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Data Usage Information and Connecting With Data Users: U.S. Mandates and Guidance for Government Agency Evidence Building

Published onApr 02, 2024
Data Usage Information and Connecting With Data Users: U.S. Mandates and Guidance for Government Agency Evidence Building
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Abstract

This article delves into the multifaceted landscape of evidence-based policymaking within the U.S. federal government. Specifically, it examines the key components of the Foundations of Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, the subsequent presidential executive orders and U.S. Office of Management and Budget memoranda aimed at promoting evidence-based practices, federal mandates for agencies to engage with data users, the value of interactions between agencies and data users, and the potential implications of those interactions for the future of evidence-based policy. By tracing the historical context of evidence-based policy initiatives and the drive toward greater access to both confidential and open data from government agencies, this article presents a comprehensive overview of the evolution, challenges, and promises of evidence-based policymaking in the contemporary era.

Keywords: Evidence Act, data users, government mandates, user feedback, collaboration


Media Summary

In an era marked by complex social and economic issues, where it has become clear that multiple factors may affect the nation’s employment, job creation, educational opportunities, health outcomes, crime, and justice, evidence-based policymaking has emerged as a cornerstone approach to more holistic and effective government policies and solutions. By emphasizing the use of rigorous and reliable evidence, evidence-based policymaking strives to bridge the gap between policy formulation and societal outcomes, fostering a more informed and rational decision-making process.

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (2019; hereafter Evidence Act) stands as a significant milestone in the pursuit of evidence-based practices within the U.S. federal government. Recognizing the transformative potential of integrating high-quality data and research into policy decisions, the Evidence Act was designed to create a comprehensive framework for agencies to leverage evidence in their decision-making processes. Federal agencies were mandated to embark on a pivotal endeavor: engaging with the users of their data assets and data sets. This directive underscored the significance of establishing a symbiotic relationship between data producers and data consumers. By doing so, agencies aim to not only foster a deeper understanding of the utility of their data but also to refine their data offerings to cater to specific user needs.

By engaging with identifiable data users, agencies can gain insights into the specific questions, challenges, and contexts that stakeholders encounter. This allows agencies to refine their data collection, analysis, and presentation methodologies to ensure that the produced evidence aligns more effectively with the practical needs of those who would utilize it. Identifying data users also provides opportunities for agencies to expand their reach, collaborating with diverse stakeholders ranging from researchers and policymakers to businesses and advocacy groups and reaching out to include researchers from institutions that have not historically been high-volume users of federal data, such as smaller and minority serving institutions.

By integrating user feedback, agencies can address potential biases, inaccuracies, or gaps in their data. This feedback loop ensures that evidence is rigorous, accurate, reliable, and more representative of the realities on the ground. Although several agencies already engage with groups of data users, the Evidence Act requires intentional consistent engagement across all agencies. This special issue of HDSR dives deeply into the Democratizing Data Search and Discovery Platform, designed to help agencies and the data user community connect in meaningful ways, meeting the mandate and intent of the Evidence Act.


1. Evidence-Based Policymaking: A Cornerstone of Modern Governance

In an era marked by complex social and economic issues, where it has become clear that multiple factors may affect the nation’s employment, job creation, educational opportunities, health outcomes, crime, and justice, evidence-based policymaking has emerged as a cornerstone approach to more holistic and effective government policies and solutions. Aiming to ensure that government decisions are grounded in robust, empirical evidence offers an opportunity to transcend ideological biases and subjective inclinations, making policies more effective, efficient, and accountable (Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act, 2016). By emphasizing the use of rigorous and reliable evidence, evidence-based policymaking strives to bridge the gap between policy formulation and societal outcomes, fostering a more informed and rational decision-making process.

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (2019; hereafter Evidence Act) stands as a significant milestone in the pursuit of evidence-based practices within the U.S. federal government. Recognizing the transformative potential of integrating high-quality data and research into policy decisions, the Evidence Act was designed to create a comprehensive framework for agencies to leverage evidence in their decision-making processes.

2. Tracing the Historical Context: Precursors to the Evidence Act

The journey toward the enactment of the Evidence Act was characterized by decades of development of experimental research design work to support evidence building. During the early 20th century, the concept of randomized control trials (RCTs) was introduced by statisticians like Ronald A. Fisher (1925), whose work in statistics was instrumental in the development of RCTs (1971). The concept of randomization, which involves randomly assigning subjects to different treatment groups, became a cornerstone of experimental design and contributed significantly to the establishment of evidence-based practices in various scientific disciplines, starting with medicine. Controlled clinical trials began to be more widely used in medical research during the 1940s. These studies aimed to assess the efficacy of various medical interventions by comparing treated and untreated groups. Systematic reviews, which involve the comprehensive and methodical analysis of all available evidence on a particular topic, gained prominence in the 1950s. This approach aimed to synthesize the results of multiple studies to draw more reliable conclusions.

In 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General released a landmark report on smoking and health, drawing on a substantial body of evidence linking cigarette smoking to various health risks, including lung cancer and heart disease. This report played a pivotal role in raising public awareness about the dangers of smoking. In response to the growing evidence of the health risks associated with smoking, the U.S. Congress passed the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act (1965). This legislation mandated that cigarette packages carry health warning labels. Building on the 1965 act, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act was enacted in 1970. This law banned cigarette advertising on television and radio and required stronger warning labels on cigarette packaging. Throughout these developments, the use of evidence-based approaches, including RCTs and systematic reviews, played a crucial role in informing policymakers about the risks associated with smoking.

The integration of scientific health evidence into policymaking processes became a model for other areas of public policy, leading to the broader concept of evidence-based policymaking that is now applied across various domains. One of the pioneers in advocating for evidence-based policymaking beyond the health domain and into more generalized social science research and public policy was Donald T. Campbell (Campbell et al., 1963), an American psychologist and social scientist who played a key role in promoting the application of scientific methods to social policy.

As a result of these scientific contributions, the definition of ‘evidence’ expanded beyond clinical trials to include a variety of research methodologies, qualitative and quantitative data, and insights from social sciences. This broader understanding of evidence allowed policymakers to draw on a diverse range of information to inform their decisions. Various organizations and institutions advocated for the integration of evidence-based approaches into policymaking. This support helped establish a foundation for evidence-based policymaking as a standard practice across different sectors.

One example of this expansion and collaborative approach was the Results First Initiative, a joint project of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation launched in 2010. The initiative, focused toward helping state and local governments put in place policies that would have measurable, positive outcomes, began with a focus on criminal justice and behavioral health, then expanded its scope to address a broader range of policy areas. This expansion reflected the recognition that evidence-based practices could be applied across various sectors to improve the efficiency and impact of public policies.

On February 22, 2013, the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a memo, Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research (Holdren, 2013). The key objective of the memo was to promote greater public access to the results of federally funded scientific research. It aimed to align federal policies with the principles of transparency, accountability, and the free exchange of scientific knowledge. The memo reflected a broader movement toward open science and open access to research outputs, emphasizing the idea that publicly funded research should be made available for the benefit of the public and the scientific community. Following this, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released M-13-13 Open Data Policy-Managing Information as an Asset (Burwell, VanRoekel, et al., 2013) and M-13-17 Next Steps in the Evidence and Innovation Agenda (Burwell, Munoz, et al., 2013).

Building on these directives, the federal government continued to take significant steps to encourage and enhance data-driven decision-making and foster a culture of evidence-based policy formulation. In 2014, the OMB issued guidance Memorandum M-14-06, Guidance for Providing and Using Administrative Data for Statistical Purposes (Burwell, 2014) aimed at improving how agencies leverage existing data to facilitate agencies’ programmatic work and enhance the value of those data to the American public. The goal of the memorandum was to help agencies that both design and administer programs and agencies that primarily produce statistics (including evaluation and analysis units) use program administrative data more fully with statistical purposes in mind, including protecting the privacy and confidentiality of the data. The memorandum directs agency leadership to: “(i) foster greater collaboration between program and statistical offices; (ii) develop strong data stewardship policies and practices around the statistical use of administrative data; (iii) require the documentation of quality control measures and key attributes of important administrative datasets; and (iv) require the designation of responsibilities and practices through the use of agreements amongst these offices” (Burwell, 2014).

In 2016, the U.S. Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission was established by law (Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act, 2016), reflecting a growing recognition of the need for evidence to inform governmental actions. This bipartisan commission was tasked with examining strategies to enhance the availability and use of government data to support effective policymaking. By identifying barriers to data access, sharing, and integration, the commission laid the groundwork for more cohesive evidence-based practices. In September 2017, the commission issued a report to the U.S. Congress (Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, 2017) with findings and recommendations intended to tackle, in a nonpartisan way, the greatest problems facing evidence building—limited data access, inadequate privacy protection practices, and lack of capacity to conduct evidence-building activities. The commission found that overcoming existing barriers to the effective use of data would lead to better access to these data, which in turn would lead to substantial gains for society. The commission recommended that a National Secure Data Service be established to facilitate access to data for evidence building while protecting privacy and ensuring transparency in how the data were being used. The commission also recommended that a uniform process for external researchers to apply and qualify for access to confidential data to be used for evidence-building be put in place. The access portal was intended to ensure that the public was notified about how data were being used and would document routine audits for compliance. The commission also recommended increased efforts to make information available about the government’s data inventory, with related documentation, to help researchers know which data they need to evaluate programs and policies.

3. Operationalizing the Evidence Act’s Objectives and Implications

The Evidence Act seeks to harness the potential of evidence-based policymaking by institutionalizing key principles and practices, and it includes 11 recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (Potok, 2019). It marked a pivotal moment in the U.S. federal government’s commitment to evidence-based practices. The act mandates federal agencies to systematically consider evidence when making policy decisions. It emphasizes the importance of data inventories, data integration, and evaluation across (not just within) government agencies to promote informed decision-making. Furthermore, the act highlights the significance of public transparency and accessibility, stressing the value of sharing evidence and data with the broader community. It demonstrates a commitment to enhancing data-driven governance and aligning governmental actions with empirically grounded insights. One important element that the Evidence Act did not address was to change any underlying existing statutes related to data sharing among federal statistical agencies. The result is that agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau, which cannot share data under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, still cannot share its data (although it can receive data from other agencies and combine those data assets within the confines of the Census Bureau.) In another longstanding example, Title III of the Evidence Act updated the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002 (CIPSEA). The statistical efficiency was allowing three statistical agencies, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to make significant improvements in the nation’s economic statistics through the sharing of tax data acquired by the Census Bureau from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). However, the improvements were never realized because the corresponding changes were not made in the IRS statues to enable this sharing. The Evidence Act was an opportunity to change the IRS statute to enable CIPSEA to be implemented. But no such changes were included.

The Evidence Act mandated the formation of a two-year Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building (ACDEB) and charged it with giving recommendations to the director of the U.S. Office and Management and Budget on implementation of the act, with special focus on establishment of a National Secure Data Service. This committee, comprised of experts from inside and outside government in data analysis, privacy, and governance, provided valuable guidance on how federal agencies could navigate the intricacies of data sharing and integration while upholding ethical standards and addressing privacy concerns. The advisory committee’s Year 2 Report, issued in October 2022 (ACDEB, 2022), focused on expanding access to data for evidence building, facilitating data sharing, enabling data linkage, and developing privacy-preserving techniques. It also provided a vision for how the National Secure Data Service could provide coordination and capacity-building services. Although the report did not go into detail on how to actualize this vision, it did recognize the delicate balance between data sharing and privacy protection. It aimed to facilitate the secure exchange of sensitive data among federal agencies, researchers, and policymakers. The National Secure Data Service is integral to the report’s recommendations, which were intended to result in increased access to data for evidence building. A few of the notable recommendations include the following functions for the National Secure Data Service:

  • provide technology so that users at any tier of access can safely and efficiently analyze data assets hosted by affiliated organizations, including federal, state, territorial, local, and tribal governments, nonprofits, and other organizations.

  • support the discovery of data assets for evidence building by providing a technological process to support access to searchable and discoverable data, request data access, track the approval process, and document the outcomes of that process.

  • support a seamless user experience by providing training and tools to harmonize the format and content across data inventories and catalogs and to ensure complete, consistent metadata are included in these inventories.

  • collect and house a searchable inventory of projects that highlights what data sets are being used for what purposes.

  • provide tools and support to users in conducting secure, accurate, and scalable analyses as well as privacy preserving record linkages, facilitating data preparation and review of matching metrics.

  • track the provenance of all data sets and all evidence-building analyses performed over those data sets.

The advisory committee also recommended that the OMB adopt a risk-utility framework as the basis for standards on sensitivity levels, access tiers, and risk evaluations as part of the regulation on expanding secure access to CIPSEA-protected data assets, as well as prioritize resources to optimize the user experience for the Standard Application Process, the portal through which researchers apply for permission to use highly protected data sets from agencies. The advisory committee received input from numerous stakeholders. Included were two white papers released by the Data Foundation that went into considerable detail on how a National Secure Data Service could be established (Hart & Potok, 2021) and implemented quickly, safely, and securely (Potok & Hart, 2022). The committee report, however, did not provide detailed guidance, leaving the development of an implementation plan to the OMB, which has been coordinating internal government deliberations, particularly through the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy. The council is composed of the senior statistical officials of the cabinet agencies, and about half of these officials are heads of designated statistical agencies (such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, etc.). A five-year pilot project for a National Secure Data Service was established in the CHIPS and Science Act (2022), to be managed by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics at the National Science Foundation. That pilot project, America’s Data Hub, is underway with a series of collaborative efforts carried out under contract with universities and nonprofit research institutions to test various aspects of a service, such as privacy technologies. To date, however, the pilot project has not attempted to put an integrated service in place. The Interagency Council on Statistical Policy has been engaged in steering the pilot project.

Since enactment of the Evidence Act, the federal government has continued to issue presidential executive orders and memoranda to agencies, setting the stage for the operationalization of evidence-based policymaking. These directives serve as critical bridges between the legislative framework provided by the Evidence Act and the practical implementation of evidence-based practices within federal agencies. One such document, the Presidential Memorandum of January 27, 2021, Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking (Biden, 2021), directed the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish a framework for regular assessment and iterative improvement of scientific integrity in U.S. federal agencies. This framework (White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, 2023) includes key resources for agencies as they work to develop and improve scientific integrity policies, practices, and culture. The Office of Science and Technology Policy also issued a memorandum, Ensuring Free, Immediate, and Equitable Access to Federally Funded Research (White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, 2022). In combination, the memoranda send a strong signal to agencies that the principles of scientific integrity, safe and competent data management, and increasing access to federal data are all integral parts of establishing a culture conducive to creating reliable and usable evidence to inform and guide federal policies.

Running in parallel to the efforts to institutionalize scientific integrity and transparency and build capacity of evidence-building and evaluation in government, are efforts to establish requirements and guidelines for agency use of artificial intelligence (AI). The agencies have been told to use AI responsibly (Exec. Order No. 13960, 2020), and a government-wide effort was established to guide responsible AI development and deployment through federal agency leadership, regulation of industry and international partners (Exec. Order No. 14110, 2023).

Some key concepts that have emerged from the Evidence Act and data-related government guidance (both preceding and following its enactment) include:

4. Key Evidence-Building Concepts

4.1. Advancing Policy Effectiveness Through Informed Decision-Making

The integration of evidence into policy decisions enables more effective outcomes. More comprehensive program evaluation and broader insights into the effects of federal policies reduces the potential for misalignment between policy goals and outcomes, as the evidence considers real-world complexities and nuances. The agency Learning Agendas, required by the OMB, have the potential to drive program outcome evaluations with a direct tie to the annual budget process for agencies, which is also run by the OMB. Making a connection between program outcomes and how the programs are funded is a serious challenge for the government and needs to overcome the traditional politics of the actual funders for the federal government, the U.S. Congress.

4.2. Facilitating Data Sharing and Collaboration

Transparency, accountability, and collaboration are central themes woven into the fabric of the executive orders and OMB memoranda. Recognizing that evidence-based policymaking benefits from cross-agency collaboration, these directives encourage federal agencies to break down silos and share data with other agencies, researchers, and stakeholders (including state, local, and tribal governments). This approach not only enables the accumulation of diverse perspectives but also leads to the generation of more holistic and robust evidence.

Furthermore, these directives seek to foster collaboration beyond the federal government. By encouraging partnerships with academia, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations, the directives aim to enrich the evidence base with a wide array of expertise and insights. This approach not only enhances the credibility of policy decisions but also aligns governmental actions with the larger societal context.

4.3. Identifying Data Users and Stakeholders: Enhancing Data Utilization

In the pursuit of evidence-based policymaking, federal agencies were mandated to embark on a pivotal endeavor: engaging with the users of their data assets and data sets.1 This directive, a crucial facet of the Evidence Act, underscored the significance of establishing a symbiotic relationship between data producers and data consumers. By doing so, agencies aim to not only foster a deeper understanding of the utility of their data but also to refine their data offerings to cater to specific user needs.

This mandate facilitates a shift from a unidirectional data dissemination model to a dynamic two-way dialogue. By engaging with identifiable data users, agencies can gain insights into the specific questions, challenges, and contexts that stakeholders encounter. This, in turn, allows agencies to refine their data collection, analysis, and presentation methodologies to ensure that the produced evidence aligns more effectively with the practical needs of those who would utilize it. The process of identifying data users also provides opportunities for agencies to expand their reach, collaborating with diverse stakeholders ranging from researchers and policymakers to businesses and advocacy groups and reaching out to include researchers from institutions that have not historically been high-volume users of federal data, such as smaller and minority serving institutions.

The iterative nature of this engagement further contributes to the enhancement of evidence quality. By integrating user feedback, agencies can address potential biases, inaccuracies, or gaps in their data. This iterative feedback loop ensures that evidence is not only rigorous but also accurate, reliable, and more representative of the realities on the ground. This approach bolsters the credibility of the evidence presented, instilling greater confidence in the decision-making processes that draw from such evidence. Although several agencies already engage with groups of data users, the Evidence Act requires intentional consistent engagement across all agencies, rather than the ad hoc approaches currently in place. This special issue of HDSR dives deeply into the Democratizing Data Search and Discovery Platform, designed to help agencies and the data user community connect in meaningful ways, meeting the mandate and intent of the Evidence Act (Potok, 2023).

4.4. Strengthening Transparency and Accountability to Increase Public Trust

Transparency and accountability are crucial elements of evidence-based policymaking, promoting public trust and confidence in government actions. The executive orders and OMB memoranda emphasize the importance of making evidence and data accessible to the public. By doing so, these directives empower citizens, researchers, and policymakers to engage with the evidence and contribute to the policy discourse. Transparent evidence-sharing enables citizens to understand the rationale behind policy decisions, leading to greater acceptance of government actions. Open data initiatives exemplify transparency in practice. Open data provides citizens, researchers, and businesses with access to a wide range of government data, enabling them to analyze and interpret information independently. This transparency empowers stakeholders to engage in evidence-based discussions and contributes to a more informed and participatory democracy. Platforms that provide usage information and facilitate secure access to more protected data also enable transparency in how data are being used. In turn, data users have a responsibility to protect confidentiality of sensitive data, while being transparent about their research methods and how they are using the data to create evidence. An example of transparency in data usage is exemplified by the dashboard made available by the National Agricultural Statistical Service, discussed throughout this special issue. It is available at https://www.nass.usda.gov/Data_Visualization/5W/index.php.

4.5. Leveraging Advanced Technologies for Evidence Generation

The future of evidence-based policymaking is closely intertwined with technological advancements. The integration of data analytics, machine learning, and AI holds immense promise for evidence generation and policy evaluation. These technologies can process large data sets, identify patterns, and provide insights that might elude traditional methods. In addition, advances in privacy protection technologies can help increase safe access to sensitive data. As mentioned earlier, the federal government has encouraged responsible use of AI through the issuance of Executive Order No. 13960 (2020): Promoting the Use of Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence in the Federal Government, which ordered the Federal Chief Information Officers Council to “identify, provide guidance on, and make publicly available the criteria, format, and mechanisms for agency inventories of…use cases of AI by agencies,” and Executive Order No. 14110 (2023): Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence, which establishes a government-wide effort to guide responsible AI development and deployment through federal agency leadership, regulation of industry, and engagement with international partners.

As technology and data sharing advance, ethical and privacy considerations become paramount. The future of evidence-based policymaking demands careful navigation of these challenges. Striking a balance between data access and privacy safeguards is crucial to maintaining public trust and upholding ethical standards. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) offers a significant case study in addressing data privacy concerns while facilitating evidence-based policymaking. By establishing stringent guidelines for data collection, storage, and sharing, the GDPR ensures that data-driven initiatives prioritize privacy rights. However, a somewhat different approach seems to fit better within the United States due to its emphasis on open data and data sharing. This different approach includes looking at options such as tiered access, where access to data is regulated based on the sensitivity of the data and the methods needed to protect privacy and confidentiality.2 Although OMB was required by the Evidence Act to issue regulations with standards to help agencies in determining the sensitivity of data, those regulations have not yet been issued.

4.7. Emphasizing Data Inventory and Governance

One of the key areas addressed by the Evidence Act was the establishment of comprehensive data inventory and data governance processes (Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, 2019). The statute recognized that effective evidence-based policymaking hinges on the availability of accurate and comprehensive data, both open data and confidential, privacy protected data. Agencies were mandated to catalog their data assets, thereby fostering an awareness of available resources and facilitating their efficient utilization. Additionally, the statute mandates that directives underscore the importance of proper data governance. Clear data governance frameworks not only enhance data quality and integrity but also promote consistent data sharing practices. By setting standards for data management, these directives aim to ensure that data assets are reliable, accessible, and conducive to evidence generation.

5. Value of Interactions Between Agencies and Data Users: Advancing Evidence-Based Policymaking

The interactions between federal agencies and data users have the potential to hold significant value in the landscape of evidence-based policymaking, transcending conventional boundaries and catalyzing meaningful collaborations. Such engagements may facilitate the alignment of research and policy priorities, enhance data quality through user feedback, and promote collaboration between academia, the private sector, and government entities. As a result, evidence-based policy formulation becomes more responsive, adaptive, and actionable. Some of the benefits are described below.

Engagement with data users bridges the gap between research and policy priorities. Through direct communication, agencies gain insights into the questions and concerns that stakeholders find most pressing. This alignment ensures that evidence is not only academically relevant but also directly applicable to the real-world challenges that policymakers seek to address.

Data users’ perspectives provide a fresh lens through which data quality can be assessed. Users’ feedback helps identify potential anomalies, biases, or gaps in data that might otherwise be overlooked. By addressing these issues, agencies ensure that the evidence generated is more comprehensive, robust, and reflective of the complex realities they aim to capture.

Interactions between agencies and data users foster collaboration across sectors. Academia, the private sector, and government entities can collectively contribute their expertise and resources, leading to the co-creation of evidence. This multidisciplinary approach ensures that evidence reflects diverse viewpoints and is better positioned to inform well-rounded policies.

The insights gathered from data users enable agencies to craft policies that are responsive to changing needs and emerging challenges. This agility is vital in an ever-evolving landscape where effective governance requires swift adaptation to latest information and circumstances. One example of how these connections can be made are demonstrated in a series of podcasts published in HDSR, where top researchers talk about how they used various data sets to further their research and what are the most important messages for the data-producing agencies and other researchers (Potok, 2022). These types of 5-minute podcasts could be models for integrating collaboration-building tools into a search and discovery platform that itself could be integrated into a National Secure Data Service.

The mandate for federal agencies to engage with data users and stakeholders serves as a cornerstone of evidence-based policymaking. These interactions fuel a continuous cycle of learning and improvement, ensuring that the evidence-based policies of tomorrow are rooted in the most rigorous and actionable evidence available. The culmination of the Evidence Act, executive orders, and OMB memoranda signals a significant shift in the trajectory of evidence-based policymaking, laying the foundation for a more informed and effective approach to governance. The implications of this comprehensive framework extend beyond the present moment, shaping the future landscape of evidence-based policy in several impactful ways.

6. Summary and Conclusion: Advancing Governance Through Comprehensive Evidence-Based Policy Implementation

The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (2019), alongside subsequent executive orders and OMB memoranda, stands as a remarkable milestone in the journey toward evidence-informed governance within the U.S. federal government. This comprehensive framework has laid the groundwork for a transformative shift in how policies are formulated, decisions are made, and governance is executed. By integrating historical context, fostering collaboration, and acknowledging the evolving landscape of data management and analytics, this framework holds the promise of reshaping the future of evidence-based policymaking in profound ways.

The journey toward the Evidence Act was built on the foundation of historical initiatives that recognized the need for evidence-based governance. This historical context serves as a testament to the incremental and intentional approach the government has taken to evolve its practices.

Central to the success of the current comprehensive framework is the emphasis on collaboration between federal agencies and data users. This two-way engagement cultivates a richer understanding of the practical needs of stakeholders, enabling agencies to refine their data offerings and ensure evidence meets real-world challenges. By creating an iterative feedback loop, the government not only produces evidence that is of higher quality but also fosters a sense of ownership and shared responsibility among various stakeholders. This collaborative approach signifies a shift from isolated policy development to a collective effort that results in more impactful and relevant solutions. The integration of cutting-edge technologies holds immense potential for generating insights that were previously unattainable. The expansion of open data initiatives further democratizes access to information, allowing citizens and researchers to actively participate in evidence-based discussions.

By embracing evidence-based practices, fostering collaboration, and harnessing the potential of advanced technologies, the government is poised to achieve a future marked by more informed, efficient, and accountable governance. As the landscape of evidence-based policymaking continues to evolve, the government’s commitment to evidence-driven decision-making will play an essential role in addressing complex challenges, shaping effective policies, and securing public trust.


Disclosure Statement

The author’s work on the Democratizing Data Search and Discovery platform was funded by New York University.

The author acknowledges the support of the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) of the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).


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©2024 Nancy Potok. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) International license, except where otherwise indicated with respect to particular material included in the article.

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