New: Evaluation Board Meeting April 5, 2002


DGRC is the USC/ISI and Columbia University Digital Government Research Center.

DGRC brings together a strong team of researchers and developers with interests and experience in databases, human-computer interaction, knowledge representation, data mining, and other areas of computer science and information systems. The center's mission is research in the design and development of advanced information systems with capabilities for generating, sharing and interacting with knowledge in a networked environment. Participants are drawn from Columbia University's Department of Computer Science, from the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute. Technical assistance is provided by experts from several Federal government agencies. DGRC provides projects performed under its auspices with the following:

1. Direction: Ensuring all necessary research issues are addressed, enforcing adherence to standards, and managing development of coherent pilot projects.

2. Coordination: Avoiding duplicated or nonessential research, and developing shared infrastructure.

3. Visibility: Generating the attention necessary to attract future candidates for influential pilots.

4. Sustainability: Guaranteeing that pilots and deployed systems are maintained and remain accessible beyond the extent of a particular grant or program.

As its initial emphasis, DGRC has chosen to concentrate on the immense problems presented by the vast amounts of statistical data required and already being collected by government agencies. There are seventy agencies in the Federal government alone that are presently involved in collection and dissemination of statistical data (see In its initial efforts DGRC is working with the Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the National Council on Health Statistics (NCHS).

DGRC is investigating two aspects of this problem: The authoring of survey instruments for collecting data, and the public dissemination or the resulting data over the Internet.

Surveys are the primary means by which the government gathers information about the economy and the health and welfare of its citizens. This information is used to determine social and economic policies and the effectiveness of government programs. But the technology for designing surveys and administering them -- that is, gathering responses and transferring those responses into databases -- has lagged far behind the advancement of information processing technology, creating serious problems.

DGRC's goal in this work will be redesign and partially automate the survey creation process, so as to allow replacement of the proprietary languages and systems currently used for survey creation with a COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) infrastructure. This will assure that survey authoring methods remain "leading edge" because the commercial marketplace will continue to drive the products comprising the infrastructure.

Once statistical data is collected by federal, state and local governments, access to much of it is recognized as every citizen's right, as well as being of great value to businesses, investors, researchers and political decision makers. Government agencies have been responding to demand for data by making it available in electronic form. This, however, has brought to the fore the difficulties faced by anyone -- let alone a non-expert in statistics and data collection -- when trying to obtain meaningful and accurate answers from large, dispersed collections of data assembled by different people at different times, for different purposes. DGRC's aim in its work in this area is to develop new methods and approaches that will ultimately make government statistical data accessible and useful to statisticians, sociologists, policy makers, teachers, students and the public at large.

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