West Advises Bureau of Labor Statistics on Survey Methodology
Brady West, research associate professor in the Survey Research Center at the U-M Institute for Social Research, is a renowned expert on survey statistics and methodology.
He serves on the Department of Labor (DoL) Bureau of Labor Statistics Technical Advisory Committee (BLSTAC), which advises and makes recommendations to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on technical aspects of data collection and forming economic measures.
West has contributed to several discussions about improving the way the BLS collects data. His contributions focus on increasing the efficiency of large-scale BLS data collections, and ensuring that BLS researchers apply the latest estimation approaches to data that have already been collected. To date, West has led formal discussions of three separate national BLS data collection projects, providing guidance on possible ways to improve the strategies and/or estimation approaches used.
Commenting on his biggest contributions to this committee:
My biggest contribution to the BLSTAC is in terms of data collection methodology. Many of the committee members are economists who are well-versed in the formulation of various economic measures, such as price indices. But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of collecting high-quality survey data, I feel like I’ve been able to make some important contributions. I’ve also spoken about appropriate methods for generating population estimates based on survey data, which some economists tend to overlook.
Advice to peers who are considering this kind of engagement:
If given the opportunity, take advantage of it! There is no reason to turn down an opportunity like this. My committee only meets twice a year and you are given a strong chance to use your technical expertise to impact real-world operations and decisions. This is also a tremendous opportunity to broaden your perspectives. I hope to stay on this committee for as long as possible.
The value of being publicly engaged — to himself, the university, and society:
Becoming a strong scholar is so much more than writing papers and submitting grant proposals. Being able to effectively share your expertise with people out in the real world who are putting academic research into practice, and then being able to oversee implementation of the recommendations that you make, is tremendously rewarding. You feel like you are making a tangible impact on what happens at higher levels of society, where real lives may be affected.