These supplementary guidelines pertain to statistical and financial information disseminated by USDA agencies and offices that is obtained from original data collections, administrative records, or compilations of data from primary sources, as well as estimates and forecasts derived from statistical models, expert prediction, or a combination of the two. The following information quality criteria comprise the quality standards that USDA agencies and offices will follow in developing and reviewing statistical and financial information and disseminating it to the public.
Objectivity of Statistical and Financial Information
To ensure the objectivity of statistical and financial information disseminated by USDA, its agencies and offices will:
- Design information collection, compilation, and creation activities based on sound statistical methods or generally accepted professional and industry standards.
- When collecting statistical or financial information:
- When collecting information that requires OMB clearance under the Paperwork Reduction Act, demonstrate in the clearance package submitted to OMB that the information collection would result in information that will comply with OMB and USDA information quality guidelines
- Design information collection activities to minimize respondent burden balanced against the need and value of the information to be obtained.
- Conduct sample surveys or other data collections using sound statistical, survey, and data collection methodologies that are consistent with generally accepted professional and industry standards.
- When compiling and using statistical or financial information from administrative data files and records or original sources:
- Validate the data against other information where practicable.
- Use the most reliable data and the most reliable data sources available.
- When creating estimates or forecasts that are derived from existing data sources using models or other techniques:
- Document models and other estimation or forecasting techniques to describe the data sources used and the methodologies and assumptions employed.
- Use sound statistical methods that conform to accepted professional standards.
- As a matter of good statistical practice, provide transparent documentation of data sources, methods, and sources of error when disseminating original or supporting statistical or financial data.
- Include quality assurance processes as an integral part of all phases of data collection or compilation, processing, and analysis, and conduct an appropriate quality evaluation of the statistical or financial information before it is disseminated.
- In analyzing and reporting statistical or financial information:
- Provide a clear explanation data sources, methodologies used, and assumptions made.
- Use sound analytical techniques, maintain objectivity and professionalism, and present the data impartially in ways that are easy to understand.
- Where appropriate, subject statistical and financial information and analysis thereof to formal, independent, external peer review to ensure its objectivity. If data and analytic results have been subjected to such a review, the information may generally be presumed to be of acceptable objectivity. However, in accordance with the OMB standard, this presumption is rebuttable based on a persuasive showing by a petitioner in a particular instance, although the burden of proof is on the complainant.
- If agency-sponsored peer review of statistical or financial information or the analysis thereof is employed to help satisfy the objectivity standard, the review process should, where appropriate, meet the general criteria for competent and credible peer review recommended by OMB. OMB recommends that (a) peer reviewers be selected primarily on the basis of necessary technical expertise, (b) peer reviewers be expected to disclose to agencies prior technical/policy positions they may have take on issues at hand, (c) peer reviewers be expected to disclose to agencies their sources of personal and institutional funding (private or public sector), and (d) peer reviews be conducted in an open and rigorous manner.
Objectivity of Influential Statistical and Financial Information
To ensure the objectivity of influential statistical and financial information disseminated by USDA, its agencies and offices will:
- Disseminate influential statistical and financial information with a high degree of transparency about data and methods to facilitate its reproducibility by qualified third parties. Reproducibility means that the information is capable of being substantially reproduced, subject to an acceptable degree of imprecision.
- With regard to original and supporting data related to influential statistical or financial information, USDA agencies and offices will ensure reproducibility for those particular types of data that can practicably be subjected to a reproducibility requirement according to commonly accepted statistical or financial standards, given ethical, feasibility, or confidentiality constraints.
- With regard to analytic results related to influential statistical or financial information, USDA agencies and offices will ensure sufficient transparency about data and methods that an independent reanalysis could be undertaken by a qualified member of the public unless other compelling interests such as privacy, trade secrets, intellectual property, or other confidentiality protections preclude such a reanalysis.
- In situations where public access to data and methods will not occur due to other compelling interests, USDA agencies and offices will apply especially rigorous robustness checks to analytic results and document what checks were undertaken.
- In all cases, USDA agencies and offices will disclose the specific data sources, quantitative methods, and assumptions used in the analysis.
Utility of Statistical and Financial Information
To ensure the utility of statistical and financial information disseminated by USDA, its agencies and offices will:
- Ensure that general-purpose statistical and financial information products meet user needs by identifying the users of the information, staying informed of their information needs, and developing new statistical and financial information and/or data products to meet those needs.
- Ensure that statistical and financial information developed for use by USDA, other Federal agencies, and the Congress in making management or policy decisions and to implement and assess regulations and programs is disseminated to the public with a high degree of transparency about data sources and methods.
- Make statistical and financial information disseminated by USDA agencies and offices widely available and easily accessible.
- Ensure that the statistical and financial information disseminated by USDA is accompanied by supporting documentation to aid its understandability. As appropriate, provide an explanation of data sources, definitions and concepts, and methodology. Provide contact information for a knowledgeable person with each publication and each data set to allow feedback and questions from data users.
Integrity of Statistical and Financial Information
To ensure the integrity of statistical and financial information disseminated by USDA, its agencies and offices will:
- Ensure statistical and financial information maintained by USDA agencies and offices is secure from unauthorized internal access or revision.
- Ensure statistical and financial information maintained by USDA agencies and offices is secure from unauthorized external access or revision.