The United States government is rapidly progressing in implementing new laws and guidance on evidence-based policymaking, data-driven government, and open data. During the Data Coalition’s GovDATAx Summit in 2019, Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Karen Dunn Kelley suggested a metaphorical book on evidence-based policymaking for the U.S. is being written, with new chapters every year. In chapter 1 in 2017, the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking wrote a seminal report on better using government data. In Chapter 2 in 2018, Congress passed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act), and in Chapter 3 the Executive Branch published its Federal Data Strategy.
What’s the next chapter?
Data Coalition members met with senior leadership at the Department of Commerce to discuss Chapter 4 leading into 2020 and beyond. In addition, groups like Project Evident, the Brookings Institution, and the University of Chicago’s Center for Impact Sciences are all developing plans for the next generation of evidence-based policymaking.
Key aspects and inputs for the next chapter will include:
- The one-year action plan for the Federal Data Strategy expected to be released in mid-December, which serves as one of the implementation vehicles for the Evidence Act.
- Recommendations developed by the new Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence-Building hosted at the Department of Commerce, which will begin meeting in early 2020.
- Plans to develop a national Data Service to promote privacy-protective uses of data and applications of cutting-edge technologies inside government, building on funding expected to be included in the final fiscal year 2020 appropriations.
- Publication of agency draft plans and policies for implementing key provisions of the Evidence Act, including some signals as early as February 2020 in the President’s Budget.
Needless to say, there is much work to do to ensure our government increasingly adopts evidence-based and data-driven approaches.
What can those outside government do to support evidence-based policymaking?
As the next chapter of the evidence and data movement is written, stakeholders in non-profits, academia, and the private sector can all contribute. Action items could include:
- Offer Proactive Suggestions. For agencies that work on priority issue areas, provide suggestions about critical datasets, gaps in data quality, needed data standards, or programs that should be evaluated. Suggestions can be provided directly to new chief data officers, evaluation officers, and statistical officials in federal agencies, even before they are requested.
- Express Support. As work continues to change agency cultures to better recognize government data as an asset, agency leadership will benefit from sustained reminders and expressions of support from non-governmental stakeholders about the need to prioritize implementation of the Evidence Act and the Federal Data Strategy.
- Participate in Implementation. As agencies begin to publish learning agendas, plans for open data, data governance processes, and budgets that outline how data management activities will be prioritized, stakeholders outside government should actively participate by providing feedback on the plans and policies.
As the federal government continues to improve data quality, access, and ease of use, the Data Coalition will continue to support its members in engaging in each of the action items as the next chapter is written, and beyond.