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Chapter 1Introduction

Chapter 1
Introduction

Overview

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), like other federal statistical agencies, establishes professional standards to guide the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage, and presentation of statistical data. Standards and guidelines define the professional basis and the level of quality and effort expected in all statistical activities, including those of contractors. The standards ensure consistency among studies conducted by BTS and provide users clear documentation of the methods and principles employed in the development, collection, processing, analysis, and dissemination of BTS statistical information.

The standards and guidelines in this Manual apply to BTS data collections or surveys whose purposes include the description, estimation, or analysis of the characteristics of groups. This includes the development, implementation, or maintenance of methods, technical or administrative procedures, or information resources that support those purposes. Certain standards and guidelines also apply to the compilation of data from external sources and to the dissemination of BTS information products.

Background

BTS issues statistical standards and guidelines in response to various legal and OMB requirements:

  • BTS is responsible for: issuing guidelines for the collection of information by the Department [of Transportation] required for statistics in order to ensure that such information is accurate, reliable, relevant, and in a form that permits systematic analysis.[1]
  • The Data Quality Act[2] requires that each federal agency issue guidelines ensuring the quality of disseminated information.

In 2002, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued government-wide guidelines[3] that "provide policy and procedural guidance to Federal agencies for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by Federal agencies.

In addition to guidelines, agencies were also required to develop a process for pre-dissemination review of information, an administrative mechanism to allow the public to request correction of information not complying with the guidelines, and an annual report to OMB describing the outcome of these requests.

Organization of these Statistical Standards

In October 2002, DOT issued its Information Dissemination Quality Guidelines, which included statistical guidelines as Appendix A. This Manual, the BTS Statistical Standards Manual, does not intend to replace the DOT guidelines. Rather, the Manual provides more specific statistical standards and guidelines that BTS needs as a statistical agency.

The content of the BTS Statistical Standards Manual follows the outline of the DOT statistical guidelines (DOT 2002, Appendix A), except that the BTS Manual divides the DOT chapter on Processing Data into two chapters, Processing of Data and Data Analysis.

In addition, OMB, through the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology, is currently revising its Standards for Statistical Surveys. OMB intends these standards to serve as general standards for all Federal statistical agencies. BTS reviewed draft versions of the OMB standards during the development of the Manual, which refers to the draft OMB standards in many places. BTSs standards extend the OMB standards to deal more explicitly with BTS data issues, including the use of non-survey data and data from external sources.

This Manual contains 28 standards for BTS statistical practice. Each standard is accompanied by guidelines that represent best practices in meeting the standard. Each section also provides a list of key terms (defined in Appendix A of the Manual) and a list of related materials.

OMB defines quality in terms of utility (usefulness of information to intended users), objectivity in presentation and in substance, and integrity (protection of information from unauthorized access or revision). BTS addresses the OMB quality criteria in the following fashion:

  • Utility – the planning standards and guidelines (Chapter 2 and Section 5.1) stress user involvement, while the dissemination standards and guidelines (Chapter 6) emphasize accessibility and transparency to users.
  • Objectivity – objectivity in substance, through sound statistical methods, is the focus of the standards and guidelines. Chapter 6 deals with objectivity in presentation.
  • Integrity – the standards and guidelines (Chapters 2 through 6) incorporate compliance with existing BTS policies for maintaining data security and protecting confidentiality.

Finally, Chapter 7 contains standards and guidelines to ensure the quality of BTS statistical processes and products by monitoring compliance with these standards.

Implementing Standards

BTS project and product managers should adhere to all standards for every statistical activity. Sponsoring offices should evaluate the compliance of their data collection systems and information products with applicable standards. The offices should establish goals for compliance with any applicable standards that are not met. In those rare instances where the strict application of a standard is impractical or infeasible, consider alternative methods of achieving the standards purpose. Document the reasons why the standard cannot be met and what actions have been taken or will be taken to address any resulting issues.

In applying the standards, BTS managers should consider the importance of the uses of the information as well as the fitness of the information to those uses. At times, BTS must evaluate the potential improvement in data quality that would arise from adherence to the standard if resource constraints or other contingencies make it impossible to meet all standards. BTS must consider these standards and guidelines and apply them efficiently and effectively to achieve the goal of information quality.

References

49 U.S.C. 111 as amended by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. P.L. 109-59.

Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001. Section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001. P.L. 106-554.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB). 2002. Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies. Federal Register, Vol. 67, No. 36, pp. 8450-8460. Washington, DC. February 22.

__________. 2005. Standards for Statistical Surveys (Proposed). Washington, DC. July 14.

U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). 2002. The Department of Transportation Information Dissemination Quality Guidelines. Washington, DC. Available at http://dms.dot.gov/ombfinal092502.pdf as of August 22, 2005.

Approval Date: September 21, 2005

[1] 49 U.S.C. 111 (c)(7)

[2] Section 515 (PL 106-554).

[3] 67 FR 8452, February 22, 2002.