by CNSTAT and others. Changes in laws, regulations, and other aspects of the environment of federal statistical agencies over the past 4 years warrant preparation of a fifth edition, which the committee will prepare for release in early 2013.
All of the committee’s work is based on the key concepts of principles and practices. “Principles” are fundamental and intrinsic to the concept of a federal statistical agency; “practices” are ways and means of making the basic principles operational and facilitating an agency’s adherence to them.
This fifth edition presents and comments on four basic principles that statistical agencies must embody in order to carry out their mission fully: (1) they must produce data that are relevant to policy issues; (2) they must achieve and maintain credibility among data users; (3) they must achieve and maintain trust among data providers; and (4) they must achieve and maintain independence from the appearance and reality of political or other undue external influence in developing, producing, and disseminating statistics.
This edition also discusses 13 important practices that are the means for statistical agencies to implement the four principles. Some of these practices are continual development of more useful data, openness about sources and limitations of the data provided, a commitment to quality and professional standards of practice, a strong internal and external evaluation program, and coordination and collaboration with other statistical agencies. A new practice for this edition concerns the authority that is necessary for an agency to protect its independence. This edition also divides the practice of fair treatment of data providers into two practices: respect for privacy and autonomy of data providers and protection of the confidentiality of providers’ information.
In addition to this Introduction, this edition adds an Executive Summary (which is available separately), largely in response to users’ requests. The two main parts are those used in previous editions: Part I is a brief statement of the principles and practices for an effective statistical agency; Part II further explains, defines, and illustrates those principles and practices.
The fifth edition emphasizes the need for statistical agencies not only to actively seek out new ways of using multiple data sources (such as administrative records, private-sector datasets, and selected Internet sources in addition to surveys), but also to find new ways to integrate their activities with those of other agencies. The goal is to enable agencies to maintain and improve the relevance, accuracy, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness of