47 Scientific Organizations Urge Puerto Rico to Preserve Independent Statistical Institute

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), The American Geophysical Union, and the National Association for Business Economics—along with more than 40 international scientific and professional organizations—have joined the American Statistical Association to ask the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, to rescind the proposed dissolution and privatization of Puerto Rico’s independent statistical agency.

In a joint letter sent to Rosselló on May 7 by Rush Holt, AAAS CEO, the signatories stress the importance of accurate, objective, and timely statistics to Puerto Rico’s economic and social well-being, present and future: “To address the challenges posed by its decade-long economic recession and the devastation of back-to-back hurricanes, Puerto Rico must chart its path toward sustainable recovery using reputable and reliable data and statistical methods.”

The letter stresses that El Instituto de Estadísticas de Puerto Rico (PRIS) “has demonstrated repeatedly” that “it has the expertise to function independently and produce rigorous, objective, and accurate statistics for the benefit of Puerto Rico and its people.”

Under a massive government reorganization plan for Puerto Rico, PRIS is to be dismantled and its functions incorporated into the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, with statistical research outsourced. The plan has drawn widespread criticism, especially from Puerto Rican academics and journalists who argue politicization and privatization will compromise the quality of essential data.

Though PRIS has been underfunded relative to its founding mandate, its work has saved Puerto Rico hundreds of millions of dollars through the discovery of statistical bias in the formulas used to compensate doctors under Medicare and errors in the calculation of the consumer price index.

Concern over the government’s plan for PRIS has led to widespread coverage in op-eds and news reports by the BBCNBC NewsSense about Science USAScientific AmericanThe Hill, and Science and Nature magazines. ASA President Lisa LaVange sent letters to Rosselló, the PR Senate president, and the PR House speaker, protesting the plan.

Read a copy of the letter and see the full list of signatories. See also this  press release.