New advisory committee will assist in 2020 census

The Census Bureau is establishing a committee of public- and private-sector representatives to make sure plans for the 2020 population count are on track.

Shutterstock image. Copyright: Michele Paccione.

The Census Bureau is establishing -- and currently accepting nominations for -- a committee of public- and private-sector representatives to make sure its 2020 enumeration is on track, and as complete and accurate as possible.

The goal of the 2020 Advisory Committee is "to bring in outside experts in the census bureau to give a broad perspective on how to have the most complete and accurate census as possible," said Tara Dunlop, chief of the advisory committee branch at Census. "We have only [one chance] to count everyone and make sure they are in the right place."

The 2020 main event will employ more technology than ever before, and the new committee is expected to provide input and recommendations in shaping how to best leverage the tools available.

"We want to make sure we reach tribal communities, Alaska natives, rural communities, urban communities, everyone," said Dunlop. The committee, she said, "can give advice on how to reach historically undercounted populations" in ways that will be both trusted and convenient.'"

The bureau has other, long-standing advisory committees in place — the National Advisory Committee and the Census Scientific Advisory Committee — to address specific portions of census responsibilities. What distinguishes this committee is that it takes on all aspects of the decennial census, said Dunlop.

Dunlop said the committee will cover topics as broad as the Census Bureau's responsibilities, including communications and outreach efforts, overarching policies, and new technological programs, methods and tools. Specific areas of interest will be determined once the panel is fully formed and names its members.

The committee ultimately will comprise 25 members from the public and private sectors "who represent diverse populations, and have backgrounds… from all walks of the universe," Dunlop said.

Members will be selected based on their areas of expertise and their knowledge of Census Bureau operations and programs. The 30-day open notice period for nominations will close Jan. 19, at which point, a panel at Census will review and rank applicants, and ultimately determine who makes the cut.

The bureau is hopeful the committee will hold its first meeting in late March or early April 2017, about four months before the 2018 end-to-end testing – the decennial's "dress rehearsal" -- is scheduled to begin. Dunlop said the group will hold at least two in-person meetings each year, and that additional virtual sessions could be added, depending on the topics committee members choose to cover and the status of the 2020 operation.

As a federal advisory committee, all meetings -- both in-person and online -- will be public.


Similar advisory committees have been stood up for past decennial events, the first of which was established in 1991 for the 2000 Census. The advisory committee for the 2010 Census was chartered in March 2005.