National Infrastructure for Community Statistics Community of Practice (NICS CoP)    (5YD)

The National Infrastructure for Community Statistics (NICS) is a national web-based, distributed social and technical network that will allow widespread access to community statistics for a growing network of data intermediaries, public agencies at the local, state and regional levels, or private sector enterprises interested in community level statistics and data. NICS will not be another “data warehouse”. Instead, it will be a web of intelligent “links” between data sources, functioning as a utility, invisible to most end users, customers or clients of its member groups—public agencies, community-level organizations or private sector enterprises. It will allow data to reside at the source agency, continuously updated and made available through the NICS utility to a growing universe of community data intermediaries, other state and federal agencies, and the private sector. The NICS vision is that the community data flowing through this utility will power thousands of data applications and web tools for end users.    (5YE)

The development of the NICS concept is rooted in a deep belief in the current, and future, contribution made by tools that have been developed and implemented by state, federal, private and community-based data intermediaries to democratize public debate, enhance public choices, and empower communities to determine their own future. The purpose of NICS is to enhance the ability of these data intermediaries to access and share data to better serve their customers, users and clients. Ultimately, we believe that enhanced data exchange will facilitate deeper understanding of community socioeconomic and geophysical conditions, help to identify trends and opportunities, make effective program and investment decisions, assist in measuring program and investment impacts, and provide input into local and national indicators efforts. With the presence of NICs, the capacity of local, federal and industry enterprises with an interest in building and improving communities will be significantly enhanced.    (5YF)


To implement this vision, the NICS Community of Practice (NICS CoP) has been established to develop a national infrastructure for community statistics (NICS). NICS CoP has been established, and is composed of individuals from government, nonprofit, and industry realms with a strong interest in working collaboratively on    (5YH)

Collectively, NICS CoP members are knowledgeable about characteristics of data generation, access, and use at the local, state, and national levels. Understanding that the U.S. statistical system is highly decentralized, we are cognizant of the need to recognize this diversity, while focusing solely on standardizing those aspects of NICS required to make the system work effectively (ie: to paraphrase Harlan Cleveland, those aspects “ that cannot be left to individual choice or market outcomes”). NICS CoP claims neither formal nor implied endorsements by its members’ organizations, unless otherwise stated. In its initial stages, NICS CoP is convened by the Community Statistical Systems (CSS) Network.    (5YL)


There is a growing need to provide communities, policymakers, civic and private sector leaders with tools to respond to the accelerating pace of economic and social change, such as trade, investment flows, migration and globalization. Even as this pace quickens, the most comprehensive and useful datasets for community use, such as the American Community Survey, will be significantly increasing frequency, providing communities with rich data for trends analysis. Other federal agency initiatives, such as the Geospatial One Stop, the Census Bureau's planned Integrated Dissemination System, and the NAS’ Key National Indicators Initiative are initial sources and users of the NICS facility. Members of the Community Statistical Systems Network, such as Census’ CICs and the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership are also key partners in development of the NICS concept.    (5YN)

Advances in technology and data application tools on a web service platform give us the power to provide rich data at a detailed level of community geography. The combination of geographic, statistical and information tools can enable communities to grapple with these changes by responding to the emerging needs of citizens, new customer segments, changing demographics and socioeconomic conditions. Advances in communications, information and data exchange technologies will allow NICS to power a process that enables appropriate levels of data sharing, access and exchange between the federal level and communities, quickly and systematically.    (5YO)

NICS will also help local data intermediaries to lower the costs of operating their statistical infrastructure by reducing fragmentation and redundancy. NICS will also recognize and leverage the significant private sector role in collecting and developing data. NICS will reduce the need for repeated investments in labor-intensive, expensive operations, such as attaching metadata, data cleaning, homogenization. It will provide easy access to benchmarking data from comparative communities and programs at the state and national level. Additionally, many states and cities have made extensive investments in e**government applications. The development of NICs provides the potential to leverage these investments by making transactional data from these applications available for accelerated program evaluation and change.    (5YP)


Developing NICS might be termed an effort to build a “communications information bus”, or to attach “statistical intelligence” to the comprehensive geospatial data infrastructure being implemented nationwide at multiple levels of government and within the private sector. But key issues need to be resolved as NICS is initially conceived and launched:    (5YR)

Technical challenges to be addressed include, but are not limited to:    (5Z0)

In conclusion, ongoing technical and institutional advances strongly suggest that the construction of a national infrastructure for community statistics is both possible and desirable. Facilitated through NICS CoP, a concerted, cooperative effort to construct a national infrastructure has the potential to transform governance, research, advocacy, citizen participation, and commercial development in the United States.    (5Z8)

Building and operating NICS requires facing a number of technical, institutional, and budgetary challenges; addressing these challenges in turn requires a high level of communication and cooperation among NICS CoP members. Moreover, NICS development and operation depends on access to human and financial resources from numerous public and private organizations; NICS CoP members will work together to obtain the necessary resources.    (5Z9)

(This charter was drafted for NICS CoP member discussion at the August 12, 2004 meeting, revised in light of comments on August 17, 2004. The charter is subject to subsequent review and revision at the call of NICS CoP membership.)    (60B)