data collection and delivering necessary IT infrastructure in the most cost-effective manner.
  • The Census Bureau must ensure delivery of critical IT systems for 2018 end-to-end testing. Delays for delivery of critical IT systems pose significant risk for the security and the success of the census.
  • Secretary Ross provided a new life-cycle cost estimate of $15.6 billion dollars, an increase of $3.3 billion from the 2015 cost estimate.
  • Increasing costs are a concern. The Committee will monitor the Census Bureau’s management of the 2020 Census.

APDU Elections Committee Asks for Nominations

The Elections Committee is governed by the APDU By-Laws, Article 5.  The Committee is preparing a slate of candidates for Secretary  and an At-Large Board Member. Incumbent Secretary Sarah Burgoyne has decided to seek a 2nd term. Erin Holve, currently an At-Large Board Member, is not seeking a 2nd term.  The Elections Committee welcomes your suggestions as we prepare a slate of candidates. The deadline for suggestions to the Election Committee is October 31. Please send your nominations to Warren Brown at

APDU Conference 2017: Exploring Data Resources for Addressing Policy Issues

By Elizabeth Nash, APDU Board Member

One of the many benefits of serving as the co-chair of this year’s APDU Conference was having the opportunity to review submissions for panels and presentations in our first-ever call for entries for the conference.  There were so many excellent submissions that it was very difficult to choose, but the conference committee did a wonderfully disciplined job of selecting the entries that aligned closely with our theme of communicating data around data innovation, integration and communication.  The conference committee had the enviable task of determining keynotes and assembling panels for the breakout sessions.  The breakout sessions are often one of the most useful aspects of the conference for me as the manager of data at PolicyMap, due to the fruitful discussions about using public data to understand public policy issues.

Which is why I chose to moderate and helped to design the breakout session, “Innovative Approaches to Understanding Our Most Pressing Public Policy Issues: Lessons in Education and Opportunity.”  The panel explored the use of public data in policy topics such as the opioid epidemic, homelessness and education and opportunity disparities.  Our panel consisted of three prominent professionals from progressive national think tanks and foundations. They discussed their research and recommendations for addressing issues faced by communities across the US.  They also discussed their methodologies that rely on publicly accessible data, as well as the materials produced by these initiatives that help policy practitioners, state and local governments, and advocates to address issues related to opportunity, well-being, education and public health.


Jennifer Thornton, Manager of Data as a Strategic Asset at Pew Charitable Trusts, discussed solving public policy problems with administrative data using five action steps that state governments can employ to address large-scale challenges. Jennifer explained that as states increasingly share their data across programs and agencies, and perform advanced analytics, they can attain a more accurate understanding of their resources, a more comprehensive picture of how services are used, and a greater understanding of the root cause of issues. Jennifer described the findings from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ 50-state study (forthcoming, will be available here) that focuses on the productive and creative ways states have used administrative data to address problems and inform decision-making. Jennifer shared compelling data success stories and data-driven strategies that a few states have used that others can adopt to solve public problems.


Laura Speer, Associate Director Policy Reform and Advocacy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, discussed their perennially successful Kids Count Data Center and Data Book, and she described the annual media uptake of their resources around child well-being that her group packages and provides.  Laura talked about Annie E. Casey’s Race for Results project that focuses on children’s opportunity and success milestones across racial and ethnic groups.  Laura illuminated the necessity of public data in her work, as Kids Count relies on sources including the National Survey of Children’s Health, the National Vital Statistics System, the U.S. Census and the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey.


Courtney Brown, Vice President of Strategic Impact at Lumina Foundation, talked about Lumina Foundation’s dedication to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60% by 2025, their “Goal 2025.”  She explained that for Lumina Foundation to achieve this goal, they need to be able to understand the current education levels and certifications of Americans, and they need to track those data over time.  She discussed the pivotal role of the American Community Survey’s postsecondary attainment data in their new online data tool, A Stronger Nation.  She also discussed the challenge with finding data related to high-quality certificates and other credentials because those achievements are not included in the standard Census ACS categories.

The panel wrapped up with an engaging exchange around each of the panelists’ topic areas, as well as a conversation about the growing appetite for data and data visualization and packaging, as researchers increasingly rely on publicly available tools to address public policy issues.

This blog post also appears in the PolicyMap Mapchats blog.  Check out Mapchats for another view of the conference.

Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking Report Release

On Thursday, September 7, the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking released their mandatory report. The report includes over 20 recommendations to facilitate the sharing of data across agencies and the evaluation of federal programs. Click here to read the report.

APDU is in the process of developing a response to the report’s release, and we would like your input. If you have any thoughts on how you’d like APDU to represent your interests as a data user, please contact Brendan Buff at

APDU Board Member: Enhancing Data Literacy

The huge and disparate amount of data that is now made easily available to the public is incredible. In a way it is analogous to the wide variety and quantity of food that is available to a person in any major city.  Data, like food, comes in varying degrees of quality, type, and quantity.  Data can be found everywhere: from government (federal, state, or local) agencies, to non-profits, to private businesses. Food can be found everywhere: grocery stores, to farmer’s markets, to food trucks, to restaurants.  Like food, data can be fresh, directly from where it is collected, or processed, data that has been “cleaned-up” and/or combined with other data.  Understanding and consuming good data can have amazing results for our understanding of a particular topic, just like identifying and consuming healthy food can have amazing results for our body.

Like with food and nutritional information, making good choices about data is critical for good results and it is not possible without data literacy.  How we identify, evaluate, transform, and interpret data are key components of data literacy. Unfortunately there is no “one stop shopping” place to attain data literacy.  Data literacy comes from various sources such as educational institutions, government data agencies, for profit private businesses, and non-profit organizations such as APDU.

One of APDU’s main goals is to help foster data literacy by bringing together producers of government/public data with users of the data via the APDU weekly newsletter; APDU’s Public Data University; and APDU’s annual conference.  At this year’s annual conference there will be a panel discussion on Enhancing Data Literacy where panelists from the University of Arizona, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Connecticut Data Collaborative will share how they are trying to help users become more knowledgeable about the data at their fingertips.  Join us for this and more September 13 & 14 at APDU’s Annual Conference in Arlington, Va. Register today!


APDU Conference Session: The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking

By Lucas Hitt, Deputy Executive Director, U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking

Over the last year, the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking has been hearing from thousands of people – parents, business owners, researchers, privacy experts, state and local government officials, and Federal officials – and after several more months of deliberations and writing, the Commission is ready to respond.

Created by the bipartisan Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act sponsored by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, the Commission was charged with determining the how to improve the generation and use of evidence across the policymaking arena. The report is expected be released on September 7 – one week before the APDU Annual Conference.

Evidence-based policy is not a new idea – “public data” was one of the earliest functions of our government, with the Federal Statistical System we know today having roots back to the mid-1800s. Some of the first responsibilities of the various departments of government we know today were their statistical missions. Yet, there is so much more than can be done now than was possible before. The increasing volume of data, the computational power of modern computers, and advancements in statistical and other social sciences creates opportunities to enhance privacy and leverage data that we have not had until now. The data resulting from the administration of government programs – at all levels of government – has the potential to change the way we think about policy development.

The upcoming APDU Annual Conference will be one of the first opportunities to hear from the Commission’s Chair Katharine G. Abraham and Co-Chair Ron Haskins following the September release of the report. In addition, Sandy Davis of the Bipartisan Policy Center and John Thompson of the Council of Professional Association on Federal Statistics, two leading voices in the statistical and evidence community will discuss their thoughts on where we go from here to achieve the Commission’s vision.

On September 13, attend the APDU Annual Conference session “How Data is Used to Build Evidence for Policymaking” to learn more from the authors of the report.

The APDU Conference is fast approaching. Register today.

APDU Past President: Public Concerns About Privacy in the Use of Administrative Records

Here’s a quiz for you:

True or False? The American public and business community increasingly view government surveys as a burden.

True or False? The American public and business community increasingly are concerned about privacy issues relating to government records.

If you believe the answer to both questions is True—then what is the path forward for the collection of federal statistical information? Well, do we ever have a session for you at the upcoming APDU Annual Conference! A session you won’t want to miss. Jennifer Childs, a research psychologist at the US Census Bureau has organized a panel discussion on this very issue. The breakout session is titled, “Public Concerns About Privacy in the Use of Administrative Records,” and will be held on Day 1 of the Conference—September 13—at 11:00 am.

In order to improve data collection and reduce respondent burden, the Census Bureau is expanding the use of administrative records on businesses and persons. The panel will discuss respondent perceptions surrounding privacy and security with regard to federal statistics and the public’s views towards using administrative records for statistical purposes. Members of the panel are Alfred D. Tuttle, Aleia Fobia, and Casey Eggleston—all from the Census Bureau. Come learn what evidence these researchers at the Census Bureau have collected to shed light on the conundrum of balancing reduction of respondent burden with public concerns regarding privacy and what role appeals to civic responsibility plays in gaining cooperation.

Register today!

Job Board August 2017

Welcome to the monthly APDU Job Board. Members are invited to submit job postings at their organization; the Board also includes a collection of public data-related positions (research, projections, etc.) from a variety of Federal, nonprofit, and private sources. You can submit your job postings to

Announcing: 2017 APDU Data Viz Awards Winners

The 2017 APDU Data Viz Awards winners have been selected by the APDU nominating committee.

The Association of Public Data Users is pleased to announce an outstanding group of public data visualizations from 2017. This year’s visualizations include infographics, maps, and graphical interfaces using programs such as ArcGIS and Tableau. Register for the conference today to learn more about these visualizations and how they were created.

APDU thanks all of those who submitted visualizations – the choices were not easy to make.

We would like to congratulate the following organizations:

Federal Government Category

USPTO PatentsView – US Patent and Trademark Office

  • Amanda Myers, US Patent and Trademark Office
  • Dino Citraro, Periscopic
  • Kim Rees, Periscopic

Energy Consumption and Production in Agriculture – USDA Economic Research Service

  • Claudia Hitaj, USDA Economic Research Service
  • Lori Fields, USDA Economic Research Service

Private Firms Category

Visualizing the Condition of U.S. Lakes – Crow Insight

  • Mike Crow, Crow Insight
  • Sarah Lehmann, US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Amina Pollard, US Environmental Protection Agency

Researchers and Students Category

Mapping Financial Opportunity – Institute for Policy & Social Research, University of Kansas

  • Terri Friedline, Institute for Policy & Social Research, University of Kansas
  • Xan Wedel, Institute for Policy & Social Research, University of Kansas
  • Mathieu Despard, University of Michigan
  • Kirk Jackson, New America
  • Justin King, New America
  • Tyler Richardett, New America

State and Local Government Category

2010-2014 Women in the Workforce – Utah Department of Workforce Services

  • Lecia Parks Langston, Utah Department of Workforce Services