Archive for the 'Data & Methods' Category

Census Bureau director resigns

The Census Bureau director has just given notice that he’ll be resigning on June 30, 2017. His term officially ended in December 2016, but he has continued his role as director. This is a crucial time for the Census Bureau as it is ramping up for the 2020 Census without enough funds – at least in historical terms.

funding graph

[Link to FiveThirtyEight post on Census Bureau funding]

Here’s the coverage of John Thompson’s resignation in reverse chronological order:

The U.S. census is in trouble. This is why it’s crucial to what the nation knows about itself
Henry Farrell | Monkey Cage Blog, Washington Post
May 15, 2017

Excellent synopsis of an interview with Ken Prewitt, former Census Bureau director. And, a nice conclusion as well:

President Trump must now step in, name a high-quality director and insist that Congress provide the Census Bureau the money it needs. The 2020 Census will begin in April of that year — right in the middle of primary season. The bureau’s troubles pre-date Mr. Trump’s ascension, but the census is happening on his watch. If it fails, he will own it.

Is the census heading for a crisis?
Danny Vinik | Politico
May 13, 2017

The director resigns just as the $1.5 billion agency heads into its biggest test. Next in command may be a weather forecaster.

The Head of the Census Resigned. It Could Be as Serious as James Comey
Haley Sweetland Edwards | Time
May 12, 2017

In a week dominated by President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey, you could be forgiven for missing the imminent departure of another, less prominent federal official.

Yet the news this week that John H. Thompson, the director of the Census Bureau, has abruptly resigned is arguably as consequential to the future of our democracy. That’s because the Census Bureau, while less flashy than the FBI, plays a staggeringly important role in both U.S. elections and an array of state and federal government functions.

Census Director to Resign Amid Worries Over 2020 Head Count
Jonah Bromwich | New York Times
May 10, 2017

Census Bureau Director Resigns As Agency Faces Funding Debate
Doreen McCallister | NPR
May 10, 2017

US Census Bureau director abruptly resigns
Brooke Seipel | The Hill
May 9, 2017

U.S. Census director resigns amid turmoil over funding of 2020 count
Tara Bahrampour | Washington Post
May 9, 2017

Census director quits as census ramps up
Michael McAuliff | Huffington Post
May 9, 2017
Facing a major budget crunch, the man who was counting the U.S. population for Trump is resigning

[Bonus content]
Census2020 Oversight Hearing
May 3, 2017

Census Bureau director stepping down amid watchdog concerns
Jory Heckman | Federal News Radio
May 9, 2017

In the nick of time?

The Census Bureau released the subjects they plan to collect for the 2020 Census as well as the American Community Survey (ACS). The Census Bureau needs to send this information to Congress before April 1, 2017. They clearly met that deadline. But, there is a draft executive order “Executive Order on Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs,” that would have the Census Bureau add a citizenship question to the Census. This information is already asked in the ACS – so it is not difficult for the Census Bureau to provide annual numbers on the size and composition of the foreign born population (citizen or not) x welfare use. So will Congress and/or Trump insist on changes between now and a year from now, when the exact wording of the questions has to be presented?

The Census Bureau has never wanted to collect immigration status data on the Census as they feel it would lower the response rate of non-citizens, particularly those without papers. This was true in the past and is certainly would be the case now.

Subjects Planned for the 2020 Census and American Community Survey
Census Bureau
March 28, 2017

White House proposal to ask immigration status in Census could have chilling effect, experts say
Tara Bahrampour | Washington Post
February 1, 2017

Annual questionnaires from the Census Bureau already ask whether respondents are citizens. But probing into the status of those who are not would be new, and Census experts say it would have a detrimental effect on future counts.

“It will drive the response rate down enormously,” said Kenneth Prewitt, a former director of the Census Bureau who is now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University. Immigrants here illegally are unlikely to answer questions about their status, he said, adding that the resulting undercount could have chilling effects.

“If you drive those people out of the Census, the consequence is that they’re not in it,” he said. “It’s a step toward not counting the people you don’t want to count. And that goes very far in redrawing legislative boundaries.”

Release Of Possible Topics For 2020 Census Raises Concerns
Hansi Lo Wang | NPR
March 28, 2017

WANG: Kenneth Prewitt is a former director of the Census Bureau who served under the Clinton administration. He’s concerned that the immigration debate could determine the questions asked on the census.

KENNETH PREWITT: I think that would set up a huge partisan argument. And the census would be stuck in the middle of that.

WANG: Prewitt adds that besides politics, the bureau is also dealing with uncertain funding from Congress. And that means the bureau may have to scrap more trial tests of its methods, plus follow-up visits to people who don’t respond immediately to its questionnaires.

PREWITT: That means we will not have a very good census. And not having a good census means that we have an undercount. And the undercount will vary by region and by grouping.

The title says it all

“In Order That They Might Rest Their Arguments on Facts”: The Vital Role of Government-Collected Data is a white paper, jointly produced by the AEI and The Brookings Institution (The Hamilton Project).

One should not have to argue about the value of government-collected data, but sometimes the argument has to be made.

Here’s a quote that harkens back to the Founding Fathers – for the Supreme Court originalists?

quoted text

Executive Summary
Full Paper

This document is written for a lay audience, perhaps Congress. But, there are some facts about, justifications for, public-use government-collected data researchers may not be aware of. At the very least, assign it to your students. Or read it the next time PAA has an Advocacy Day.

Anything you can’t measure you can’t manage

Anything you can’t measure you can’t manage

Who said that?

Wilbur Ross, potential Secretary of Commerce in the Trump administration. This quote during his confirmation hearing is relevant as one of the agencies that will be under his purview is the Census Bureau.

He is also sympathetic to funding for the Census Bureau and presumably other statistical agencies:

In recent years, some Republicans in Congress have tried to restrict government data collection and to cut funding to the Census Bureau and other statistical agencies. Ross signaled he will fight those efforts. “It’s been hard getting the commitment for the appropriations that census really needs for its mission”

The Washington Post had an op-ed about the Census Bureau on February 20th and Wilbur Ross is mentioned in it:

IN HIS confirmation hearing last month, Wilbur Ross noted he may be the first secretary of commerce nominee who was once a U.S. census taker. Those skills could come in handy right about now: A recent report indicates the 2020 Census is in trouble.

Sources
What We Learned (And Didn’t) About Wilbur Ross At His Confirmation Hearing
Ben Casselman | FiveThirtyEight
January 18, 2017

Wilbur Ross’s first task should be saving the 2020 Census
Editorial Board | Washington Post
February 20, 2017

New word of the day: frugging

Do you know what frugging means? AAPOR condemned the Mainstream Media Accountability Survey for frugging:

AAPOR Statement on Trump/Pence Campaign Web Survey
American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR)
February 23, 2017

A hint is in the title – campaign. But, otherwise, read the short statement and find out.

As to the ‘survey‘ it could also be criticized for all the double-barreled questions it has. Here’s Question 13:

survey question

The Forgotten Men Index

graph

The Economist has created an index based on the unemployment rate, labor force participation rate, and average hourly wages. The index compares the fortunes of white working class men (WWCM) to all men. It will be updated monthly. So far, the index stands at 100; it was at 62 in 1994.

Details – but not enough, are in the articles below:

Daily Chart: Tracking the fortunes of America’s white working-class men
The Data Team | The Economist
February 20, 2017

The forgotten men index: Tracking the fortunes of the white working-class
The Economist
February 18, 2017

It might be interesting to look at this at lower levels of geography (states, counties, etc.) based on the American Community Survey instead of the original sources, which aren’t necessarily suitable for sub-national geographies.

Rescuing Federal Data

ICPSR has a new portal that allows the public to upload valuable government resources for preservation and dissemination – DATA LUMOS. These government files are snapshots of the data as it existed on the day it was harvested. Obviously, a live version is preferable, but if data disappear from government websites, the last known version is preferable to nothing. And, via crowd sourcing, this harvesting effort can be shared among many.

DATA LUMOS focuses on preserving federal social science data, interpreted broadly. Pollution data from the EPA would be relevant as would be daily temperature data from NASA. The main decision point is whether users of these data would think to search for it at ICPSR.

DATA LUMOS Announcement
ICPSR Webinar on DATA LUMOS

This is not the only “save the data” organization. A few weeks earlier there was an Ann Arbor Data Rescue event, part of a national Data Refuge project and the Internet Archive’s End of Term Presidential Harvest:

Library participates in effort to preserve government data
Lynne Raughley | University Record (University of Michigan)
February 1, 2017

Here are two other similar events:

Saving Data: Preservation during Political Turmoil
Andrew Battista | Data Dispatch (NYU Data Services)
January 26, 2017

Rogue Scientists Race to Save Climate Data from Trump
Zoe Schlanger | Wired
January 19, 2017

More background on some of the larger collaborations driving this:

DataRefuge Project

DataRefuge is also an initiative committed to identifying, assessing, prioritizing, securing, and distributing reliable copies of federal climate and environmental data so that it remains available to researchers. Data collected as part of the #DataRefuge initiative will be stored in multiple, trusted locations to help ensure continued accessibility

End of Term Presidential Harvest 2016

This is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO), the Library of Congress, the California Digital Library, the University of North Texas Libraries, Internet Archive, George Washington University Libraries, and Stanford University Libraries to harvest and preserve public U.S. Government websites at the conclusion of the current Presidential administration ending on January 20, 2017.

Note that this web harvest was done at the conclusion of other administrations, e.g., 2008 and 2012.

More on the “End of Term Presidential Harvest”
Harvesting Government History, One Web Page at a Time
Jim Dwyer | New York Times
December 1, 2016

Large portions of dot-gov have no mandate to be taken care of,” said Mark Phillips, a library dean at the University of North Texas, referring to government websites. “Nobody is really responsible for doing this.

Enter the End of Term Presidential Harvest 2016 — a volunteer, collaborative effort by a small group of university, government and nonprofit libraries to find and save valuable pages now on federal websites. The project began before the 2008 elections, when George W. Bush was serving his second term, and returned in 2012.

And, a few more interesting notes:

The EPA Just Posted a Mirror Website of the One Trump Plans to Censor
Matt Novak | Gizmodo.com
February 16, 2017

tweet

And, the Twitter poster above, is a one-man operation that rescues knowledge from the internet:

The Memory Hole

For instance, here are links to recently deleted items posted on the site:

The Education Department’s Deleted IDEA Website
The disappeared website about public education for disabled children still exists….

NASA’s Internal Counterintelligence Newsletter
Twenty-five issues of NASA’s newsletter about information security, terrorism, and spies.

Trump Deletions
A collection of online material deleted by Donald Trump, his campaign, and his transition team.

W.E.B. DuBois and the Hand-Drawn Infographic

image stamp

[Link to W.E.B. DuBois infographics at the Library of Congress]
In preparation for an exhibition at the Paris World’s Fair, W.E.B. DuBois commissioned hand-drawn infographics that illuminated how black Americans lived in the 1900s – mostly illustrating the great progress of this population since the end of slavery. In addition to the overview of the life of blacks in the United States, there was a special focus on “The Georgia Negro.” At the time, Georgia had the largest black population among all the states. These infographics were drawn by his students at Atlanta University – now Clark Atlanta University. He wanted his students to combat racism with empirical data.

Link to infographics: Library of Congress
Note that the metadata for each image gives details such as ink and watercolor, size (710 x 560 mm), and material (board).

Hand-drawn infographics commissioned by W.E.B. Du Bois illuminate how black Americans lived in the 1900s
Anne Quito | Quartz
February 10, 2017

W.E.B. Du Bois Was A Master Of The Hand-Drawn Infographic
Meg Miller | Fastcodesign.com
February 9, 2017

Muzzling Federal Scientists

Breaking news: scientists in selected federal agencies have been told to no longer update their websites with reports, factsheets, etc. Here’s a summary of the memo that the Environmental Protection Agency got:

The memo said there would be no press releases, social media posts or blog messages until further notice. It also asked for a list of external speaking engagements for staff and any planned webinars. It warned that listservs would be reviewed and that staff should “only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press.”

Federal Workers Told To Halt External Communication In First Week Under Trump
Sam Stein | Huffington Post
January 24, 2017

Trump bans EPA employees from giving social media updates
Mallory Shellbourne | The Hill
January 24, 2017

Trump Administration Moves to Muzzle Scientists, Block Research
Union of Concerned Scientists | http://www.ucsusa.org/
January 24, 2017

USDA science researchers ordered to stop publishing news releases, other documents
Jose DelReal | Washington Post
January 24, 2017

Information lockdown hits Trump’s federal agencies
Andrew Restuccia, Alex Guillen and Nancy Cook | Politico
January 24, 2017

[Additional News]

Note, that this happened under the Harper government in Canada [summary]. And Canadian scientists warned US scientists of this possibility a month ago:

Canadian Scientists Warn U.S. Colleagues: Act Now to Protect Science under Trump
Dina Fine Maron | Scientific American
December 20, 2016

Federal Policy for Protection of Human Subjects

A final update to the regulations that govern Human Subjects research that have been in place since 1991 was released today. The original notice to update/change the Common Rule was proposed in Fall 2015 with an opportunity for reactions to it. And, plenty of folks made comments about some of the proposed revisions and at least some of these were dropped. The Science article below briefly discusses the controversial consent proposal, while the Bill of Health Blog gives a quick overview of what stays the same and what has changed. The Bill of Health blog also discusses some implementation issues, e.g., could the 115th Congress reject this, etc.

Update: U.S. abandons controversial consent proposal on using human research samples
Jocelyn Kaiser | Science
January 18, 2017

Final Common Rule Revisions Just Published
Holly Fernandez Lynch | Bill of Health Blog
January 18, 2017

Final rule enhances protections for research participants, modernizes oversight system
Press Release | Health and Human Services
January 18, 2017

Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects
Document Number 2017-01058 | Federal Register
January 17, 2017

This rule is effective on January 19, 2018. The compliance date for this rule, except for Sec. __.114(b) (cooperative research), is January 19, 2018. The compliance date for Sec. __.114(b) (cooperative research) is January 20, 2020.

RAPID Research Community Alert
Dr. S. Jack Hu | Institutional Office for Human Subjects Research [University of Michigan]
January 30, 2017

Selected comments to the original proposed Common Rule
Researchers decry consent proposal
Jocelyn Kaiser | Science
May 20, 2016