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Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency, Fourth Edition
federal statistical agency, and issues involving judgments about conflicting objectives also arise.
In response to these situations, CNSTAT has prepared this “white paper” on principles and practices for a federal statistical agency. This paper brings together conclusions and recommendations made in many CNSTAT reports on specific agencies, programs, and topics, and it includes a discussion of what is meant by independence of a federal statistical agency and of the roles of research and analysis in a statistical agency. The commentary section contains supplementary information to further explain or illustrate the principles and practices.
In preparing this paper, CNSTAT and its staff solicited suggestions from many involved with federal statistical agencies. A draft of the paper was discussed by the heads of some federal statistical agencies at an open meeting of CNSTAT, and a draft was also discussed at a meeting of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics. The committee is grateful for the many suggestions and comments it received. When the report is published, CNSTAT plans to seek an even wider discussion of it at meetings of professional societies and to encourage reviews and commentaries. We hope that, in this way, the paper may evolve further and possibly influence legislation, regulations, and standards affecting federal statistical agencies.
As we were completing our work on this report, the Conference of European Statisticians drafted a resolution on the fundamental principles of official statistics in the region of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE). Although the two documents were done independently, there is a large amount of agreement between them. We note particularly the emphasis the ECE resolution places on the need for independence for official statistics agencies (United Nations Statistical Commission and Economic Commission for Europe, 1991).
Although focused on federal statistical agencies, many of the principles and practices presented here also apply to statistical activities elsewhere, particularly to those in state and local government agencies and other statistical organizations. In addition, this paper and the ECE resolution may be useful to emerging democracies that seek to establish statistical organizations in their governments.
The principles and practices articulated here are statements of best practice rather than legal or scientific rules. They are based on experience rather than law or experiment. Some of them may need to be changed as