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!

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 bbuff@crec.net.

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.

Special Topics and Emerging Issues in Public Data: Unlocking Open Data’s Network Effect

18M open datasets exist today, and growth is accelerating. But these data sets live in data portals without common taxonomies or architectures, and must first be cleaned and prepared by data users. Human and computers normalize, extract meaning, and identify correlations, but this work is siloed: used for one project, then lost forever, only to be repeated from scratch by the next person to touch the data.

Open data can help us rise to humanity’s toughest challenges, but only if we maximize its network effect. To build the web of Linked Data, we have to start by connecting the people who are working with data.

Patrick McGarry of data.world will answer the following questions (and more) in this webinar:

  1. How can we enhance open data that has already been published?
  2. How are leading open data publishers combining the power of linked data and open data?
  3. What is the role of public-private partnership today, and how should it evolve?

Presenter:
Patrick McGarry, Head of Community, data.world

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 info@apdu.org.

APDU Vice President: A (Data) Visualized World

Data means nothing without context, and nothing provides context like a picture.  The artful science of data visualization, the ability to use graphics to abstract and convey meaning from data, is among the most important and ill-equipped skills in our Data Age.  Across industries and occupations, public and private sectors, the need to deliver complex information simply and succinctly is pervasive.  I witness it daily in health care.

Insurers, founded on long histories of using data to monitor costs and forecast risks, are investing in new, proactive data strategies that incorporate the use of data visualizations as early as data intake:  programmers using visuals to test the integrity, consistency, and completeness of daily claim-file uploads, allowing them to spot outliers, anomalies, and irregular patterns across billions of flowing records immediately.  Hospital system clinicians and data scientists alike – now tasked with managing the health outcomes of whole populations – are developing new patient-specific indicators to track health and well-being, provider maps to monitor care coordination and referral patterns, and population dashboards to gauge progress on meeting clinical, quality, and financial performance goals.  States and researchers, tremendous data collectors and users – tapping data derived from surveys, discharge databases, and All Payer Claims Databases – are then tasked with distilling down an entire system to what policy-makers and the public most need to know to make more informed health care decisions.

While these examples illustrate the rapid application of data visualizations in health care, their use transcends policy domains.  The Association of Public Data Users (APDU) continues to recognize those who demonstrate the impact data visualizations can have on our discourse.  For the second year, APDU is proud to recognize the country’s top data visualizations that leverage our nation’s wealth of publicly-available data to convey a compelling point or story.  In our second annual “Data Viz” awards, APDU has selected best-in-class data visualizations by a state or local government agency, by a federal government agency, by a private enterprise, and by a researcher or student, each of whom had different audiences and goals, but all of whom recognized the impact data visualizations could have to reach them.  This year’s winners – listed below – will be joining us at our 2017 Annual Conference in Arlington, Virginia, sharing their techniques and strategies.  Join us to learn about these creative visualizations and for another exciting conference.

The 2017 Annual APDU Conference will also host a panel on “Innovations in Data Visualization”, featuring best practices and applications, and examples of how experts have used visualizations to improve their programs, solve critical issues, and powerfully convey meaningful information.  We hope you will join us in Arlington, VA, September 13th and 14th, for our ongoing discussion of Communicating Data in an otherwise noisy world.

 

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
  • Kirk Jackson, New America
  • Justin King, 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

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