Effects of a Government-Academic Partnership: Has the NSF-Census Bureau Research Network Helped Improve the U.S. Statistical System?
Weinberg, Daniel; Abowd, John M.; Belli, Robert F.; Cressie, Noel; Folch, David C.; Holan, Scott H.; Levenstein, Margaret C.; Olson, Kristen M.; Reiter, Jerome P.; Shapiro, Matthew D.; Smyth, Jolene; Soh, Leen-Kiat; Spencer, Bruce; Spielman, Seth E.; Vilhuber, Lars; Wikle, Christopher
The National Science Foundation-Census Bureau Research Network (NCRN) was established in 2011 to create interdisciplinary research nodes on methodological questions of interest and significance to the broader research community and to the Federal Statistical System (FSS), particularly the Census Bureau. The activities to date have covered both fundamental and applied statistical research and have focused at least in part on the training of current and future generations of researchers in skills of relevance to surveys and alternative measurement of economic units, households, and persons. This paper discusses some of the key research findings of the eight nodes, organized into six topics: (1) Improving census and survey data collection methods; (2) Using alternative sources of data; (3) Protecting privacy and confidentiality by improving disclosure avoidance; (4) Using spatial and spatio-temporal statistical modeling to improve estimates; (5) Assessing data cost and quality tradeoffs; and (6) Combining information from multiple sources. It also reports on collaborations across nodes and with federal agencies, new software developed, and educational activities and outcomes. The paper concludes with an evaluation of the ability of the FSS to apply the NCRN’s research outcomes and suggests some next steps, as well as the implications of this research-network model for future federal government renewal initiatives.
This paper began as a May 8, 2015 presentation to the National Academies of Science’s Committee on National Statistics by two of the principal investigators of the National Science Foundation-Census Bureau Research Network (NCRN) – John Abowd and the late Steve Fienberg (Carnegie Mellon University). The authors acknowledge the contributions of the other principal investigators of the NCRN who are not co-authors of the paper (William Block, William Eddy, Alan Karr, Charles Manski, Nicholas Nagle, and Rebecca Nugent), the co- principal investigators, and the comments of Patrick Cantwell, Constance Citro, Adam Eck, Brian Harris-Kojetin, and Eloise Parker. We note with sorrow the deaths of Stephen Fienberg and Allan McCutcheon, two of the original NCRN principal investigators. The principal investigators also wish to acknowledge Cheryl Eavey’s sterling grant administration on behalf of the NSF. The conclusions reached in this paper are not the responsibility of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Census Bureau, or any of the institutions to which the authors belong
census; statistics; government-academic partnership