BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Data Quality Guidelines

Data Quality Guidelines - Overview


I. Overview

BJS and the OMB Guidelines to Ensure and Maximize the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued government-wide information quality guidelines under section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001. OMB's final version of the guidelines was published in the Federal Register on February 22, 2002 (67 FR 8452). The OMB guidelines direct each Federal agency to issue its own guidelines to ensure and maximize the quality, utility, objectivity, and integrity of information disseminated by Federal agencies.

As a component of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is governed by the DOJ Information Quality Guidelines, the OMB data quality guidelines (67 FR 8452), and the BJS data quality guidelines. As stated in the DOJ Information Quality Guidelines, the departmental guidelines provide "a foundation for more detailed procedures to be developed within DOJ." Accordingly, BJS has formulated its own data quality guidelines to provide the public with additional information regarding the methods used by BJS to ensure the quality, utility, objectivity, and integrity of the statistics it publicly disseminates.

BJS is the statistical agency of the DOJ and is responsible for the collection, analysis, publication, and dissemination of statistical information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operations of justice systems at all levels of government. As the primary provider of civil and criminal justice statistics for the Federal government, BJS recognizes that no commitment is more critical to the mission of BJS than the commitment to maintain public trust and confidence in BJS statistics.

The authorizing legislation of BJS (Title 42, United States Code ยง 3731) states in part that the agency's purpose is "to provide for and encourage the collection and analysis of statistical information concerning crime, juvenile delinquency, and the operation of the criminal justice system and related aspects of the civil justice system and to support the development of information and statistical systems at the Federal, State, and local levels to improve the efforts of these levels of government to measure and understand the levels of crime, juvenile delinquency, and the operation of the criminal justice system and related aspects of the civil justice system."

BJS is dedicated to developing, maintaining, and disseminating all of its statistics in accordance with the highest professional and statistical standards. BJS has long maintained the strongest commitment to integrity and objectivity while striving to produce impartial, timely, and accurate statistics in accordance with its authorizing legislation. For greater detail concerning BJS' performance standards and adherence to the OMB guidelines, see Section III, OMB Guidelines to Ensure and Maximize the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies: BJS Performance Standards.

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III. OMB Guidelines to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated by Federal agencies: BJS Performance Standards

BJS Performance Standards for:

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued government-wide information quality guidelines under section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001. OMB's final version of the guidelines was published in the Federal Register on February 22, 2002 (67 FR 8452). The OMB guidelines direct each Federal agency to issue its own guidelines to ensure and maximize the quality, utility, objectivity, and integrity of information disseminated by Federal agencies.

The following performance standards explain in detail BJS' commitment to ensuring and maximizing the quality, utility, objectivity, and integrity of its publicly available statistics.

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BJS Performance Standard for the Quality of BJS Statistics

As stated in the Overview, BJS is dedicated to developing, maintaining, and disseminating all of its statistics in accordance with the highest professional and statistical standards. Sections IX through XIV of these guidelines present 23 Data Quality Guidelines that govern each phase of the BJS data collection process from survey design through the dissemination of statistics.

Because the quality of BJS statistics is essential to its credibility and the credibility of the Department of Justice, BJS staff are held to the highest standards of professionalism as presented in the American Statistical Association's Ethical Guidelines for Statistical Practice (see Section VI )

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BJS Performance Standard for the Utility of BJS Statistics

BJS is committed to maximizing the utility of its statistics to all users of BJS data. BJS statistics are frequently cited by policymakers at all levels of government, members of the media, practitioners, academia, and the general public. To ensure that BJS statistics are as relevant as possible to its wide array of users, BJS is committed to being fully responsive to its users' needs (see the guidelines and discussion in Section X and Section XI), and BJS makes its statistics available to them as soon as possible in a variety of useful formats (see guidelines and discussion in Section XII and Section XIV).

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BJS Performance Standard for the Objectivity of BJS Statistics

BJS is committed to ensuring objectivity in the presentation of its statistics and in the procedures used to generate them. The objectivity of BJS statistics is protected by several factors to ensure that BJS data are accurate, reliable and unbiased and are presented in an accurate, clear, complete and unbiased manner. Objectivity is achieved by careful preparation of the data in accordance with proven statistical methods (see guidelines and discussion in Section X), verification of data by additional BJS staff members (see guidelines and discussion in Section XIII), and procedural protections to ensure that data are not compromised before public release (see guidelines and discussion in Section XIII).

The American Statistical Association's Ethical Guidelines for Statistical Practice require that responsible attention be given to "the avoidance of any tendency to slant statistical work toward predetermined outcomes" (see Section VI).

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BJS Performance Standard for the Integrity of BJS Statistics

BJS is committed to protecting the integrity of its statistics from unauthorized access or revision to ensure that the data are not compromised through corruption or falsification (see guidelines and discussion in Sections IX and XIII). BJS is committed to protecting the confidentiality and privacy of persons involved as subjects of BJS data collections in accordance with all Federal privacy laws (see guidelines and discussion in Section IX).

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IV. Principles and practices for a Federal statistical agency

The BJS Data Quality Guidelines have been substantially influenced by the findings of the 2001 National Research Council report, " Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency" (National Academy Press, 2nd ed, 2001). The report discusses three principles for a Federal statistical agency; providing policy-relevant statistics, establishing credibility among data users, and maintaining trust among data providers. BJS views its Data Quality Guidelines as the mechanism by which the agency adheres to these three principles.

 In addition, "Principles and Practices for a Federal Statistical Agency" lists eleven essential practices of a Federal statistical agency, all of which are practiced by BJS:

  •  A clearly-defined and well-accepted mission
  •  A strong position of independence
  •  Continual development of more useful data
  •  Openness about the data provided
  •  Wide dissemination of data
  •  Cooperation with data users
  •  Fair treatment of data providers
  •  Commitment to quality and professional standards of practice
  •  An active research program
  •  Professional advancement of staff
  •  Coordination and cooperation with other statistical agencies.

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V. BJS Partnerships and Affiliations

As a Federal statistical agency, BJS maintains professional affiliations or working partnerships with several of the leading professional statistical associations in the nation and around the world, including:

BJS is a member of the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP), a council of Federal statistical agency heads that is chaired by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Since its inception, the ICSP has been an important vehicle for coordinating Federal statistical agencies and their practices, particularly when statistical activities and issues overlap or cut across agencies. The ICSP has also facilitated the exchange of information about agency programs and activities, and has provided advice and counsel to OMB on statistical matters. In the past year, agenda topics included: establishing priorities for further interagency collaboration; continuing efforts to elaborate the potential benefits of interagency data sharing; further enhancing the usefulness of the FedStats Internet site; extending a collaborative program to undertake research in various aspects of survey methodology; developing best practice guidelines for contracting for Federal surveys; and considering ways to strengthen interaction with the Committee on National Statistics. In addition, the ICSP reviewed and ultimately approved recommendations to develop performance measures for statistical agency programs, an initiative that should lead to the identification of best practices, the development of benchmarks for comparison, and continual improvements in the processes the agencies measure.

The ASA has long served in an advisory capacity to BJS. The ASA has been active in providing technical advice, methodological reviews, and comments for a variety of BJS products. The topics that have been addressed by the ASA in recent years include: revisions to the National Crime Victimization Survey, hate crime research, and the use of force by law enforcement officers. The ASA's Committee on Law and Justice Statistics has also organized sessions at the Joint Statistical Meetings on research related to BJS data and has administered the BJS/ASA Statistical Methodological Research Program. The Statistical Methodological Research Program provides for the analysis of BJS data and was designed to encourage the creative and appropriate use of these data to inform substantive and methodological issues.

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VI. BJS and Professional Ethics

From the initial design of BJS surveys through the dissemination and maintenance of our statistics, BJS staff are governed by the ASA's Ethical Guidelines for Statistical Practice. The ASA's Ethical Guidelines represent the consensus of the professional statistical community for both the public and private sectors.

The ASA's Ethical Guidelines address eight general topic areas and specify important ethical considerations under each topic. The topics include: professionalism in the competence and judgment of statisticians, ethical behavior regarding allegations of misconduct , and responsibilities in publications, testimony, and research subjects. The ethical guidelines promulgated by the ASA apply to the professional activities of all BJS statistical staff without regard to seniority level.

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VII. Federal Legislation, Rules, and Regulations Governing BJS Statistics

BJS procedures for collecting, analyzing, publishing, and distributing data are subject to strict Federal controls in order to ensure the quality, security, and integrity of our statistics. Among the governing regulations and statutes:

  •  OMB Circular A-130 (revised), Management of Federal Information Resources
  •  OMB Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies
  •  OMB's Statistical Policy Directive No. 15, Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting
  •  1974 Privacy Act
  •  28 CFR Part 22, Confidentiality of Identifiable Research and Statistical Information
  •  28 CFR Part 46, Protection of Human Subjects ("The Common Rule")
  •  The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended, Sections 504 and 508, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 794d, Electronic and Information Technology
  •  42 U.S.C. § 3731 (BJS authorizing legislation)
  •  42 U.S.C. § 3789g (BJS information confidentiality statute)
 


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