The Chief Data Officers Council receives feedback on how the goals of the federal data strategy can be achieved and how its members can master common management challenges in their departments.
The CDO Council received nearly 60 comments in response to a request for information it made a month ago. The council accepted public comments until November 15.
The RFI solicited suggestions from the public on a number of topics, including how best to qualify federal employees to learn data literacy and share federal data between agencies while maintaining privacy.
Among the proposals, the Federation of American Scientists called on the Office of Management and Budget to create an assistant director for a position in information policy who would oversee data work in the OMB and CDO council.
Joshua Schoop, chief technology and innovation policy director for the Federation of American Scientists, said the new position would also serve as a liaison from OMB for other president’s board members who wish to access and work on data with OMB.
“The coordination between this role and the CDO Council would help CDOs better understand how agencies use databases both internally and externally,” Schoop wrote.
Several commentators also highlighted an inter-agency campaign to recruit data scientists as a successful model for bringing in-demand talent into government.
The recruitment campaign, led by the CDO Council and Office of Personnel Management, received more than 500 applications in less than 48 hours.
Candidates went through a review process introduced by USDS that involves subject matter experts early on in the hiring process to conduct technical reviews of applicants’ qualifications. Through this process of technical expert qualification (SMEQA), the agencies identified around 100 qualified candidates.
CDO councilor Ted Kaouk said at the council’s first public meeting in October that the agencies have hired at least 44 people to run the initiative.
âWhile flexible hiring agencies are not the answer to hiring challenges, they can be used to expand an agency’s data and assessment teams and address critical areas where outside expertise is needed,â Schoop wrote.
Meanwhile, a coalition of state CDOs is urging their federal counterparts to publish a catalog of high-quality data sets. This catalog should contain any legal restrictions on the disclosure of this data.
Tyler Kleykamp, ââdirector of the State Chief Data Officers Network at the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University, said the role of the CDO, while relatively new in both state and federal governments, is common to all Challenges.
âCOVID-19 has burdened states unprecedented. They face major challenges in collecting, integrating and reporting data related to COVID, which is just a microcosm of the data problems that state governments face on a daily basis, “wrote Kleykamp.
Kleykamp called on the federal CDOs to prioritize plans to take stock and publish a catalog of high-quality data sets. These inventories, he added, should determine whether the data is subject to federal laws or regulations that restrict data sharing.
âFinding federal data that is outside of the Data.gov platform remains an incredible challenge. In addition, existing inventories are geared towards data sets and mostly open data sets. States would benefit greatly from the existence of more detailed and comprehensive federal data inventories, âwrote Kleykamp.
Common challenges include federal CDOs in a recent survey by the Data Foundation and Grant Thornton that more funding is needed to increase staffing levels.
Data Foundation President Nick Hart urged Congress to provide agency CDOs with “sustainable, predictable, and appropriate resources to implement data priorities.”
“Not only have CDOs requested RTDs, they have added specialized, highly trained data scientists, data architects, and data engineers necessary to successfully conduct data governance and management activities,” Hart wrote.
To gain support, Hart urged CDOs to take âdeliberate stepsâ to provide metrics, summaries, and ratings that highlight the impact and cost savings of their efforts.
âEven small profits are critical to building support. CDOs also benefit in coping with organizational changes, promote data literacy and increase the influence of evidence-based decision-making, âsaid Hart.
Hart also recommended that the CDO council set up a permanent data ethics working group to provide resources and guidance to the agencies. Agencies, he added, should also work with related professional associations to train federal employees on data ethics.
âThere is a need for clear, uniform guidelines from the CDO Council on ethical and fair standards for data. Existing frameworks, such as the Federal Data Strategy Ethics Framework, provide guidance for the future development of a single standard, but the CDO Council should work with ethical organizations outside of government to encourage the application of best practices and the continuous improvement of those practices . âWrote Hart.
Duane Blackburn, of the Miter Corporation’s Center for Data-Driven Policy, urged the CDO Council to create annual ethics and equity scorecards similar to those used to track government progress under the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA ) to track.
“Regular scorecards will help establish a baseline and identify potential biases and injustices in analytical efforts and government services,” said Blackburn.