We welcome Brian Moyer as director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis. He was appointed director in September 2014, having served as acting director since May 2014 (when Steve Landefeld retired). He had served since December 2012 as BEA deputy director, overseeing the agency’s administrative and communications functions and providing leadership for improving and expanding its statistical programs. Prior to becoming deputy director, he served in several key positions at BEA, including associate director for industry accounts. He is the author of numerous articles on measuring the performance of the U.S. economy. Much of his research has focused on improving industry-related statistics, including improved industry measures of volume and prices, expanded information on the sources and uses of intermediate purchases by industry, and improved industry-level productivity statistics. He has received a number of awards, both for his management and leadership skills, as well as for improvements to BEA’s economic accounts. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the American University.
We congratulate Bruce Alberts, professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco, former editor-in-chief of Science, and former president of the National Academy of Sciences, who is to receive the National Medal of Science from President Obama at a ceremony later this year. The medal honors people who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. We also note that David Blackwell will be recognized posthumously with the National Medal of Science. He was an eminent member of the statistics faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, the first African-American to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and a member of the Committee on National Statistics from 1987–1990.
We congratulate Sally Morton, professor and chair of the Department of Biostatistics, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, on being named by the U.S. Government Accountability Office to the Methodology Committee of the non-profit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), authorized in the Affordable Care Act to provide quality evidence to assist policymakers in making informed health care decisions. The Methodology Committee assists PCORI to develop and update methodological standards and guidance for comparative clinical-effectiveness research. Sally is a former president of the American Statistical Association and former member of CNSTAT and its Panel on Estimates of Poverty for Small Geographic Areas and Workshop on Encouraging Research and Development for the Federal Statistical System. She has also served on several Institute of Medicine panels.
Data and Research to Improve the U.S. Food Availability System and Estimates of Food Loss: A Workshop Summary, was released in prepublication form, September 26, 2014. It is available in PDF; printed copies will be available shortly. The workshop was requested by the Economic Research Service/USDA and was chaired by Mary Muth (RTI International).
The Report in Brief—
The ERS/USDA Food Availability Data System includes several distinct but related series on food and nutrient availability for consumption. The data serve as popular proxies for actual consumption at the national level for over 200 commodities (e.g., fresh spinach, beef, and eggs). The core Food Availability (FA) data series provides estimates of the amount of food available, per capita, for human consumption in the United States with data back to 1909 for many commodities. The Loss-Adjusted Food Availability (LAFA) data series is derived from the FA data series by adjusting for food spoilage, plate waste, and other losses to more closely approximate actual intake. This past fiscal year, as part of its initiative to systematically review all of its major data series, ERS decided to review the FADS data system. Data and Research to Improve the U.S. Food Availability System and Estimates of Food Loss is the summary of a workshop convened by CNSTAT and the IOM Food and Nutrition Board to advance knowledge and understanding of the measurement and technical aspects of the data supporting the LAFA data series so that these data series and subsequent food availability and food loss estimates can be maintained and improved. The workshop considered such issues as the effects of termination of selected Census Bureau and USDA data series on estimates for affected food groups and commodities; the potential for using other data sources, such as scanner data, to improve estimates of food availability; and possible ways to improve the data on food loss at the farm and retail levels and at restaurants. This report considers knowledge gaps, data sources that may be available or could be generated to fill gaps, what can be learned from other countries and international organizations, ways to ensure consistency of treatment of commodities across series, and the most promising opportunities for new data for the various food availability series.
Civic Engagement and Social Cohesion: Measuring Dimensions of Social Capital to Inform Policy, the final report of the CNSTAT Panel on Measuring Social and Civic Engagement and Social Cohesion in Surveys, was released in prepublication format, June 23, 2014. It is available in PDF; printed copies will be available shortly. The panel was requested by the Corporation for National and Community Service and chaired by Kenneth Prewitt (Columbia University).
The Report in Brief—
People's bonds, associations and networks—as well as the civil, political, and institutional characteristics of the society in which they live—can be powerful drivers affecting the quality of life among a community's, a city's, or a nation's inhabitants and their ability to achieve both individual and societal goals. Civic engagement, social cohesion, and other dimensions of social capital affect social, economic and health outcomes for individuals and communities. Can these be measured, and can federal surveys contribute toward this end? Can this information be collected elsewhere, and if so, how should it be collected? With the needs of data users in mind, Civic Engagement and Social Cohesion examines conceptual frameworks developed in the literature to determine promising measures and measurement methods for informing public policy discourse. The report provides working definitions of key terms; advises on the feasibility and specifications of indicators relevant to analyses of social, economic, and health domains; and assesses the strength of the evidence regarding the relationship between these indicators and observed trends in crime, employment, and resilience to shocks such as natural disasters. It weighs the relative merits of surveys, administrative records, and non-government data sources, and considers the appropriate role of the federal statistical system, making recommendations to improve the measurement of civic health through government surveys and identifying priority areas for research, development, and implementation.
Issues in Returning Individual Results from Genome Research Using Population-Banked Specimens, with a Focus on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey: A Workshop Summary, was released in prepublication format, June 19, 2014. It is available in PDF; printed copies will be available shortly. The workshop was requested by the National Center for Health Statistics and chaired by Wylie Burke (University of Washington).
The Report in Brief—
Population surveys traditionally collect information from respondents from questionnaires, but, in recent years, many surveys have also been collecting biologic specimens such as blood samples, saliva, and buccal swabs, from which a respondent's DNA can be ascertained along with other biomarkers (e.g., the level of a certain protein in the blood). NHANES has been collecting and storing genetic specimens since 1991, and other surveys, such as the Health and Retirement Study funded by the National Institute on Aging, have followed suit. In order to give their informed consent to participate in a survey, respondents need to know the disposition and use of their data. Will their responses be used for one research project and then destroyed, or will they be archived for secondary use? The addition of biologic specimens to a survey not only adds complications for storing, protecting, and providing access to such data for secondary research, but also raises questions of whether, when, and for which biologic measurements the results should be reported back to individual respondents. Recently, the cost of full genomic sequencing has plummeted, and research findings are beginning to accumulate that bear up under replication and that potentially have clinical implications for a respondent. Biomedical research studies, in which participants are asked to donate tissues for genetic studies and are usually told that they will not be contacted with any results, are increasingly confronting the issue of when and which DNA results to return to participants. Issues in Returning Individual Results from Genome Research Using Population-Based Banked Specimens, with a Focus on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey is the summary of a CNSTAT workshop convened in February 2013. The workshop sessions discussed to what extent and how population surveys, in particular NHANES, should implement the reporting of results from genomic research using stored specimens and address informed consent for future data collection as well as for the use of banked specimens covered by prior informed consent agreements.
Pathways to Exploration: Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Spaceflight, the final report of the Committee on Human Spaceflight, was released in prepublication format, June 4, 2014. It is available in PDF; printed copies will be available shortly. The study was requested by NASA in response to a congressional mandate and co-chaired by Mitchell Daniels (Purdue University) and Jonathan Lunine (Cornell University). Roger Tourangeau chaired a Panel on Public and Stakeholder Opinion that provided input to the main committee (see Chapter 3and Appendixes B-E of the report).
The Report in Brief—
The United States has publicly funded its human spaceflight program on a continuous basis for more than a half-century from the early Mercury and Gemini suborbital and Earth orbital missions, to the lunar landings, and thence to the first reusable winged crewed space plane. Today the United States is the major partner in a massive orbital facility, the International Space Station, which is becoming the focal point for the first tentative steps in commercial cargo and crewed orbital space flights. And yet, the long-term future of human spaceflight beyond this project is unclear. Pronouncements by multiple presidents of bold new ventures by Americans to the Moon, to Mars, and to an asteroid in its native orbit, have not been matched by the substantial increase in NASA funding needed to make it happen. Pathways to Exploration explores the case for advancing this endeavor, drawing on the history of rationales for human spaceflight, examining the attitudes of stakeholders and the public, and carefully assessing the technical and fiscal realities. The report recommends maintaining a long-term focus on Mars as the horizon goal for human space exploration. With this goal in mind, the report considers funding levels necessary to maintain a robust tempo of execution, current research and exploration projects and the time/resources needed to continue them, and international cooperation that could contribute to the achievement of spaceflight to Mars. According to Pathways to Exploration, a successful U.S. program would require sustained national commitment and a budget that increases by more than the rate of inflation.
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