laws change, society changes, or the practice of statistics changes. They are thus intended as guidelines, not prescriptions.

Burton H. Singer, Chair

Committee on National Statistics, 1992

NOTE: The ECE resolution was subsequently adopted by the Statistical Commission of the United Nations (U.N. Statistical Commission, 1994); see Appendix C.


In 1992 the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) issued a white paper on principles and practices for a federal statistical agency. The paper responded to requests from Congress and others for advice on what constitutes an effective statistical agency. It identified and commented on three basic principles: relevance to policy issues, credibility among data users, and trust among data providers. It also discussed 11 important practices, including a strong measure of independence and commitment to quality and professional practice (National Research Council, 1992).

The CNSTAT report has been used by federal statistical agencies to inform department officials, advisory committees, and others. It has also been used in a congressionally mandated study by the U.S. General Accounting Office (1995) to evaluate the performance of major statistical agencies and in a review of the federal statistical system by a former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Norwood, 1995). Its principles informed the establishment and later assessment of a new statistical agency, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (see National Research Council, 1997b).

Eight years have passed since the white paper was first issued, and the committee decided that it would be useful to release a revised and updated version at this time. This second edition does not change the basic principles for federal statistical agencies, because the committee believes these principles are and will continue to be important guides for effective practice. The second edition does revise and expand the discussion of some of the practices that characterize an effective federal statistical agency and brings the discussion up to date with references to recent reports by the committee and others.

Driving the revisions is our recognition of the need for statistical agencies to keep up to date and to meet the challenges for their missions

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