Trustworthy Data for Social and Economic Research


By: Melissa C. Chiu, Director, Committee on National Statistics, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Trustworthy, reliable, and widely available statistics are essential for making informed decisions in the public and private sectors, including policy makers, government agencies, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. The federal statistical system plays a crucial role in producing trustworthy data for the common good, providing statistics that are accurate, relevant, and timely.

In addition, research relies on credible authoritative sources of information. The federal statistical system provides a vast array of reliable data that enhances the accuracy and depth of research on many issues such as employment, economic growth, cost of living, crime victimization, physical and mental health, educational attainment, energy use, and the environment.

And in an age of misinformation and the proliferation of social media, the need for unbiased and accurate information has never been greater. Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) highlights the important public good provided by strong federal statistical agencies and provides a core set of principles and practices for producing trustworthy statistics. These principles and practices benefit federal agencies and the research enterprise by providing a clear, consistent, and ethical foundation for this work and are designed to ensure that the federal statistical system maintains objectivity and independence. They also ensure that data produced by federal agencies undergo rigorous quality checks, use appropriate measures to safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of individuals and organizations, and are free from bias and political influence.

A federal statistical system that aligns to these principles and practices also benefits the research community by offering an extensive range of trusted information products and resources that researchers, research librarians, and other analysts can utilize. Leveraging the federal statistical system can assist researchers and research librarians by locating and accessing high-quality, relevant data, helping explore new avenues of research, and gain insights that would otherwise be challenging to obtain.

CNSTAT also provides scientific advice to the federal statistical system to help improve statistical methods and the information on which to base public policy. CNSTAT’s rigorous consensus studies and convenings help advance a forward-looking vision for national statistics.

To learn more, see CNSTAT’s landmark reports, such as Toward a 21st Century National Data Infrastructure: Mobilizing Information for the Common Good and Toward a 21st Century National Data Infrastructure: Enhancing Survey Programs by Using Multiple Data Sources. These reports share much of the vision for a robust and thriving national statistical system and describe how to improve the collection of statistics and data assets and social and economic research for the federal government and research enterprise.