All posts by Cliff Cook

UPDATE 10/18: APDU President Calls for Members to Comment on Federal Data Policy

UPDATE 10/18: The Department of Commerce is requesting  Phase 2 comments on the Federal Data Strategy. The request for comments, Request for Comments on the Cross-Agency Priority Goal: Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset: Phase 2, is open until November 16, 2018. The 47 draft practices of the Federal Data Strategy for also have a request for comment due by Nov 16 .  The revised principles of the Federal Data Strategy is based on comments to the June request for comments.

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Calls for Comments from federal statistical agencies have long been part of the APDU Newsletter.  The summer  turned out to be a busy time both for the Census Bureau and for the interagency staff working on the Federal Data Strategy.  We want to point out to our readers pending requests for comments from these two groups of particular importance:

  • Request for Comments on the Cross-Agency Priority Goal: Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset:
    Comments are requested on the proposed high level pillars and principles for the Federal Data Strategy. Comments on this notice must be received by July 27, 2018.
  • Call for Use Cases to Inform the First federal Data Strategy:
    This call is in support of the Federal Government’s commitment to create a comprehensive Federal Data Strategy as part of the Cross-Agency Priority Goal Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset.  Proposals should be received July 27.
  • Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; 2020 Census:
    This request invites comments on 2020 Census office and field operations. Noteworthy topics include the manner in which citizenship data will be provided to the states, which in turn might lead to a design change in PL 94-171 redistricting data file, the use of administrative records and procedures around internet self-response.  To ensure consideration, written comments must be submitted on or before August 7, 2018.
  • Soliciting Feedback From Users on 2020 Census Data Products:
    The Census Bureau is currently planning the potential suite of 2020 Census data products and is seeking data user feedback to help understand how the public uses decennial census data products. The Census Bureau is especially interested in receiving responses to specific questions outlined in the FRN.  Public feedback is essential for a complete review of the decennial data products and will assist the Census Bureau in prioritizing products from the 2020 Census.  An informational webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, July 31 from 2:00 – 3:00 and will provide answers to questions about the feedback process.  Comments on this notice must be received by September 17, 2018.

We know our readers are all busy professionals, but we urge you to take the time to read, think about , and respond to at least one of these requests.  This is our opportunity to affect federal data policy for the next several years. When we met with agency staff at last week’s APDU conference in they were clear that they want to hear from us and invited us to provide feedback.

APDU Conference: Learn About Data Visualization

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Many of us remember a time not that long ago when we could provide users of our work a table or a spreadsheet, perhaps a few simple graphs, and then call it a day.  Those times are long gone.  Over the past several years those of us who work with data have experienced a major change in expectations among consumers of our work.  Just providing the data is no longer enough.  Users want and expect to see what the data looks like in a more literal way.  More and more, they have come to rely graphic representation to help interpret results and draw conclusions.  APDU has responded by focusing attention on the process of visualizing data, through our Data Viz Awards, our popular training class on Excel and Tableau, and through a session at our upcoming conference.

What key decisions do we need to make to create a successful data visualization?  How can you use data to help drive the story you want to tell?   More importantly, how can we use visualizations to help drive the decision making process?

At the upcoming APDU conference session on “Lessons from the Data Visualization Process” we will hear from three experience and accomplished speakers who have recently developed successful data visualizations.  They will talk about their experience choosing the right tools, making them work for the project, building the visualizations, and how they then used the results to communicate their work to a wider audience.

Intrigued? Join us in Arlington , VA on July 17 and 18, 2018 at APDU’s Annual Conference to learn how to get started on building your next great data viz!

Reflections on APDU 2017

By Cliff Cook, President, Association of Public Data Users

This past week APDU held a very successful 40th annual conference in Arlington, VA.  With the meeting fresh in mind, this is a good moment for reflections on themes that emerged across the various speakers and sessions. First though, I want to thank all our sponsors, speakers and our staff from CREC who ably handled the many logistical challenges.

What I found most striking as both a participant and sometimes moderator is the relentless focus on the need to change governance and policy arrangements around data.  The interest, demand for and sheer quantity of data generated today is leaving behind policies often dating to an era of mainframe computing and strictly siloed data sets, where data was considered a minor part of IT.  Yet, these institutional holdovers may confound efforts to develop innovative policies and, in particular, link data sets both within and between producers to fully tap their potential. The flip side of this problem is that we have begun to recognize this as a fundamental impediment to progress.

Keynote speakers, panels and sponsors addressed data governance from different vantage points.  Nancy Potok, eight months into her tenure as Chief Statistician of United States, focused her keynote on the priorities for the federal statistical system.  The panel discussion on the Commission on Evidence Based Policymaking emphasized that asking  public data to serve the public interest in the 21st century requires new federal programming and legislation to give agencies and researchers unhindered access to data. Chief among their concerns is how to accomplish this goal while respecting Americans’ concerns about privacy.

Echoing one of the recommendations of the Commission’s recently released report, George Aiken and Gary Yakimov discussed the need to separate management of data resources from IT.  They called for the creation of a new type of organizational role centered around data and headed by a senior-level manager, a Chief Data Officer in Aiken’s words, who will take charge of developing data governance and policy setting, while managing an agency’s overall data program.

The need for new governance arrangements extends to the private sector as well. Stefaan Verlhurst, from the GovLab at NYU, cited how the emerging market for both public and private data will drive the creation of a suite of new data sharing arrangements, in particular data collaboratives. Data.world, a conference sponsor, gave an Ignite lighting presentation on their use of the linked open data concept, pioneered by Tim Berners-Lee, as way to connecting a wide range of desperate data across topics and organizations into a single seamless “data web”.

My flight is just approaching now Boston so this is a good point at which to wrap up this post.  Be sure to join us at APDU in 2018!