Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by the Federal Reserve Board
On February 22, 2002, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued guidelines implementing the Information Quality Act.1 OMB's guidelines require federal agencies to develop agency-specific procedures for reviewing and substantiating the quality of their information before it is disseminated to the public. OMB's guidelines also require that each agency create a mechanism by which affected persons may seek, and when appropriate obtain, correction of information that the agency disseminates and that does not comply with agency and OMB guidelines. Accordingly, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve Board or Board) has developed these Information Quality Guidelines (Board guidelines).
The Board provides information to a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations (such as, but not limited to, the Congress, other federal agencies, state and local governments, consumer and community groups, researchers and academics, financial institutions regulated by the Federal Reserve System, the media, and the general public), hereafter referred to as the public.
Following are examples of information disseminated simultaneously to the public by the Board covered by the guidelines:
- statistical releases and financial data
- testimonies, speeches, and reports on various economic and banking topics, by Board members or staff designated to communicate official Board positions
- research and staff studies, such as working papers on various economic and banking topics initiated and sponsored by the Board
- various forms of educational materials related to consumers
Following are examples of information disseminated by the Board not covered by the guidelines:
- press releases (if the attached information was previously released to the public)
- Federal Reserve procedural manuals
- research and staff studies not initiated and sponsored by the Board
The Board takes pride in the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of the information that it disseminates to the public. Before any information is released, it is thoroughly reviewed. The Board created these guidelines to present its standards and to formalize its correction mechanism.
Effective date. The Board's guidelines are effective as of October 1, 2002, and cover information disseminated to the public on or after that date.
These definitions are taken directly from the OMB guidelines, published in the Federal Register on February 22, 2002 (67 FR 8451-8460).2
- Quality is an encompassing term comprising utility, objectivity, and integrity. Therefore, the guidelines sometimes refer to these terms collectively as "quality."
- Objectivity involves two distinct elements of disseminated information: (1) presentation—that the information is presented in an accurate, clear, complete, and unbiased manner; and (2) substance—that the information itself is accurate, reliable, and unbiased.
- Utility refers to the usefulness of the information to its intended users, including the public.
- Integrity refers to the security of the information—protection of the information from unauthorized access or revision to ensure that the information has not been compromised through corruption or falsification.
- Influential, when used in the phrase "influential scientific, financial, or statistical information," means that the Board can reasonably determine that dissemination of the information does have or will have a clear and substantial impact on important public policies or important private-sector decisions.
- Reproducibility means that the information is capable of being substantially reproduced, subject to an acceptable degree of imprecision. For data deemed by the Board to be "influential" (as defined above), the acceptable degree of imprecision is lower than for data deemed non-influential.
- Transparency requires the Board to disclose specific data sources that have been used and the specific quantitative methods and assumptions that have been employed in order for an independent re-analysis to be undertaken.
The Board will continue to disseminate information that meets the Board's already highly rigorous internal review and approval process. The Board's current policies and procedures ensure that the Board, to the best of its ability, releases to the public information and data that are accurate and timely, appropriate for external consumption, uncompromised, and useful to the public. While covering a broad range of information, these guidelines focus mainly on the statistical and financial data and information that the Board disseminates to the public.
In meeting the requirement for objectivity, the Board verifies that the substance of the information disseminated is accurate, reliable, and unbiased and that the presentation is accurate, clear, and complete. To construct and verify the substance of disseminated information, the Board uses reliable sources, including, but not limited to, data reported to the Board and maintained in its databases, information obtained from other agencies and outside sources, and data gathered by preapproved survey organizations (acting as agents for the Board). The Board communicates with other agencies and outside sources to ensure validity of data received. All disseminated data are generated, and analyzed, using sound statistical and research methods. In addition, the Board, under delegated authority granted by OMB, conducts a rigorous review process (also known as the clearance process) of collected data subject to the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). As stipulated by the PRA, the Board uses the clearance process to promote improved quality and practical utility of information collected while seeking to minimize the overall response burden. The Board will demonstrate in all forthcoming PRA packages submitted to OMB that each information collection subject to the PRA will be collected, maintained, and used in a manner consistent with OMB and Board guidelines.
Data reported to the Board by regulated entities. The data reported to the Board and used by its staff for various products (for example, statistical releases, reports to the Congress, and consumer pamphlets) are subjected to a variety of edit checks specific to each information collection. After the data have been edited and before they are disseminated, they are thoroughly reviewed for accuracy and validity by content experts within the Board. During the review, the staff contacts data providers if there are questions about or inconsistencies in the data. As a result of this review process, data may be revised. To facilitate the receipt of the most accurate and consistent data, the Board includes definitions and examples as part of the instructions for most reporting forms. These help the data providers to better understand the exact information that should be included in certain items and calculations. Some data, such as those pertaining to the Community Reinvestment Act, may be revised as a result of questions raised during an exam.
Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) data. The FFIEC is a formal interagency body empowered to prescribe uniform principles, standards, and report forms for the federal examination of financial institutions by the Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to make recommendations to promote uniformity in the supervision of financial institutions. The member agencies require their regulated entities to report certain data to the agencies. Although information derived from these data are disseminated under the umbrella of the FFIEC, the agencies are ultimately responsible for their entities' disseminated information. Any complaints about such information should be directed to the appropriate disseminating agency.
Information obtained from other agencies. The Board receives a variety of economic and financial data from other agencies, including the FDIC, OCC, CFPB, NCUA, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Census Bureau. Data received from other agencies are reviewed for completeness. In the case of collected data, the universe of reporters is validated by using internal identifiers and are stored with data collected by the Board. Data are edited on microdata and macrodata levels at the collecting agency. For some series, Board staff perform data-quality edits besides those performed at the collecting agency. Some data, such as those pertaining to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, may be revised as a result of questions raised during a compliance exam.
Data gathered through surveys. Generally, respondents to surveys (where a sample is drawn from a much larger population) are selected with probability sampling techniques, including stratified random sampling. There are certain cases where various statistical methods are used to construct estimates of the universe. Some survey data are collected for the Board by commercial survey-research centers. The sampling techniques used by these centers may be slightly different. In the case of surveys where it is possible to survey the entire population of interest, no sampling scheme is needed.
Information obtained from commenters on an information collection or rulemaking. On occasion, the Board has received information from commenters to a rulemaking published in the Federal Register and used the information obtained as the basis for revising the information collection as published. If the Board decided to rely on the submitted information, that information would be verified for accuracy and determined to meet the appropriate quality standards before use or dissemination.
Information Subject to Peer Review
The Federal Reserve believes that it does not currently produce or sponsor the distribution of influential scientific information (including highly influential scientific assessments) within the definitions promulgated by OMB. As a result, at this time the Federal Reserve has no agenda of forthcoming influential scientific disseminations to post on this website in accordance with OMB's Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review, as found on OMB's website.
In meeting the requirement of utility, pursuant to the PRA of 1995 and implementing regulations (44 USC ch. 5; 5 CFR 1320, appendix A.1), the Board reviews all collections of information obtained from the public at a minimum of every three years. This review requires the Board to justify the ongoing need for the data, including whether the analysis and output from the data are still of value to the Board and the public, and allow for public comment on an information collection under review. If any information collection is outdated (for example, because of changes in the economy or in monetary policy), the Board either discontinues the collection of the data or modifies the information collection. To further help the public understand and use the Board's data products, its public website (http://www.federalreserve.gov/) contains "About" pages and has a Contact Us email link by which the public can submit questions to content experts. Individual data releases may also contain useful information about the data within the release. The Board's data can be found at https://www.federalreserve.gov/data.htm.
The Board has editorial, design, and document standards for all information that is released to the public, in whatever medium. To facilitate the use of the information disseminated, standard formats for certain statistical and informational releases have been developed under the aegis of the Publications Committee.
The Board implemented an information security architecture based on NIST and Board standards to protect its information assets from loss or misuse. Information security policies and safeguards have been instituted to protect information assets from the threats of unauthorized access, modification, destruction, or disclosure. The Board implemented a defense-in-depth approach to secure its internal networks from external attacks. Additionally, the Board restricts access to data to authorized Board users based on their role and on a need-to-know basis. The Board continuously monitors the state of the internal network, with alerts in place for unusual activity. All network activity is subject to the Board's auditing system, which provides both live feedback and after-the-fact reports. The Board follows industry-standard change-control protocols, which are used to ensure that any actions that modify systems are adequately tested and vetted prior to introduction into a production environment. All employees of the Board undergo new employee orientation and annual information security training that covers the Board's information handling policies and procedures.
Influential Information, Reproducibility Standards, and Transparency Requirements
The Board determined that the agency's principal federal economic indicators are considered "influential in nature" (see definition of "influential" above). Therefore, these data are subject to the reproducibility and transparency requirements set forth in the OMB guidelines. OMB's Statistical Policy Directive No. 3 requires a performance evaluation of each indicator every three years. This evaluation addresses the accuracy and reliability of the series and the accuracy and completeness of the documentation describing the methods used in compiling and revising the indicator. Methods are generally available on the Board's public website for any influential data distributed.
As part of its guidelines, the Board provides the public (through an OMB Supporting Statement Part B) with the statistical methods employed for any survey requiring sampling and that is subject to the PRA. The original and supporting data and the source of the data are available on request, as long as the data are not deemed confidential or subject to other contractual or legal limitations.3 For information that can be released to the public, the review procedures and edit verifications are available upon request. In addition, the Board intends to regularly refine its determination of which types of information qualify as "influential" and update these guidelines as appropriate.
1. Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies, 67 FR 8452 (February 22, 2002). The OMB guidelines were issued pursuant to the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act, 2001, Pub. L. No. 106-554, § 515(a) (2000) (as codified at 44 U.S.C. § 3516, note). See also Improving Implementation of the Information Quality Act, OMB Memorandum No. M-19-15 (April 24, 2019), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/M-19-15.pdf. Return to text