The Data Specialists’ Roundtable

For many years, the Court Statistics Project (CSP) has benefitted from the support and guidance of some of the most important and influential organizations within the state court community. Among them are the Conference of Chief Justices, the Conference of State Court Administrators, the National Association for Court Management, the National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks, and, of course, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).

However, one group of unsung court professionals from whom the CSP receives a great deal of support and without whom the CSP could not exist are those we refer to collectively as “court data specialists.”

Known within their administrative offices by a variety of different titles (e.g., court analyst, research analyst, statistical specialist, statistical research director, clerk of court, etc.), these dedicated court staff annually provide detailed, aggregated caseload data from their state to the CSP, often under difficult circumstances, from disparate sources, and under tight timelines.

At a two-day meeting held at NCSC headquarters in Williamsburg, Va., in 2005, several state court IT professionals, along with two data specialists and several CSP and NCSC IT staff, convened to discuss the electronic transfer of court data by way of IEPD, or Information Exchange Package Documentation. The meeting was a success, but CSP staff noticed that during each break in the meeting the two data specialists in attendance (representing Florida and Minnesota) tended to split off and have separate conversations from the other attendees.

Eager to understand this, CSP staff asked the two data specialists what prompted these semi-private conversations and were told that data specialists were “talking shop” because they were never afforded the opportunity to talk to their counterparts in other states about the specific issues facing each of them. They had no wider perspective on their work and no national organization or association designed to address that void.

Soon thereafter, internal discussions between CSP staff -- and later its then-funding agency, the Bureau of Justice Statistics -- resulted in a proposed solution. The CSP would conduct a meeting of a small group of state court data specialists to see if the desire for peer interaction was held more universally.

So, in the spring of 2007 the CSP held the first Data Specialists’ Roundtable, with 10 attendees selected more or less at random from the 50-plus data specialists with whom the project staff worked each year. The 1.5-day event went extremely well. The attendees were all excited to finally have the opportunity to discuss matters that directly impact them in their state as well as to hear about the issues confronted by, and solutions devised by, data specialists in other states.

As of this writing in 2024, the CSP has conducted 17 consecutive Annual Data Specialists’ Roundtables in Williamsburg (with the exception of 2020), now two full days long, with attendance averaging about 25 data specialists (comprising 20 invitees, with some states opting to send a second data specialist from their staff at the state’s expense).

This has proven to be an optimal size for the discussions. Each year we evenly divide the invitee list between previous attendees and new data specialists or ones from states that had not previously attended.

To date, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have had a representative attend at least one Roundtable. The primary goal of the Roundtable is to get data specialists in one room talking to each other with only a modest agenda, largely driven by items that the attendees themselves have identified.

We encourage open discussions in a safe, collegial atmosphere and offer social activities to further the connections and interactions that benefit all in the community. If you have never attended a Roundtable meeting and would like to, don’t hesitate to contact you CSP representative.  We’ll make every effort to get you a seat at the next meeting!