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Statistics for Business and Economics: Excel/Minitab Enhanced
Heinz Kohler
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Statistics in the News: Chapter 3 Finding Existing Data: From Print to the Internet

Furor Over the Data Quality Act

The Data Quality Act, signed in the waning days of the Clinton administration and not even scheduled to go into effect until October 1, 2002, has many people upset. The law requires the government for the first time to set standards for the quality of data disseminated by federal agencies. It is to create a system in every government agency under which anyone can point out errors in documents. If the complaints are borne out, the agency will have to expunge the data from government Web sites and publications.

Opponents of the new law are worried. While nobody, presumably, wants the government to issue flawed data, the new process, they say, could undermine valid regulations and stifle government efforts to convey information on, say, climate change or cancer risks.

One group favoring the law, the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness, has already used the law to request a withdrawal of a report on global warming. It argues that the government's assessment is alarmist and based on flawed computer models. "With a government-set yardstick for quality," says James J. Tozzi, the group's founder, "critics of regulations can now build more convincing cases showing that an agency was arbitrary and capricious in its choice of data….It's the information age. Now in the world's most powerful government you're going to have to issue information that's accurate."


Source: Adapted from Andrew C. Revkin, "Law Revises Standards for Scientific Study," The New York Times, March 21, 2002, p. A24.

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