Anyone who is focused on consumer product safety knows that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) generates the only statistical product injury related data in the world. Since becoming a CPSC Commissioner two years ago, I have learned that these data are absolutely critical to product-safety decisions being made throughout the world and, particularly, at our agency. The importance of these data to the agency’s public safety mission to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from consumer products cannot be overstated. As my staff and I have come to fully appreciate this fact, we have sought opportunities to learn how our data may be improved to enhance the CPSC’s future success. As I have said before and I will say again, “It’s All About Data!”
The CPSC relies on data to not only identify and predict emerging product related injury trends, but also to ensure that we make the best decisions regarding budget allocations, proposals and enforcement work. Similarly, CPSC rulemaking, which is often slowed by uniquely burdensome cost-benefit analysis requirements, relies on data almost exclusively compiled by the CPSC. (Recently, Commissioner Adler had an excellent blog post about this very topic). As a result, the data compiled by the CPSC play a foundational role in ensuring that the agency can satisfy its public safety goals and meet its statutory obligations.
The importance of our data and the rapidly changing ways in which data are being generated and used throughout the world have motivated us to expand and enhance CPSC’s thinking regarding information technology. We are looking for novel and innovative ideas that can improve our data collection, analysis, utilization, and dissemination as we move forward into an increasingly data-driven world.
I was delighted when Chairman Kaye recently proposed that CPSC host its first Data Sources and Consumer Product-Related Incident Information hearing. During this immensely productive hearing, experts from government agencies, industry associations, public interest organizations, professional medical associations, and private firms praised CPSC’s data systems and Epidemiology staff; made suggestions for improving collection, analysis, utilization and sharing of CPSC data; and made recommendations for rethinking CPSC’s organizational and structural approach to data in light of what other agencies are beginning to do.
One of the highlights of the hearing was the resounding support for the CPSC’s work on the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). The NEISS is comprised of approximately 100 hospitals across the United States and is designed to provide a statistically representative estimate of the number consumer product related injuries across the country. From our public data hearing, we learned the wide variety of private and public entities, ranging from the CDC to the American Academy of Pediatrics, utilize NEISS data for everything from identifying emerging injury trends to supplying data for academic publications.
Participants in the hearing also suggested that NEISS can and should be improved by increasing the number of participating hospitals, including more data fields, providing outcome data and possibly including Urgent Care Centers. NEISS’ public health and safety benefits could be greatly increased through these improvements.
Panelists also highlighted that the CPSC can learn a great deal from data sources other than the NEISS. Particular emphasis was given to the potential benefits of utilizing data sources such as social media, consumer reports and product reviews, retailer reports, and data from our own saferproducts.gov website. As we learned at the hearing, tools to allow communication between different data sets combined with the ability to better compile and analyze unstructured data from multiple sources will be essential in providing the CPSC with the ability to more quickly react to emerging hazards. This is an exciting time to be rethinking our approach to data here at the CPSC.
As was announced at the hearing, the CPSC has a vacancy for a new Chief Information Officer (CIO). I hope the CPSC attracts a visionary thinker with innovative ideas to shepherd the CPSC into a new era of data and technological productivity. For more information on the CIO position, please visit:
I am inspired and excited at this moment of transition here at the CPSC. We are, obviously, living in a rapidly changing world when it comes to data. Understanding that 90% of the data in the world have been created in the last two years alone is very sobering. We are at a critical point in determining how we will facilitate a technologically relevant, cost-effective, and enterprise-wise integrated approach to our data, systems, strategy, and policy. Because CPSC data sets provide tremendous sources of information for both public and private entities, it is important that we continue to think of new and innovative ways to collect, analyze, utilize, and process our data and communicate with consumers when a product is potentially dangerous to them or their children.
We hope that, moving forward, the CPSC will serve as the benchmark for government data practices. I am deeply committed to this goal.
It is one of my top priorities as a Commissioner, and I am optimistic that we will get there, one step at a time…