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Federal Data Officers Council Seeks Input on Mission, Focus Areas 

This request “signals a maturation of the [chief data officer] position,” said a data expert. 

The nascent federal data officers council is looking for public input on its mission and focus areas, such as workforce development and equity. 

The Federal Chief Data Officers Council was established in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, which was passed in January 2019 and required all agencies to appoint head data officers. The council has over 80 member officers as well as officials from the Office of Management and Budget and other federal councils. It is set to sunset in January 2025. 

“The council’s vision is to improve government mission achievement and increase the benefits to the nation through improvement in the management, use, protection, dissemination and generation of data in government decision-making and operations,” said a request for information from General Services Administration on behalf of the council, which will formally be published in the Federal Register on Thursday. “Responses to this [request] will inform the council’s efforts and will be shared with the relevant groups in the council.”

The council is looking for feedback on its overall mission; data skills and workforce development; data inventory; data sharing; value and maturity of data; ethics and equity; and technology. 

For example, for workforce development, the council would like to know how the federal government can improve the data acumen of the federal workforce as well as better recruit and retain individuals with data skills.

As for ethics and equity, the request notes that the Federal Data Strategy, released in December 2019, lists ethics as one of its founding principles. 

“The framework and its tenets are a ‘living’ resource and are to be updated by the CDO Council and Interagency Council on Statistical Policy every 24 months to ensure the framework remains current,” said the request for information. Therefore, the council would like to know how the framework needs to “evolve to address racial equity and support for underserved communities.” Among other questions, does the framework “sufficiently address concerns about the vulnerability of certain populations?”

Comments are due by November 15.

“While the role of chief data officer is relatively new in government, [the officers] are leading improvements for how agencies manage and use data to improve services and programs,” Nick Hart, president of the Data Foundation speaking on behalf of the Data Coalition members, told Government Executive on Wednesday. “The request for information from the Chief Data Officers Council signals a maturation of the [data officer] position and the important role stakeholder feedback has on the management and use of data in the public sector.” The Data Coalition is an initiative of the Data Foundation, which is a nonprofit think tank that seeks to improve the government’s use of data.

Hart added: “Everyone should be encouraged to contribute perspectives on the foundational elements of data governance in the [information request], including ethical uses of data, approaches for improving equity, and advances in data sharing approaches.”

The request will formally be published on Thursday when the council has a public meeting to highlight its accomplishments during its first year of existence (the council voted in May 2020 to establish a charter), hear from agency chief data officers about their work, and discuss the request for information.