In order to encourage widespread and informed use of the ACS data, the Census Bureau needs to expand its infrastructure in two ways. First, it needs to establish a headquarters ACS users’ staff devoted to education and outreach who would cultivate a network of trained intermediaries to assist with providing a basic ACS education to users. Second, it should form a small informal advisory group of experienced data users that meets with the ACS user staff on a regular basis in person and by conference call. The group would be a key point of contact for considering ideas to improve data products, educational materials, user outreach, and related topics.
Once a network of trained intermediaries is established, it will enable the development of a full-fledged system of regular feedback that can make the ACS education and training program—and appropriate uses of the data—grow and prosper. Feedback in the early years of implementation will assist the Census Bureau to adapt the training program to better meet user needs. In the longer term, user feedback should be a valuable source of ideas for modifying and improving the ACS to serve a wider range of applications and provide an increased return on investment in the data collection.
The Census Bureau is already reaching out to federal agencies to train and assist them in using the ACS. It has established a Federal Agency Information Program (see http://www.census.gov/acs/www/SBasics/fed.htm) through which Census Bureau staff members are available to make presentations to agency staff, provide assistance on specific applications of the ACS, such as in funding formulas, and prepare special data tabulations on a cost-reimbursable basis. The Census Bureau’s work with federal agencies should be helpful to other users, such as state and local governments that interact with those agencies.
To develop an adequate network of intermediaries, however, the Census Bureau (including its regional office staff) should reach out to many organizations outside the federal government. An adequate return on the investment in the ACS can only be achieved if the small-area data are used to the widest extent possible. There are many organizations that the Census Bureau should strive to include in its network:
the State Data Centers (SDCs, http://www.census.gov/sdc/www/);
the Federal State Cooperative Program for Population Estimates (FSCPE, http://www.census.gov/population/www/coop/fscpe.html);
the Census Information Centers (CICs, http://www.census.gov/clo/www/cic.html);
college and university research institutes and data centers;
professional associations (for example, the American Statistical Association, the Population Association of America, the American