OMB finalizes new statistical policy

The directive calls for the timely release of policy-neutral information.

The Office of Management and Budget today issued a new policy directive aimed at improving how agencies collect and release statistical information. Statistical Policy Directive No. 4 calls for agencies to disseminate policy-neutral and timely general-purpose statistical information while ensuring the integrity and transparency of processes used to produce the data. Nearly every agency collects and releases statistical information that is used by governments, businesses, citizens and other organizations. “Any loss of trust in the integrity of the federal statistical system and its products could lessen respondent cooperation with federal statistical surveys, decrease the quality of statistical system products and foster uncertainty about the validity of measures our nation uses to monitor and assess its performance and progress,” Susan Dudley, OMB’s administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), wrote in the directive. The final guidance comes more than six months after the administration requested comments on the directive. OIRA received about 12 comments on the draft directive and included several changes in the final version, the Federal Register notice states. One such change was the requirement for agencies to minimize the time between data collection and data release. Although the directive doesn’t give a specific time frame, it does call for agencies to move as fast as possible to release the information. Many comments focused on dissemination of the information. OMB modified the final guidance to make it clear that policy officials of the agency issuing the statistics should review the department’s press release to ensure it is policy-neutral. “A statistical agency should strive for the widest, most accessible and appropriate dissemination of its statistical products and ensure transparency in its dissemination practices by providing complete documentation of its dissemination policies on its Web site,” the directive states. “The statistical agency is responsible for ensuring that this documentation remains accurate by reviewing and updating it regularly so that it reflects the agency's current dissemination practices.” OIRA also called for agencies to establish policies for handling unscheduled corrections. “Agencies should use a variety of vehicles to attain a data dissemination program designed to reach data users in an equitable and timely manner,” the directive states. “Federal statistical agencies or units may issue their statistical products in printed and/or electronic form but must provide access to them on their Internet sites.”