All posts by Brendan Buff

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


Why Should You Attend the APDU Annual Conference?

The 2017 APDU Annual Conference, to be held on September 13-14, 2017 in Arlington, VA, has something for everyone. Our breakout sessions on data integration, innovation, and communication were submitted by a talented group of APDU members and reflect the topics on the minds of our membership. The Washington Briefing will provide an update on legislative and Trump Administration issues regarding public data. Our second annual Data Viz Awards will show attendees innovative ways of presenting the results of their research. Other sessions will feature leaders from the Census Bureau, BLS, BEA, and NCHS to speak on the futures of their agencies.


APDU has many different types of members, and there are excellent reasons for each type to attend the Annual Conference.

Federal Agencies

  • Gain feedback on your data programs from knowledgeable users of public data.
  • Learn from and collaborate with other federal statistical agencies.
  • Suggested session: “Data Integration to Improve Program Effectiveness” will examine how Federal agencies use administrative data for evaluation and research.

State/Local Government

  • Discover how other local governments are using and disseminating data programs.
  • Learn how administrative data and the federal and state level will help your work.
  • Suggested session: “Applied Uses of Integrated Administrative Data – State and Local Initiatives” on how public agencies and non-profits are seeking ways to link data across using public and administrative data to create greater value in analyzing policies and evaluating programs.

Nonprofits/Research Organizations

  • Learn how other organizations are conducting research and presenting their findings.
  • Identify new data sources and research methods that can supplement your research.
  • Suggested session: “New (Innovative) Tools and Techniques to Empower Policymakers and the Public” will demonstrate a text-mining tool to pull insights from federal regulations, among other interesting innovations in analysis.


  • Engage with potential clients in a forum that emphasizes networking and conversation.
  • Discover new data sets and methods that can supplement your proprietary data products.
  • Suggested session: “Census Bureau: Today and Tomorrow” will present on the new platform that will change how businesses access important Census data, updates for the decennial Census, and more.


  • Learn about new and updated federal data programs and how they will benefit your students and faculty.
  • Connect with peers for opportunities to collaborate and share tricks of the trade.
  • Suggested session: “Enhancing Data Literacy” is designed to help you teach novice data users how to engage with unfamiliar data sources.

These are just some of many good reasons to attend the 2017 APDU Annual Conference.
Register today!


Letter Supporting FY18 Budget for the Bureau of Economic Analysis

One of the ways that APDU supports the work of the federal data system is through joining with other organizations in offering formal support for the various agencies. APDU recently signed onto a letter of support for the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The letter, organized by the American Statistical Association, asks that Congress maintain the modest budget of this crucial agency. You can find the letter here.

Expanding Training on Data and Technology to Improve Communities

Local government and nonprofit staff need data and technology skills to regularly monitor local conditions and design programs that achieve more effective outcomes. Tailored training is essential to help them gain the knowledge and confidence to leverage these indispensable tools. In Spring 2016, the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) and Microsoft’s Civic Technology Engagement Group partnered to explore how to expand community training on data and technology for government and nonprofit staff members.

Based on insights from the field, the authors offer four recommendations to assist government agencies, elected leaders, nonprofit executives, and local funders in empowering workers with the necessary training to use data and technology to benefit their communities.  Specifically, community stakeholders should collectively work to expand the training available to government and nonprofit staff; foster opportunities for sharing training materials and lessons; identify allies who can enhance and support local training efforts; and assess the local landscape of data and technology training.

The project offers a new set of resources to help promote the expansion of training to a variety of local actors.

  • Brief: A summary of the current training landscape and key action steps to ensure that local government and nonprofit staff have the data and technology skills needed for their civic missions.
  • Guide: A document for organizations interested in providing community data and technology training, including advice on how to assess local needs, develop training content, and fund these efforts.
  • Catalog: Example training descriptions and materials collected from various cities for local adaptation.
  • Fact sheet: A summary of results from a survey on current training content and practices.

Job Board June 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

Help Protect Workplace Safety Data

Two former commissioners of the Bureau of Labor Statistics representing both political parties wrote to the leaders of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) opposing the repeal of the OSHA injury recordkeeping rule. This rule requires the collection of injury records of employers dating back five years. Please inform your networks about this important rule and tell them to contact the HELP committee to inform them about the value of this data.

Click here to read the letter.