After over a year of waiting, the Senate has confirmed William Beach as Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for a term of four years. He replaces William Wiatrowski, who had been serving as Acting Commissioner since 2017. APDU supported the confirmation of Dr. Beach, and we wish him well in his leadership of BLS.
APDU is pleased to announce the results of the elections for our Board of Directors. Our new Officers and At-Large Directors include:
President: Kevin McAvey, Senior Manager, Manatt Health
Vice President: Mary Jo Hoeksema, Director of Government Affairs, Population Association of America and Association of Population Centers
At-Large Director: Susan Copella, Director, Pennsylvania State Data Center (PaSDC), Institute of State and Regional Affairs, Penn State Harrisburg
At-Large Director: Beth Jarosz, Senior Research Associate, Population Reference Bureau
Join us in giving a warm welcome to our new members. Congratulations!
By: Kevin McAvey, Vice President, Association of Public Data Users
This year, in mid-July, public data collectors and users across the country gathered in Arlington, Virginia to discuss the future of public data and its promise to inform public and private sector decisions. From Stanford University librarians to data-reliant private sector executives to commissioners of our nation’s top statistical agencies, all reaffirmed their unwavering belief in the value of public data and of the unique perspective APDU’s Annual Conference provides in understanding how our critical public data resources continue to evolve.
APDU President Cliff Cook set the tone of this year’s conference, challenging participants to not only look at what we have accomplished over the past year, but to take the opportunity to engage other APDU members in where we need to go from here. The opening panel, which I had the privilege of moderating, only reinforced the point. Nancy Potok, Chief Statistician of the United States, and Nick Hart, Director of the Evidence-based Policymaking Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center, outlined for APDU participants how the federal data landscape is changing in important and beneficial ways. They discussed the impact the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act has had on how federal policies are developed, and highlighted recent steps the federal government is taking to rationalize our federal data agency resources in the pursuit of a comprehensive federal “data strategy.”
Data strategies are methodical plans to connect data users to the data they need, when they need it. They are foundational to enhancing and modernizing any data ecosystem, and have long been a staple of many data-reliant private sector industries (including my own, healthcare). It was uplifting and encouraging to hear the breadth and depth of thought our federal data policy leaders are investing into our nation’s long-term public data plans – and the earnestness with which they want feedback. Dr. Potok, in particular, encouraged all APDU members to submit use cases to their federal data strategy website, and to stay in-touch as an active and engaged constituency.
Per usual for so many of us, the 2018 APDU Conference rolled quickly – too quickly – on from there, engaging members around public data updates and cross-cutting public data challenges. A small sampling of the topics included:
· Shari Laster, Head of Open Stacks at Arizona State University, led a panel on how we should all think about preserving “born-digital” public data, in an era where our knowledge and records can (literally) be deleted with a click;
· Kathy Pettit, Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute, moderated presentations and discussions around key indicator innovations around housing, consumer credit, and labor market reporting;
· Mary Jo Hoeksema, the Director of Government and Public Affairs at the Population Association of America, tag-teamed APDU’s staple “Washington Briefing” with James Dyer of Baker Donelson, providing audience members an inside – and off-the-record – look at the “on the Hill” challenges facing our country’s federal statistical programs; and
· Warren Brown, APDU’s President Emeritus and Research Faculty at Cornell University, rounded out our critical technical conversations, leading a panel discussing on best practices for linking administrative and survey data.
The APDU Conference’s second day was also treated to a lunchtime conversation with Erica Groshen, former BLS Secretary and current Cornell University Visiting Senior Scholar, John Thompson, Executive Director of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, and a (returning) Dr. Potok, where they discussed the federal government’s recent proposals to significantly reorganize several federal data agencies.
The 2018 APDU Conference was another successful event created by members for members, and left all with a better sense of the year behind us. Even more importantly, however, the Conference primed us for the critical decisions and steps that lay ahead, as we collectively reshape our public data environment to meet our rapidly evolving data needs.
Thank you all for joining us, and I hope to see you all again in 2019.
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.