Peter Meyer (Bureau of Labor Statistics) suggested a specific incubator project: a Wikipedia type of website across the statistical agencies, which he called Statipedia. Such a website could be used to build a common online glossary of terms and to share experiences and knowledge. Thus, for example, computer source code and technical innovations could be shared across agencies. Barry Nussbaum was enthusiastic about the idea and offered cooperation in hosting the website.

Criteria for Successful Innovation

Ivan Fellegi identified three criteria for a successful research or innovation program. First, such a program has to be directly linked to the operational activities of the agency, so that it is driven by acute issues of practice or by opportunities detected in practice. In addition to being directly linked, there needs to be distance between research and practice, and there also needs to be a balance between the independence of the research and its relevance.

He also offered comments on the ideas discussed in Habermann’s paper. He agreed with the crucial role of leadership for maintaining independence while ensuring relevance. However, he thought that research centralized in one agency or in a federally funded research and development center was going too far, because of the distance problem. He said that the research function would not be aware of the operational requirements and would not be relevant to the practice issues of the agency.

Instead, Fellegi outlined four specific steps that could be taken to foster innovation in statistical agencies:

  1. the bureaucratic barriers to efficient and effective contracting and recruitment could be removed, with the lead to this taken by OMB;

  2. an organized marketing of the problems and opportunities of the federal statistical system to academic institutions could be undertaken;

  3. case studies of successful—and unsuccessful—examples of innovations could be compiled and disseminated; and

  4. progress could be measured periodically.

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