APDU’s public letter in support of Federal statistical programs

March 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
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I was so glad to see that the Association of Public Data users (APDU) just sent a letter in support of federal statistical agencies to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. This letter has well over 700 signatories (including FGI!) from organizations including the National Association for Business Economists and the NAACP and individuals such as Katherine Wallman and Dean Baker. This is a critical time for federal statistics with funding for ALL federal programs seemingly on the chopping blocks. Keep the pressure on your representatives by calling and/or writing to them to save — and better fund! — federal statistical programs!

We are concerned that a lack of appreciation for the critical importance of our Federal statistical and data systems may worsen, and are worried that, after years of insufficient funding, these systems face deeper funding cuts and further marginalization. Our nation, economy, businesses and citizens rely on the nonpartisan, gold-standard data provided by several agencies, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, National Center for Education Statistics, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, the Energy Information Administration, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Internal Revenue Service Statistics of Income, the Social Security Administration Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics, and the National Center for Health Statistics.

These data resources benefit individual citizens who seek information to:

  • guide their career and education choices,
  • gain a clearer sense of wages and benefits on offer for different careers,
  • choose a community in which to live.

Our Democracy relies on Federal data for:

  • Apportionment — population count determines allocation of legislative seats by
  • Redistricting — state legislatures use population counts and characteristics to determine
    legislative boundaries,
  • Voting and civil rights — Congress and the Supreme Court explicitly rely on data to ensure compliance with voting and civil rights laws.

Federal data resources help the public sector to:

  • evaluate programs
  • support evidence-based decision-making,
  • project tax collections and craft budgets,
  • guide fiscal and monetary policy,
  • target limited resources,
  • design policy and programs, such as in housing, health, education and training, economic development, transportation, and criminal justice,
  • index many benefits and tax brackets to inflation,
  • work with local businesses when making investments.

Dept. of Labor is not announcing worker safety violations

March 14, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
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The New York Times reports that the Department of Labor has not publicized a single worker safety corporate fine since the inauguration of the President.

In a sharp break with the past, the department has stopped publicizing fines against companies. As of Monday, seven weeks after the inauguration of President Trump, the department had yet to post a single news release about an enforcement fine.

During the Obama administration, the announcements of fines were used as a major tool for workplace safety enforcement, "essentially publicly shaming companies" that violated worker safety rules. It issued an average of about 460 news releases annually about fines and other enforcement actions.

The Times quotes a spokeswoman for the Labor Department as declining to comment when asked why OSHA had not issued any such releases, but saying that the agency’s enforcement efforts were unchanged.

A google search for site:osha.gov “Citation and Notification of Penalty ” 2017 discovered only one citation issued after Jan 20, 2017.

The DOL page for News Releases for OSHA shows that the last press release for a fine or penalty was on jan 17 and that page bears a banner that says "Please note: As of January 20, 2017, information in some news releases may be out of date or not reflect current policies."

Four new press releases are listed on that page. One urges workers to "safeguard themselves," two announce partnerships to enhance workplace safety, and one announces a proposed delay in the effective date of a rule designed to protect workers from lung cancer.


March 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
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For those of you who have "data" as part of your job responsibilities, here is an indispensable book.

Drawing on the expertise of a diverse community of practitioners, this collection of case studies, original research, survey chapters, and theoretical explorations presents a wide-ranging look at the field of academic data librarianship.

By covering the data lifecycle from collection development to preservation, examining the challenges of working with different forms of data, and exploring service models suited to a variety of library types, this volume provides a toolbox of strategies that will allow librarians and administrators to respond creatively and effectively to the data deluge.

“In Order That They Might Rest Their Arguments on Facts”

March 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
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Because the Trump Administration has questioned the accuracy of federal statistics such as the unemployment rate and because of reports that it will propose substantial cuts to government statistical agencies, the Hamilton Project and The American Enterprise Institute have released a new report about the vital importance of data collected by the federal government.

Objective, impartial data collection by federal statistical agencies is vital to informing decisions made by businesses, policy makers, and families. These measurements make it possible to have a productive discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of particular policies, and about the state of the economy. This document demonstrates a portion of the breadth and importance of government statistics to public policy and the economy.

The quotation in the title is from James Madison. The report includes chapters on business, policy, and families, a section on "How to Strengthen Public Data," and a substantial bibliography,

See also Defending the Data by Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Ryan Nunn, and Megan Mumford. The Hamilton Project (March 1, 2017).

Three out of Five Federal Agencies Flout New FOIA Law

March 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
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The National Security Archive at George Washington University reports that only 38 of 99 federal government agencies have updated their FOIA Regulations as required by law.

The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 (Public Law 114-185) (PDF) set new requirements for agencies including providing requesters with no less than 90 days to file an appeal and prohibiting agencies from charging search or duplication fees under certain conditions. The law requires that agencies update their FOIA regulations to meet these new requirements by December 27, 2016.

Among the agencies that have not updated their regulations are the departments of State, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and Education.

The Audit reports that:

Because 61 agencies have not updated their FOIA regulations, many requesters may still be charged improper FOIA fees if an agency misses a deadline, could be unaware of the mediation services available to them, and are being robbed of their rightful appeals deadlines.

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