US Getting a Permanent Chief Statistician After Two-Year Gap

An organizational psychologist who currently heads the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Suicide Prevention Office has been named the chief statistician of the United States, filling the role on a permanent basis for the first time since 2019.

Headshot of Karin Orvis in front of US flag
Karin Orvis

The Office of Management and Budget named Karin Orvis as chief statistician and the branch chief for statistical and science policy at the bureau’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, first reported Jory Heckman at Federal News Network. “As OMB’s chief statistician,” Heckman wrote, “Orvis will oversee a decentralized network of federal statistical agencies, as well as lead efforts to provide statistical data, which serves as the basis for major policy decisions in and out of government.” The role of chief statistician dates back to the 1930s although the office has bounced around federal agencies and under different names since.

Nancy Potok, who retired in 2019, last filled the position of chief statistician on a permanent basis. Of late, economist Dominic Mancini, the deputy administrator of Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, served as acting chief statistician. Since retirement, Potok has taken an unofficial but active role promoting the federal statistical enterprise, and along with two other former chief statisticians she described the role for the American Statistical Association’s AmStat News earlier this month:

“The chief statistician is also a bridge builder to the data communities outside the statistical system. In today’s information and evidence-building world, many statistical and information-related activities are taking place outside the federal statistical agencies. Many of these players would benefit from the decades of experience the statistical agencies have acquired and learned on such topics as standards, quality, ethics, confidentiality, and applications of data. So, in addition to looking inward at the federal statistical system, the chief statistician should also be externally facing and making sure the federal statistical viewpoint is fully represented in the evidence building and data science ecosystem.”

“I look forward to working with the leaders of the federal statistical system, including the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy, as well as other key stakeholders in both the public and private sector,” Federal News Network quoted Orvis. She will also be a member of the Biden Administration’s Equitable Data Working Group; that body released A Vision for Equitable Data last week to show federal agencies how to promote equity in federal data.

Orvis earned her doctorate and master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology from George Mason University, and her bachelor’s in psychology from Michigan State University. Before her position leading the suicide prevention initiative for the Department of Defense, she was acting principal director of Military Community and Family Policy, and director of the Transition to Veterans Program Office. Before joining the federal government, Orvis spent four years as a university assistant professor at Old Dominion University. Her work has been published in journals such as Leadership QuarterlyMilitary PsychologyJournal of Applied PsychologyJournal of Business and Psychology, and the International Journal of Training and Development.

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