in gathering and disseminating statistical information. The two largest statistical agencies are the Bureau of the Census (in the Department of Commerce) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (in the Department of Labor). About a dozen agencies have statistics as their principal line of work, while others collect statistics in conjunction with other activities, such as administering a program benefit (e.g., the Health Care Financing Administration or the Social Security Administration) or promulgating regulations in a particular area (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency). The budgets for all of these activities—excluding the estimated $6.8 billion cost of the decennial census2—total more than $3 billion per year.3

These federal statistical agencies are characterized not only by their mission of collecting statistical information but also by their independence and commitment to a set of principles and practices aimed at ensuring the quality and credibility of the statistical information they provide (Box 1.1). Thus, the agencies aim to live up to citizens' expectations for trustworthiness, so that citizens will continue to participate in statistical surveys, and to the expectations of decision makers, who rely on the integrity of the statistical products they use in policy formulation.

ACTIVITIES OF THE FEDERAL STATISTICS AGENCIES

Many activities take place in connection with the development of federal statistics—he planning and design of surveys (see Box 1.2 for examples of such surveys); data collection, processing, and analysis; and the dissemination of results in a variety of forms to a range of users. What follows is not intended as a comprehensive discussion of the tasks involved in creating statistical products; rather, it is provided as an outline of the types of tasks that must be performed in the course of a federal statistical survey. Because the report as a whole focuses on information technology (IT) research opportunities, this section emphasizes the IT-related aspects of these activities and provides pointers to pertinent discussions of research opportunities in Chapter 2.

2  

Estimate by Census Bureau director of total costs in D'Vera Cohn. 2000. “Early Signs of Census Avoidance,” Washington Post, April 2, p. A8.

3  

For more details on federal statistical programs, see Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget (OMB). 1998. Statistical Programs of the United States Government. OMB, Washington, D.C.



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