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Facilitating Innovation in the Federal Statistical System: Summary of a Workshop
destruction of statistical programs is not usually practiced by statistical agencies, although external pressures, such as budgets, can induce it.
With respect to periodic reviews, Clyde Tucker pointed out that 20 years have passed since enactment of the Government Performance and Results Act, and there have been few serious interagency efforts to develop quantitative performance metrics. He noted that the best example of such a metric is the OMB standard on nonresponse bias.
Both E.J. Reedy (Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation) and Edward Spar (Council of Professional Association on Federal Statistics) commented on the issue of feedback from users. Reedy stated that agencies, from the top down, need to interact with users to provide and get feedback and connect with data users. He suggested that agencies should put a notice about seeking feedback on the websites where their data reside, so users see it when they want to download data. Spar observed that agencies usually provide information to users on what they (the agencies) are doing; they need to make greater efforts to understand the users’ perspectives. In obtaining that feedback, William O’Hare (Annie E. Casey Foundation) suggested that clearer communication can build public support. In that vein, agencies need to learn how to use Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking tools, he said.
Several participants supported the concept of innovation incubators or laboratories in which ideas for innovation could be developed and tested. Ron Bianchi noted that this could be coupled with the concept of promoting contests for innovation, as is done at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Eltinge said it is important that the statistical system and the individual agencies learn how to infuse new technologies into the system. The example he used was how, in the 1940s, Iowa farmers learned to accept the mechanization of agriculture and hybrid seed corn.
John Haltiwanger suggested that the statistical agencies could work with foundations, communities, and corporations, such as IBM, that have experience with building incubators and allowing them to flourish. The hard part is ensuring that the innovation ideas from incubators are not left to wither and die. He noted that it takes senior management buy-in to move incubation products into the mainstream of an organization.
Emerson Elliott (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) suggested that OMB could establish a culture of innovation. For that to take place, the ICSP would be very important. In this respect, Eltinge observed that the statistical system cannot keep living off previous capital investments in innovation; it needs to make new investments in capital.