Support Abounds for the KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid!) Theory for Grants Data

February 10, 2014 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

binary-code-1-1159613-mAs a journalist, when I cover meetings in which I hear speaker after speaker explaining their support or disagreement about a technical issue, I tend to perk up when a certain speaker delivers the unexpected line that really makes you chuckle while really proving a great point. At last Friday’s meeting in which the Government Accountability and Transparency Board heard stakeholder presentations on recommendations for the GAT Board’s 2014 priorities, Relmond Van Daniker, executive director of the Association of Government Accountants, delivered such a line.

While other speakers were discussing the need for uniformity in federal award data, creating a universal identifier and generally getting into the technicalities of finding data on federal websites like and, Van Daniker focused his attention not on what grant stakeholders want, but what citizens really want. He said the government was “drowning in data,” and that this data needs to be converted into useful information that people can use and understand.

Then it got personal. ”We need to provide information so that my wife can read it; she’s not going to look for anything,” he said. And there you have it — the “red line” that federal data needs to meet. It must pass the “Mrs. Van Daniker test.”

I actually can relate to this. My wife is a health reporter and has been covering her industry for many years and is used to the medical lingo. Me, not so much. So, if I can’t understand what she’s reported on, the general public won’t either. She’s learned to write to a level that I, and her readers out there, can comprehend.

The GAT Board should take the same tact. There is so much data available that grantees must provide, and as Van Daniker added, “Data costs money, and I’m not interested in putting data out there if no one is going to use it. Figure out what is needed by [citizens] and think in the terms of keeping it simple.” He further said that as the GAT Board develops its report on its 2014 priorities, the report should be limited to no more than four pages that people can easily read.

After sitting in a meeting for more than three hours, it finally took the last speaker to say the most important thing – keep it simple! (Too bad he didn’t go first!)

What do you think should be key priorities for the GAT Board for 2014? Let us know.


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