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Katherine Wallman to Receive 2017 Julius Shiskin Award

1 July 2017 27 views No Comment
Robert P. Parker, Julius Shiskin Award Selection Committee Chair
    Katherine Wallman

    Katherine Wallman

      Katherine Wallman was recently selected to receive the 2017 Julius Shiskin Memorial Award for Economic Statistics. The award recognizes unusually original and important contributions to the development of economic statistics or the use of statistics in interpreting the economy. Wallman is being recognized for strengthening the independence of U.S. statistical agencies, expanding confidentiality protection, improving the quality and usability of official statistics, increasing collaboration among the statistical agencies, and improving the reliability and comparability of official statistics throughout the world.

      Wallman, who recently retired after 24 years as Chief Statistician at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), greatly contributed to the development of all types of statistics, the effective management of statistical programs, and the improvement of users’ understanding of official statistics. In addition to strengthening the independence of U.S. statistical agencies by issuing new statistical policy directives, expanding confidentiality protection with new legislation, and improving the reliability and comparability of official statistics throughout the world, she defended the budgets of economic and demographic statistics programs and championed the training of future leaders of the federal statistical system. She also successfully directed important cross-agency projects, a major accomplishment given that each of the main U.S. statistical agencies reports to its own parent cabinet-level agency. Wallman unified this decentralized system through her vision and leadership; her ability to build respect and trust at all levels; and her grace, charm, and good humor.

      Wallman is the 45th recipient of the Shiskin award and will be honored at events hosted by the Washington Statistical Society, National Association for Business Economics, and ASA Business and Economics Section.

      The independence of U.S. statistical agencies was reinforced under Wallman’s leadership by the introduction of two statistical policy directives. “Fundamental Responsibilities of Federal Statistical Agencies and Recognized Statistical Units,” issued in December 2014, is based on the National Academy of Sciences “Principles and Practices for a Statistical Agency” and provides OMB’s endorsement of these practices, which include requirements for departments to allow their statistical agencies to operate independently.

      “Release and Dissemination of Statistical Products Produced by Federal Statistical Agencies,” issued in March 2008, is modeled on Statistical Policy Directive No. 3, which covers the release and dissemination of the principle economic indicators. It directs agencies to follow procedures to protect the integrity and independence of other statistical products. Wallman supported Directive No. 3, which requires advance public notification of release dates, timely preparation of news releases, and restrictions on pre-release access.

      The new policy directives have enabled statistical agencies to operate independently and provide the public with assurances that their products will be objective and reliable.

      Wallman also led the effort to enact the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA) of 2002. The act enhanced the confidentiality of official statistics and allowed limited data sharing of business information. It provided all statistical agencies confidentiality provisions similar to those for data collected by the Census Bureau under Title 13 and allowed limited data sharing of business information among the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). After its passage, Wallman worked with these agencies and the Council of Economic Advisers to enact additional legislation (Data Synchronization) that would permit the Census Bureau to share selected business tax information with BLS and BEA. This led to further improvements to the quality of economic statistics.

      Additionally, Wallman led the development and implementation of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which was adopted in 1997. This accomplishment required cooperation among U.S. statistical agencies, Canada, and Mexico. She established an organizational structure to develop the system for the United States, and then led successful negotiations with the other countries. NAICS fundamentally changed the way economic activity is classified, recognized the growing importance of services, and provided a framework for measuring the 21st-century economy. It also made U.S. economic statistics close to fully comparable with those of Canada and Mexico to the benefit of users in the three countries.

      Wallman, in 2002, also championed development of the North American Product Classification System (NAPCS), a comprehensive market-based framework for classifying goods and services. She facilitated the efforts of BEA, BLS, and the Census Bureau, as well as the statistical offices of Canada and Mexico, in collecting product data in the Economic Census that met the needs of business and academic users, the Producer Price Index program, and the National Accounts. The Census Bureau is planning to implement NAPCS products for all sectors in the 2017 Economic Census.

      Wallman increased agency collaboration through her leadership as chair of the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy (ICSP) and her direction of the OMB-sponsored Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM). The ICSP, recognized in legislation in 1995, consists of the heads of the principal statistical agencies and is OMB’s main vehicle for coordinating cross-cutting statistical work, exchanging information about agency programs and activities, and obtaining advice and counsel for OMB on statistical matters. In the past year, topics included data systems modernization, alternative sources for official statistics, supporting the new Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, training the future federal statistical system workforce, the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act, and federal statistical research data centers.

      The FCSM, founded in 1975, also assists OMB in carrying out its role in setting and coordinating statistical policy. It informs and advises OMB on the need for and content of methodological and statistical policies and supports cooperative research across agencies on issues relevant to federal statistics. It also publishes statistical policy working papers and proceedings from FCSM seminars and conferences.

      In addition to her many contributions to the U.S. statistical system, Wallman also served as a U.S. representative to international statistical organizations. She was chair of the UN Statistical Commission from 2004–2005, chair of the Conference of European Statisticians, UN Economic Commission for Europe, from 2003–2007; and vice chair of the Statistics Committee, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, from 2009–2011. Under her leadership, the Statistical Commission adopted the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics, an important step for many countries in establishing and improving statistical services and supporting the independence of statistical offices. She also helped lead an update of the System of National Accounts and System of Environmental-Economic Accounts.

      Prior to becoming Chief Statistician, Wallman served for more than a decade as the first executive director of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, where she was an early supporter of the Joint Program for Survey Methodology (JPSM) and the Census Bureau’s research data centers. Her continued support of JPSM enabled the inclusion of short courses in economic statistics, as well as degree programs in statistical and survey methods that are central to the functioning of agencies producing economic statistics.

      Wallman twice received the Presidential Meritorious Executive Award, as well as the OMB Robert G. Damus Award, Population Association of America’s Excellence in Public Service Award, and ASA Founders Award. She is an elected fellow of the ASA and American Association for the Advancement of Science. She served as ASA president and as a founding member of the International Association for Official Statistics. She earned a BA from Wellesley College.

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