Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Open Government Highlights: 1000 points of data

Kenneth Duberstein, who was the White House Chief of Staff from 1988-1989 had a very interesting Op-Ed piece in the New York Times Feb 23 (Op-Ed Contributor - 1,000 Points of Data - NYTimes.com). In it he calls for the US Government to allow for all citizens to assess the State of the Union themselves:
What we need now is a Web-based system for measuring our changing society with key national indicators — in a free, public, easy-to-use form. Ideally, it would be run by the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences, which would ensure it has the best quality of information and is kept up to date. The system would enable us to offer in one place statistical information that we spend billions of dollars collecting but that is now underused and undervalued.
Noting that this idea is possibly going to be a reality, he writes:
Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Michael Enzi, Republican of Wyoming, plan to soon introduce a bill that would allocate about $7.5 million a year for such a comprehensive database of key national indicators, and the idea already has wide bipartisan support.
Duberstein further states
Great steps forward in American history occur at moments when our deeply held values are reaffirmed in the face of changing realities. Such a moment is at hand. We need a shared frame of reference that will enable us to practice collective accountability.
I think this is a stellar idea. Access to information is critical for our future. Good to see this notion getting more and more support throughout the government.

2 comments:

  1. Duberstein has excellent intentions I'm sure, but he leaves key questions unaddressed. For example, how does does this new system improve upon the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the centres that collect and distribute economic data like the Fed and National Bureau of Economic Research? It seems to me his key rational is

    "The system would enable us to offer in one place statistical information that we spend billions of dollars collecting but that is now underused and undervalued."

    But is it really needed to combine all the (already massive) databases into one even larger database? And do we really want that database to be run by the Academy? :D

    If Duberstein believes that this data is "underused", I think the most effect option would be to fund more research which focuses on these statistics or, if there's difficulty in reconciling multiple sources of information, to train statisticians who can do and communicate meta-analyses, like Nate Silver (http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/). As for "undervalued", I couldn't agree more.

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  2. well, you obviously know more than I do here ... what I liked is the notion of making things accessible ... if as you say everything is accessible then maybe his argument is to make things more easily accessible to people without having to look in a lot of places ... this seems like a good idea to me (e.g., Genbank is much more useful than 1000 distributed sequence databases) ... as for whether it is worth that much money I do not know

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