Past Meetup

Big Data: A perspective on their current uses and future uses by the government

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"Big Data: A perspective on their current uses and potential future uses by the Federal Statistical System," a talk by Mike Horrigan, Associate Commissioner for Prices and Living Conditions, Bureau of Labor Statistics, will be hosted at Smith College on Sept. 30th, 4:30 pm in Ford Hall 240. The talk will be preceded by a tea at 4:00pm.

This talk will explore the world of big data in terms of how they are currently used by the Federal Statistical system and explore possible ways in which big data sources may be leveraged in the future. In an era of declining real budgets for the Federal Statistical agencies, big data are often seen as an efficient and economical way to replace or supplement existing data collection programs. However, the blending of existing Federal data series collected using established statistical survey practices with big data sources that are not necessarily representative samples of a larger universe frame poses some significant challenges to the Federal statistical system, especially in terms of the quality tradeoffs we may be making. We also face challenges in maintaining our goal of methodological transparency when the potential biases of some big data sources are not always well understood. The talk begins with an attempt to define big data. I then present the results (to date) of an environmental scan we are conducting on the uses of big data across Federal statistical agencies as well as a scan of big data uses in academia and private business. The remainder of the talk addresses the issue of the potential future uses of big data, developing a perspective based on existing frameworks for judging the quality of economic statistics as well as looking at the statistical issues associated with blending survey based data with big data sources. I am particularly interested in your thoughts on the statistical issues and potential solutions to such issues posed by blended statistics. I end the seminar with concluding thoughts on the future of big data in the Federal Statistical system based on my role as a Director of several major statistical survey programs.

This talk reflects the current status of a project being sponsored by the American Economic Association Data Subcommittee on Big Data, for which I am a co-chair along with Ana Aizcorbe of the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The goal of the project is to report on the current and potential uses of big data across the Federal Statistical system.

The talk is part of the activities of the International Year of Statistics and is sponsored by the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics as well as Economics at Smith College and co-sponsored by the Five College Statistics Program and the Boston Chapter of the American Statistical Association.

For more information about the talk, contact Katherine Halvorsen ( [masked] ,[masked]). More information about Mike Horrigan can be found here:

http://www.bls.gov/bls/senior_staff/horrigan.htm

http://magazine.amstat.org/blog/2013/01/01/sci-policy-jan2013/