GAO compared SES members’ performance awards against their evaluation ratings in the 24 largest agencies. It found nearly all SES members rated better than average, a statistic improbability anywhere but Lake Wobegone ofA Prairie Home Companion fame. About 85 percent of SES members scored either a 5, the highest rating, or a 4, the second highest, for fiscal 2010-2013.
Supervisors feel pressure to rate executives highly because the ratings become criteria for myriad compensation decisions, GAO said.
But budget constraints and recent guidance from the Office of Management and Budget has kept the total amount of performance awards down and erased distinctions among SES. Executives with ratings of 5 earned $4,991 more than those with ratings of 4 in fiscal 2010. By 2013, the difference had shrunk to just $2,604. Between those in the middle of the pack, the difference is even smaller. Executives with ratings of 4 took home $690 more than those with ratings of 3.
As the difference lessens, the perception that awards are not directly linked to performance grows, GAO noted. Yet an executive at rating level 5 is much more likely to receive a performance award than one rated at 4 or below.
More at Federal News Radio.
From Cam Harvey, with applications to portfolio management:
We provide some new tools to evaluate trading strategies. When it is known that many strategies and combinations of strategies have been tried, we need to adjust our evaluation method for these multiple tests. Sharpe Ratios and other statistics will be overstated. Our methods are simple to implement and allow for the real-time evaluation of candidate trading strategies.
Recommended. This is a huge issue in classifying causal mechanisms in medicine, evidence-based policymaking and management, etc.
On one hand, any given “experiment” (read: regression result) may be faulty (sample-dependent); on the other hand, if we have multiple tests, we need good ways of aggregating those results.
If we have this problem with inference in the field of finance (with the amount of time, attention, and cash expended to figure out the best trading strategies), then what hope is there in evidence-based policymaking (where, in most cases, we have – at best – one experiment)?
From a discussion of the new dietary guidelines:
Instead of accepting that this evidence was inadequate to give sound advice, strong-willed scientists overstated the significance of their studies.
Much of the epidemiological data underpinning the government’s dietary advice comes from studies run by Harvard’s school of public health. In 2011, directors of the National Institute of Statistical Sciences analyzed many of Harvard’s most important findings and found that they could not be reproduced in clinical trials.
Now available on SSRN, with Derrick Anderson of Arizona State University:
National statistical systems are the enterprises tasked with collecting, validating and reporting societal attributes. These data serve many purposes – they allow governments to improve services, economic actors to traverse markets, and academics to assess social theories. National statistical systems vary in quality, especially in developing countries. This study examines determinants of national statistical capacity in developing countries, focusing on the impact of general purpose technologies (GPTs). Just as technological progress helps to explain differences in economic growth, states with markets with greater technological attainment (specifically, general purpose technologies) arguably have greater capacity for gathering and processing quality data. Analysis using panel methods shows a strong, statistically significant positive linear relationship between GPTs and national statistical capacity. There is no evidence to support a non-linear function in this relationship. Which is to say, there does not appear to be a marginal depreciating National Statistical Capacity benefit associated with increases in GPTs.
From Government Executive:
In a victory for transparency advocates, the Office of Management and Budget on Friday acceded to a Freedom of Information Act request that it release for the first time a centralized set of inventories of the data sets kept by each federal agency.
The Sunlight Foundation had enlisted a law firm to pry loose agency indexes that will be complete this spring. The inventories will benefit information technology managers, FOIA requesters and agency oversight efforts, according to the nonprofit.
The inventories — which OMB will release in March — are being created in response to President Obama’s May 2013 executive order pushing circulation of government data “to promote continued job growth, government efficiency, and the social good that can be gained from opening government data to the public.”
OMB’s FOIA office originally told the Sunlight requesters they would have to go to each of 24 major agencies separately. But after a refiling from the Garvey Schubert Barer law firm, OMB on Feb. 6 sent a letter promising to release the material in March.
In a Monday blogpost, Sunlight staffers wrote that “for the first time, the United States government has agreed to release what we believe to be the largest index of government data in the world.”
How do you measure things that don’t happen?
When federal employees get together for training and meetings, fancy lunches aren’t on the menu anymore. In fact, food of any kind — tuna fish sandwiches, green salad, oatmeal cookies — can no longer be served by the government. Even coffee is off-limits.
Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies say they can no longer travel to academic conferences to present their research.
And mental-health workers at military hospitals say they are in danger of losing their licenses because they can’t attend refresher courses.
Three years after the Obama administration clamped down on travel and training in response to the uproar over a Las Vegas conference where hundreds of federal workers partied for four days at taxpayer expense, the restrictions are taking an unanticipated toll. Employees at a wide range of agencies say the rules are gumming up the machinery of government.
Says the President:
President Obama wants Congress to give him the power to consolidate agencies and create new departments – merging parts of agencies such as the FDA, Health and Human Services and Commerce Departments.
The Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Investment Corporation and the U.S. Trade and Development agency would all be merged into one new department, under President Obama’s 2016 budget proposal.
The budget also combines the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the FDA’s food-related inspection programs into one new agency with HHS. The different programs already have significant overlap, according to the budget.
These are interesting “first offers”.