United States Data Quality Act

Submitted by Lars Toomre on Wed, 11/23/2005 - 9:42pm.

While reviewing the data quality requirements for compliance with the Basel II capital accords, I stumbled across references to what is now known as the “Data Quality Act.” It turns out that this is the piece of legislation that has been stirring up so many regarding the role of science in regulation, especially in the current Republican administrative (and presumptuously pro-business) environment. This is a public policy subject worthy of much further thought and reflection.


Until today, I was unaware that a two sentence rider concerning information released by the federal government was inserted into the Fiscal Year (FY) 2001 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. The Data Quality Act, as it later came to be known, tasked the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with ensuring that federal agencies implement data quality standards and public correction mechanisms for the information they disseminate. The initial Act and OMB's subsequent implementation stirred considerable controversy within the scientific community, who saw the Data Quality issue as an attempt by businesses to hamper the government's regulatory apparatus. Four years after its introduction, the effects of the wide-ranging Act have yet to be fully realized.

According to the liberal-oriented Center for Progressive Reform, “In 2001, Congress passed a two-paragraph provision buried in an appropriations bill that requires agencies to ensure and maximize the quality of information that they disseminate and to establish an error correction process. Congress also gave the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) the power to issue guidelines to agencies about how to implement the requirement. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) sponsored the rider without legislative hearings, committee review, or debate. Representative Emerson reportedly acted at the behest of Jim Tozzi, a former OMB-official who runs the corporate sponsored Center for Regulatory Effectiveness. As far as can be determined, few, if any, other members of Congress knew of the appropriations rider at the time they voted for it. In February 2002, OMB issued instructions telling agencies how to implement the legislation. After seeking public input, agencies adopted permanent procedures to implement the rider in October 2002.”

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