What are the Principles?
Federal data is both a strategic asset and a valuable national resource. It enables the government to carry out its mission and programs effectively. It provides the public with knowledge of the government, society, economy, and environment – past, present, and future. Federal data is also a means to ensure the accountability of government, to manage the government’s operations, and to maintain and enhance the performance of the Nation’s economy, public health, and welfare. Appropriate access to federal data significantly enhances its value and the return on the Nation’s investment in its creation.
The Principles serve as motivational guidelines in the areas of Ethical Governance, Conscious Design, and a Learning Culture. They underlie a comprehensive data strategy that encompasses federal and federally sponsored program, statistical, and mission-support data. These Principles include concepts reflected in existing Principle frameworks, such as those for the protection of personal information, for the management of information as an asset, for federal statistical agencies, and for federal evidence building. These Principles inform the Practices and Action Steps for the Federal Data Strategy.
- Uphold Ethics: Monitor and assess the implications of federal data practices for the public. Design checks and balances to protect and serve the public good.
- Exercise Responsibility: Practice effective data stewardship and governance. Employ sound data security practices, protect individual privacy, maintain promised confidentiality, and ensure appropriate access and use.
- Promote Transparency: Articulate the purposes and uses of federal data to engender public trust. Comprehensively document processes and products to inform data providers and users.
- Ensure Relevance: Protect the quality and integrity of the data. Validate that data are appropriate, accurate, objective, accessible, useful, understandable, and timely.
- Harness Existing Data: Identify data needs to inform priority research and policy questions; reuse data if possible and acquire additional data if needed.
- Anticipate Future Uses: Create data thoughtfully, considering fitness for use by others; plan for reuse and build in interoperability from the start.
- Demonstrate Responsiveness: Improve data collection, analysis, and dissemination with ongoing input from users and stakeholders. The feedback process is cyclical; establish a baseline, gain support, collaborate, and refine continuously.
- Invest in Learning: Promote a culture of continuous and collaborative learning with and about data through ongoing investment in data infrastructure and human resources.
- Develop Data Leaders: Cultivate data leadership at all levels of the federal workforce by investing in training and development about the value of data for mission, service, and the public good.
- Practice Accountability: Assign responsibility, audit data practices, document and learn from results, and make needed changes.
How were the Principles created?
On behalf of the Federal Data Strategy development team, the Department of Commerce published a Request for Comments (RFC) in the Federal Register on June 27, 2018. The RFC included a set of 10 draft Principles for a comprehensive data strategy and asked the public to “review and provide feedback on their clarity, appropriateness, completeness, and potential duplications.” Comments were also submitted through the Federal Data Strategy website. The RFC closed on July 27, and the website closed to comments on July 30. This process generated close to 100 comments related to the draft Principles. Feedback on the draft Principles was positive, and commenters offered many suggestions to improve the draft version, which have been incorporated in the 10 revised Principles.
In developing the Principles for Leveraging Data as a Strategic Asset, the following draft Principles, originally published on June 27, 2018, were revised to incorporate alternative or additional concepts or specific word choices suggested by commenters. The category labels of the Principles were changed to “Ethical Governance,” “Conscious Design,” and “Culture of Learning,” which provide an improved framework and better reflect the revised Principles. Also, a mission statement for the Federal Data Strategy has been added to connect the Principles to the goal of leveraging data as a strategic asset. In some cases, comments were addressed by changes other than what was directly suggested by the comments. For example, in response to the suggestion that state and local governments be explicitly mentioned as stakeholders, the introductory paragraph adds “federally-sponsored” data to the types of data encompassed by the Federal Data Strategy.