• Identify specific microdata items that could be obtained by consent from administrative records (e.g., mortgage records, bank statements, grocery store club cards) that could be incorporated as memory cues in the collection of retail purchase data, with a similar five-year adoption window (including associated annual decision milestones).

Recommendation 6-8: BLS should pursue a long-term research agenda that integrates new technology and administrative data sources as part of continuous process improvement. The introduction of these elements should create reductions in data collection and processing costs, measurement error, and/or the statistical variance and complexity of the CPI estimate. The agenda should address the robustness of new technology and a cost/quality/risk trade-off of using external data.

Updating Capabilities

The contextual landscape for conducting national surveys is changing at an increasingly rapid pace. Because of this, it is no longer possible for a survey to be conducted in the same way for decades or even for a single decade at a time. Successful survey vendors respond to this environment by building an adaptable staff with complex methodological and statistical skill sets, and by continuously investigating new sample designs, survey methods, and estimation strategies that anticipate future changes.

Updating Internal Staff Capabilities

In light of this reality, agencies that sponsor and conduct surveys, such as BLS, need to build and maintain flexible and capable organizations and staff. BLS has a very capable group of statisticians and researchers on staff. However, a substantial focus on staff skills and organizational function is required in order to effectively respond to these changes and maintain (or improve) the quality of survey data and estimates. Of particular importance is to facilitate ongoing development of novel survey and statistical methods, to build the capacity for more complex estimation strategies required for today’s best survey designs, and to build better bridges between researchers, operations staff, and experts in other organizations that face similar problems.

The panel offers the following suggestions, followed by Recommendation 6-9.

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