Data Skills for Congress
Time limit: 150 days
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Full course description
TO APPLY: please complete this online application form.
Good policy depends on good data, and lawmakers need foundational knowledge in order to unlock data for effective decision-making. This program offers Congressional staff training to improve their use of data and to create policies that ensure accurate, usable data flows within government.
Led by experts in government data systems, data policy, congressional data use, and data standards, this first-of-its-kind professional learning program provides participants with examples of how to use data in policy-making, how to turn data from spreadsheets into persuasive stories, and how to use legislation to unlock useful—and usable—data.
Students will leave the class with new skills in data analysis and visualization, familiarity with current and emerging federal data policies, an understanding of the challenges combining local and federal data, and a basic introduction to data practices within Congress.
- No prior experience in data analysis or data policy is required.
- Designed to meet the busy schedules of Congressional staff members, the course is fully remote with 60% live online instruction and 40% asynchronous learning, totaling 40 hours of class time spread out over five months.
- This program has been reviewed by House and Senate Ethics. Please see details below.
The application process is now open. Current House and Senate member and professional staff, with one year of congressional work experience are encouraged to apply by completing this online application form.
About This Program
Data Skills for Congress was created by USAFacts, a nonpartisan civic initiative improving the accessibility and usability of government data, in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Participants who successfully meet the course requirements will receive a certificate of completion. No college credits are awarded.
The inaugural program will be taught by nationwide experts, including Sunmin Kim, lead congressional staffer of the 2020 OPEN Government Data Act; Katya Abazajian, a Beeck Center fellow and a leading researcher and practitioner focused on municipal and state data; and course lead Sarah Schacht, a former Beeck Center fellow and national expert on data standards and public health data. See detailed bios below.
- 40 hours of class time, mix of 8 live sessions and recorded lectures
- Two optional, in-person meetings, held in Washington, DC (a kickoff gathering and a completion celebration)
- Interactive live classes, with assigned teams to foster discussion
- 10 guest lectures with class interaction and Q&A
- Final "capstone" project to showcase new skills
This course has been specially designed to accommodate the busy schedules of congressional staff members. Class sessions are short and fully remote, with instructional time spread over five months. This includes 24 live class hours and 16 recorded lectures, with additional readings. Students will leverage breaks in the Congressional schedule to produce a final project demonstrating proficiency in the study area of their choice.
Pending changes to the congressional calendar, live sessions will be held in the evening on the first and fourth Tuesdays and Thursdays of February and April, 2023.
Opportunities for Networking
The Data Skills for Congress certificate program includes two optional networking events for participants, both held in Washington, DC: (1) a kick-off social gathering in early February for participants, lecturers, and guest lectures to meet one another and learn more about the course; (2) a completion ceremony in June, for course participants to celebrate their achievements and network together.
Space in this program is limited. To ensure a balanced cohort and gauge people's interest in taking this course, we are asking all interested participants to complete this online application form.
- Priority Admission Deadline: December 9, 2022
- Late Admission Deadline: January 15, 2023
House Ethics Waiver and Senate Process
This program has been reviewed by both House and Senate Ethics.
Senate Ethics has approved the program "for the good of the Senate." Member and professional staff in the Senate may apply and have their application approved without a waiver from Senate Ethics.
- House staff (member and professional) should apply to participate.
- Professional staff who are not assigned to the House may apply to this program without seeking a waiver.
- For all others, House Ethics is currently reviewing this program. If this program is granted approval, no waiver will be needed. However, if the program is not approved, staff can file a waiver with House Ethics. USAFacts will provide House staff a letter for their House Ethics waiver request.
Katya Abazajian is a Fellow at the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation at Georgetown University where they lead state and local work on open data and civic technology. They are a senior advisor of the Opportunity Project for Cities and the State Chief Data Officers Network's Data Labs Program. Katya is the author of Civic Source, a newsletter about how local governments use data and technology to make decisions that shape communities beneath the surface. They are also an affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and a research fellow for the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy. Previous to their work at the Beeck Center, Katya conducted independent research on open government and data governance with organizations like Development Gateway and January Advisors, including for the Mozilla Foundation's Data for Empowerment research series. Previously, as the Director of the Sunlight Foundation’s Open Cities program, they led work in over 65 cities on transparency in smart cities initiatives, open contracting, and open data policy as a partner of the What Works Cities Initiative. Katya is also an organizer, community researcher, and writer based in Houston, Texas.
Sunmin Kim is currently the Director of Public Policy at Applied Intuition. Previously, she served as Chief, Policy Division at the U.S. Department of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. She was also the Technology Policy Advisor for U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, where she led the drafting and passage into law the OPEN Government Data Act and the AI in Government Act. Prior to government service, she was a Technology Editor at The Economist Group and co-founder of Pro Journo, a journalism nonprofit. She received her B.S. in Biological Engineering from Cornell University and M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Michigan and holds a patent in nano-optics.
Daniel Schuman is policy director at Demand Progress and Demand Progress Education Fund. He leads organizational efforts to strengthen our democracy, which include: reforming Congress; providing appropriate checks on the Executive branch; strengthening mechanisms for federal governmental accountability, transparency, and reform; modernizing government technology for improved responsiveness, accountability, and efficiency; empowering civil society and the press as accountability mechanisms; professionalizing federal employees; improving government ethics processes; and ensuring that the people’s voices can be heard. Daniel is a nationally recognized expert on the federal government. He has testified before Congress on government accountability, transparency, and operations, and routinely is cited as an expert by the media. He previously worked as policy director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; policy counsel at the Sunlight Foundation; and as a legislative attorney with the Congressional Research Service. He graduated cum laude from Emory University School of Law. He also worked at the Constitution Project, the American Constitution Society, the House of Representatives, and the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association.
Sarah Schacht has over 15 years of experience in a wide range of open data and public interest technology topics. Her work as a practitioner ranges from data standards development (authoring LIVES 2.0 and SAFE 1.0), public and environmental health open data, legislative data, and government website usability. As a social entrepreneur, she founded and led an “open gov” 501(c)3 nonprofit, Knowledge As Power (2006-2012), developing a first of its kind legislative access tool online. From 2014 to present, Schacht is a consultant at Smarter Civic consulting, advising “civic tech” startups, federal agencies, and civil society organizations. Schacht is a frequent advisor to governments ranging from small-town mayors to presidential staff. She is passionate about transparency, data standards, usability, and citizen engagement. Schacht is a 2020/2021 Georgetown Beeck Center Fellow.