Is Federal Data Collection in Jeopardy?

Quality data is essential to the work planners do in local communities. But valuable sources of federal data, such as the U.S. Census and American Community Survey, face a tough political climate.

Federal data, smart cities, and civic innovation was the focus of the Daniel Burnham Forum on Big Ideas, which kicked off the 2017 APA Policy and Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.

In his remarks, John Thompson, the former U.S. Census bureau director and current executive director of the Council of Professional Association on Federal Statistics laid out today's landscape of federal data collection and tomorrow's opportunities and challenges. He also discussed the Census Bureau's preparations for the 2020 Census, its federal funding challenges, and why it matters.

"A good census is very important for anyone who uses federal data for planning and decision making," he said.

Thompson was joined in a panel discussion by Nader Afzalan, chair of APA's Technology Division and cochair of APA's Smart Cities and Sustainability Task Force, and Mary-Jo Hoeksema, a public affairs specialist at Population Association of America and co-chair of the Census Project, a broad-based network of national, state, and local organizations that supports a fair and accurate 2020 Census and comprehensive ACS.

Afzalan spoke to local data collection efforts: "Our cities are data obese right now."

He says cities have a lot of data but they don't know what to do with it. He called for cities and communities to reach out to data experts and the APA Technology Division to learn how to change the way they collect data so that they can more effectively use it to accomplish community goals.

Watch the full forum discussion:

Top image: Panelists John Thompson, Mary-Jo Hoeksema, and Nader Afzalan discuss the challenges ahead in collecting quality federal data. APA photo.

About the Author
Mary Hammon is associate editor at APA.

September 25, 2017

By Mary Hammon