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Monday, March 13, 2006

SUNSHINE WEEK: What Happens When the Government's Numbers Don't Add Up?

It gets precious little public notice, but every day federal bureaucrats collect mountains of data about people, the economy, social morays, education, taxes and thousands of other topics and issues. Where does all that data go?

Into official databases that policy makers at every level of authority then use in analyzing government programs and proposals. The results of those analyses often determine the kind of policies and programs taxpayers end up funding.

But what if the numbers used by policy makers don't add up? What if the policies they recommend don't work? What if the policy makers refuse to share their numbers with the rest of us?

This may shock some but federal agencies often can't even share their data with other federal agencies, much less with taxpayers and the general public. The result is too often that the public is left in the dark about why government keeps doing something that clearly isn't working.

Government keeping its data behind closed doors is a growing problem with immense implications in national security, homeland security and domestic policy that will be examined by an ideologically diverse panel of experts featured in the first-ever Sunshine Week event at The Heritage Foundation in the nation's capitol.

"What if the Answers Don't Add Up: Transparency and Government Data" will be held Tuesday, March 14, at 2:00 at Heritage. The panel will feature three speakers:

Dr. Kirk Johnson
Senior Policy Analyst
Center for Data Analysis
The Heritage Foundation
Discussing education data

Dr. Heather Boushey
The Center for Economic and Policy Research
Discussing social science data

Dr. David Mulhausen
Senior Policy Analyst
Center for Data Analysis
The Heritage Foundation
Discussing crime data

The event at Heritage is co-hosted by Mark Tapscott, Director of Heritage's Center for Media and Public Policy, and the American Society of Newspaper Editors and other participating organizations in Sunshine Week.

Go here for more information on Sunshine Week, which includes a week of event, speeches and panels focusing on the importance of maintaining and increasing government accountability through the Freedom of Information Act and other laws and regulations designed to insure democratic transparency in public policy.

Bloggers and others in the Washington, D.C. region are encouraged to attend the event, which is open to the public.