CNSTAT Report Emphasizes the Need for a National Data Infrastructure

Having credible and accessible data is essential for various sectors of society to function. In the recent report, “Toward a 21st Century National Data Infrastructure: Mobilizing Information for the Common Good,” by the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the importance of national data infrastructure is emphasized.

David Castillo Dominici

The report comes as the first in a series of three funded by the National Science Foundation to discuss the construction of a national data infrastructure. It was authored by social statistician and former Census Director Robert Groves, the committee’s chair, of Georgetown University; danah boyd, founder of Data & Society; economist Anne C. Case, Princeton University; economist Janet M. Currie, Princeton University; economist Erica L. Groshen, Cornell University; economist Margaret C. Levenstein, University Of Michigan; former congressman Ted McCann, American Idea Foundation; sociologist C. Matthew Snipp, Stanford University, and geographer Patricia Solis, Arizona State University.

Emphasizing the need for reliable statistics for national, state and local government officials, as well as businesses and citizens, the report cites the need for a modern national data infrastructure incorporating data from multiple federal agencies. Initial recommendations and potential outcomes of such a system are contained in the report.

Recommendations include practices to incorporate data from many sources, safeguard privacy, freely share statistics with the public, ensure transparency and create a modern system that would allow for easy access and enhanced security.

Potential outcomes of this infrastructure highlighted by the authors of the report include increased evidence-based policymaking on several levels of government, uniform regulations for data reporting and users accessing the data and increased security. The report describes how this would tie into increased initiatives to promote research and evidence-based policymaking, including through the passing of the Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 in Congress.

CNSTAT’s future reports seek to address blending multiple data sources, data equity, technology and tools, among other topics.

Additionally, CNSTAT is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a seminar on October 13 from 2-5 p.m. ET, discussing its history, recent report and looking towards its future endeavors. The event will be held in-person at Auditorium and Great Hall of the National Academy of Sciences Building, 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, and will also be livestreamed. Those interested may register here.

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Molly Gahagen

Molly Gahagen is a third-year student at Johns Hopkins University studying political science and international studies. She is currently the social science communications intern at SAGE Publishing.

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