Understanding R&Pís Function, Part II
This is the second article in a three-part series (available in full at (http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/mission.pdf) detailing the purposes of a statistical agency.
Research & Planning (R&P) is an exclusively statistical entity with the purpose of compiling and analyzing data and making such information available to other government agencies, the public, businesses, and nongovernmental groups. R&P does not administer any worker training, insurance, or regulatory programs.Collaboration and Research
An essential practice is ongoing development of more useful data. This includes updating collection methods and continually gathering new data. Collaboration with various users of a statistical entityís data helps the entity become more efficient, keep up-to-date on essential issues, increase relevance to users, and make data available equally to all members of the public.
An entity also should communicate with other experts and professionals to share data concepts and statistical methods. This includes cooperating with other in-state agencies and statistical entities in other states to increase the value, effectiveness, and accuracy of the entityís information.
Additionally, an active research program is vital. Research should be conducted to create background for presenting analytical results, to reveal needed improvements in data collection, and to identify limitations of the data. By producing the monthly publication Wyoming Labor Force Trends, R&P continually shares research results and data analyses.
As an additional example, some R&P employees also participate in research with other agencies. Carola Cowan, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Program Supervisor, is part of the BLS industry coding team that includes members from national and regional BLS offices as well as several state agencies. The team is concerned with the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the Annual Refiling Survey, part of the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. These programs work in conjunction with BLS, seeking to ensure that NAICS descriptions of firms are accurate and to improve NAICS coding consistency across all states.Trust and Confidentiality
Every state statistical entity should maintain ďa relationship of mutual respect and trust with respondents who provide data and with all data subjects whose information it obtainsĒ (Martin, Straf, & Citro, 2005).
A statistical entity must not use data in a way that discloses individuals. Data are used to reveal statistical trends, not to identify certain persons or firms. It is also important that data providers are aware of the level of confidentiality they will be afforded. Microdata (records of individual data subjects) cannot be made public because they would compromise the confidentiality of the persons or firms who provided the data.
R&P endeavors to offer confidentiality to data providers. For example, R&P conducts a succession planning survey of Wyoming state employees to analyze compensation, satisfaction, and other job-related factors (http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/SP_report.pdf). In the cover letter accompanying the survey, respondents are assured confidentiality, although anonymity is not possible during the data compilation process. Those who collect and analyze the data must be able to match survey responses with specific administrative records to produce accurate results. The cover letter also references Section 309 of the Workforce Investment Act (see 29 USC sec. 491-2 (a)(2) at (http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/section309.htm), detailing the ways in which confidential data are used.
Treating data providers with fairness and confidentiality includes informing providers of data collection methods, the purposes of the data, and the ways in which the data will be used. Providers also should be notified whether their participation is mandatory or voluntary.References
Duncan, G. T., Jabine, T. B., & de Wolf, V. A. (Eds.). (1993). Private lives and public policies. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Gallagher, T. (2007). Principles and practices for a state statistical agency. Internal document; also available at http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/statistical_entity.pdf
Martin, M. E., Straf, M. L., & Citro, C. F. (Eds.). (2005). Principles and practices for a federal statistical agency (3rd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Committee on National Statistics, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education.