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A Database for a Changing Economy: Review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) 10 Recommendations for the Future of O*NET The preceding chapters have reviewed evidence related to the quality of the O*NET database and its uses, offering many specific recommendations for improvement. Because it may not be possible for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to immediately implement all of these recommendations, this chapter presents the panel’s perspective on the relative importance of its various recommendations. The recommendations are divided into two categories, reflecting the twin goals of O*NET, to develop a high-quality database and to enhance service to O*NET users. The following section presents recommendations for a high-quality database, ranked in order of importance, and the second section of the chapter presents recommendations to enhance service to users, also ranked in order of importance. Although the recommendations can be roughly divided into these two categories, it is important to note that many recommendations are designed to improve database quality and enhance service to users simultaneously. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A HIGH-QUALITY DATABASE The panel offers two primary recommendations aimed at the goal of developing and maintaining a high-quality database of occupational information. Recommendation: The Department of Labor should focus O*NET resources on the core functions of collecting, maintaining, and publishing high-quality data, leaving development of most new applications and
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A Database for a Changing Economy: Review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) tools to the private sector, state and local governments, and educational institutions. Recommendation: The Department of Labor should establish and support an external technical advisory board, comprised of senior scientists, to develop a research agenda for O*NET that will prioritize research suggestions from its members, the department, the O*NET Center, the user advisory board recommended below, and other sources. At a minimum, it should meet twice yearly, once to establish research priorities for the coming year and develop requests for proposals reflecting these priorities and once to review and rank proposals submitted by academic researchers or contractors. The panel views these two recommendations as offering the greatest potential for enhancing the quality of the database. In particular, establishing an external technical advisory board will assist DOL in managing the research agenda as changes in the labor market, O*NET user needs, the scientific research, and agency goals lead to changes in research needs and priorities. Research and Development Agenda The following list of research recommendations represents the panel’s best judgment of current research needs, based on its review of the evidence. Although the list is presented in order of perceived importance, as viewed by the panel at this time, it is not immutable. Other factors, such as costs and contingencies associated with the research, in addition to its perceived importance, should be considered in defining the order in which the research is undertaken. The panel expects that, in the future, the proposed technical advisory board will assist DOL in making decisions about which of these proposed research activities may be most important to undertake in any given year. The panel views three specific research activities as most important: Conduct research on the content model, beginning with the Skills and Knowledge domains (Chapter 2). Assess benefits and costs of changing the occupational classification system (Chapter 3). Study the behaviorally anchored rating scales (Chapter 4). The panel also recommends investigation of eight other issues, presented below in order of importance:
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A Database for a Changing Economy: Review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) Explore development of Detailed Work Activities (Chapter 6). Review the sampling design (Chapter 4). Explore ways to increase response rates (Chapter 4). Research frequency of refreshing the survey data (Chapter 4). Review content model for descriptor completeness and other concerns of the human resource management community (Chapter 7). Investigate within-occupation variation in physical and cognitive requirements (Chapters 3 and 8). Develop profiles at each level of each domain (Chapter 2). Investigate methods to describe changing jobs, including new sampling frames (Chapter 7). RECOMMENDATIONS TO ENHANCE SERVICE TO USERS The panel offers two primary recommendations, which it views as having the greatest potential to enhance service to O*NET users: Recommendation: The Department of Labor should establish and staff an ongoing, external user advisory board, including at least one representative of each major user group, as well as representatives of potential users in the U.S. military and in K-12 and higher education. The board should meet regularly to provide advice and recommendations to the Department of Labor regarding processes for identifying users’ evolving needs and communicating information about O*NET and its uses. New marketing and educational strategies must be aligned with the reality that, for many users, O*NET provides building blocks (rather than ready-made solutions or final answers) toward more complete solutions. In addition, DOL should ask the user advisory board to review proposals for modifications, enhancements, and applications of O*NET from a user’s perspective and provide advice to DOL regarding the potential benefits and adverse effects of these modifications and enhancements to the user communities. Recommendation: The technical advisory board, in consultation with the user advisory board, should establish and execute a framework for evaluating uses of O*NET that includes Development of evaluation metrics aligned with various uses of O*NET. Review of the usefulness and accuracy of existing information on O*NET uses.
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A Database for a Changing Economy: Review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) Development of methods to evaluate the adequacy of existing processes for obtaining feedback from O*NET users systematically. Development of new methods to systematically and continuously obtain information about the users of O*NET, the ways in which it is used, the frequency of use, reasons it is not used or might not be appropriate for certain suggested uses, user community awareness of O*NET, the specific applications it is used for, user satisfaction, and objective measures of effectiveness or success in meeting user needs. The panel views three activities as valuable to enhance service to O*NET users, presented below in order of importance, as ranked by the panel: Update the crosswalk to the Classification of Instructional Programs (Chapter 6). Create an interagency task force on disability determination (Chapter 8). Make the database available in SQL (Chapter 5). Additional user recommendations, while valuable, are not viewed as equally important to those above. These recommendations are presented below in order of importance, as ranked by the panel: Develop new tools for dissemination of O*NET information in the human resource management community (Chapter 7). Evaluate crosswalks with military occupations (Chapter 6). Promote use in workforce development community (Chapter 6). Conduct usability study of web interface (Chapter 5). Make individual-level data available for research with privacy protections (Chapter 9). Make additional statistics for survey responses available (Chapter 9). Provide detailed information on samples within each occupation (Chapter 9). Make the availability of successive waves of survey responses more widely known to researchers (Chapter 9). Explore using Wiki to build a user community and gather data that should not be used as a replacement for systematically collected data (Chapter 5). Explore potential of the Semantic Web to disseminate database (Chapter 5).
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A Database for a Changing Economy: Review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) DOL should not wait to initiate the research and development recommended by the panel until the technical advisory board and user advisory boards have been constituted and are fully functioning, but should proceed with continuous improvement initiatives using its traditional advisers until these boards can be established. The department should also establish mechanisms for ongoing communication between the user advisory board and the technical advisory board we recommend.
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