spent by respondents in completing the survey. The charge of the workshop emphasizes the benefits of the ACS and its title retained the wording used at the project’s inception—literally expressing “burdens” as a parenthetical. But the steering committee sought to ensure that the challenges presented by the ACS were given an open and prominent airing, and decided to seek presentations and discussions concerning more general types of “burden” in the ACS. For instance, from the perspective of respondents, the ACS and its detailed questions raise privacy and confidentiality concerns that might serve as an impediment to response altogether. For data users, the ACS presents a significant communication burden: explaining “new” concepts (the interpretation of estimates based on multiple years of data) and old ones (margins of error) to potentially skeptical audiences. A final example of a broader burden created by the ACS follows directly from its design: Large, populous geographic units have access to a wealth of ACS estimates of 1-, 3-, and 5-year vintages while rural areas and smaller population groups face a relative scarcity of ACS estimates, necessarily waiting for 5-year accumulations that may still have very high standard errors. These types of “burden” considerations shaped the steering committee’s selection of presenters within sessions; to give the issues a dedicated airing, the committee also sought to carve out a specific section of the program for a structured discussion of various types of “burden,” recognizing that a single presentation or paper was unlikely to be sufficient.

The second was to cast a net as wide as possible to collect perspectives on ACS uses, and to make the workshop’s agenda book (background briefing materials) a virtual poster session in order to spotlight more voices than the limited number of speaking slots could accommodate. The steering committee drafted a short “feeler” notice, asking ACS users to write back with a short description of how (and how often) they use ACS data products, and for what purposes. This feeler notice was distributed through a variety of channels, email lists, and contact networks, and yielded dozens of expressions of interest. The steering committee filled most of the slots in its working agenda using these submissions. Later, this group of feeler-notice respondents was contacted again and asked to contribute short written thoughts for the meeting agenda book—whether a particularly interesting “case study” of ACS data usage or an expanded “user profile” describing how individual users work with the ACS (and work around any of its shortcomings). In all, this background briefing book included about 30 submissions.

The background book (called “case study book” for short) and the presentations from the workshop are both available on the CNSTAT website (http://www.nas.edu/cnstat).7


7 The specific page link to the workshop materials is http://sites.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/CNSTAT/ACS_Benefits_Burdens.

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