external influences. It must avoid even the appearance that its collection, analysis, or reporting processes might be manipulated for political purposes or that individually identifiable data collected under a pledge of confidentiality might be turned over for administrative, regulatory, or law enforcement uses. Protection from undue outside influences requires that a statistical agency have authority for professional decisions on its programs, including authority over the selection and promotion of staff, the processing, secure storage, and maintenance of data, and the timing and content of data releases, accompanying press releases, and documentation. The credibility that comes from independence is essential for users to maintain confidence in the accuracy and objectivity of a statistical agency’s data and for data providers to be willing to cooperate with agency requests.
Thirteen practices are critical for the effective, principled operation of a statistical agency:
1. a clearly defined and well-accepted mission,
2. necessary authority to protect independence,
3. continual development of more useful data,
4. openness about sources and limitations of the data provided,
5. wide dissemination of data,
6. cooperation with data users,
7. respect for the privacy and autonomy of data providers,
8. protection of the confidentiality of data providers’ information,
9. commitment to quality and professional standards of practice,
10. an active research program,
11. professional advancement of staff,
12. a strong internal and external evaluation program, and
13. coordination and collaboration with other statistical agencies.
By adhering to the principles and following these practices, a federal statistical agency will be well positioned to provide the relevant, accurate, timely, and credible statistical information that policy makers and the public require.