Blog Archives

OMB Evidence Act-Mandated Guidance on Program Evaluation Standards and Practices

As part of its ongoing work to implement the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (Evidence Act) (see COSSA’s previous coverage), the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released guidance on evaluation standards to guide agencies in developing and implementing evaluation activities, evaluation policies, and in hiring and retaining qualified staff, as well as examples of best practices for agencies to emulate. OMB plans to release further guidance on how agencies should use evidence to more effectively deliver on their missions. The standards for evidence-building identified and elaborated on in the guidance are relevance and utility, rigor, independence and objectivity, transparency, and ethics. The guidance also identifies the following ten practices for agencies to consider as they undertake evaluation and evidence-building activities:

  1. Build and Maintain Evaluation Capacity
  2. Use Expert Consultation Effectively
  3. Establish, Implement, and Widely Disseminate an Agency Evaluation Policy
  4. Pre-Specify Evaluation Design and Methods
  5. Engage Key Stakeholders Meaningfully
  6. Plan Dissemination Strategically
  7. Take Steps to Ensure Ethical Treatment of Participants
  8. Foster and Steward Data Management for Evaluation
  9. Make Evaluation Data Available for Secondary Use
  10. Establish and Uphold Policies and Procedures to Protect Independence and Objectivity

More information can be found in OMB’s guidance.

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Posted in Issue 6 (March 17), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

White House Finalizes 2020 Data Strategy Action Plan

The White House has released its final 2020 Action Plan for the Federal Data Strategy (see COSSA’s previous coverage). The Federal Data Strategy, which is being coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is a “ten-year vision for how the Federal government will accelerate the use of data to support the foundations of democracy, deliver on mission, serve the public, and steward resources while protecting security, privacy and confidentiality.” The Strategy consists of 10 principles and 40 best practices to guide federal agencies on how to leverage the value of their data.

The next phase in the Strategy’s implementation is its first-year Action Plan, which details concrete steps to align existing efforts and establish a firm basis of tools, processes, and capacities to leverage data as a strategic asset. The action plan also incorporates several mandated actions from the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, which was signed into law in 2019. A draft plan was released over the summer and the final version was revised in response to feedback received (see the detailed description of changes made).

The steps planned for 2020 are organized into three categories—actions to be taken by agencies, actions to be taken by a specific agency or group of agencies related to a common topic, and government-wide data services and pilot projects.

Agency Actions

  • Action 1: Identify Data Needs to Answer Priority Agency Questions
  • Action 2: Institutionalize Agency Data Governance
  • Action 3: Assess Data and Related Infrastructure Maturity
  • Action 4: Identify Opportunities to Increase Staff Data Skills
  • Action 5: Identify Priority Data Assets for Agency Open Data Plans
  • Action 6: Publish and Update Data Inventories

Community of Practice Actions

  • Action 7: Launch a Federal Chief Data Officer Council
  • Action 8: Improve Data and Model Resources for AI Research and Development
  • Action 9: Improve Financial Management Data Standards
  • Action 10: Integrate Geospatial Data Practices into the Federal Data Enterprise

Shared Solution Actions

  • Action 11: Develop a Repository of Federal Enterprise Data Resources
  • Action 12: Create an OMB Federal Data Policy Committee
  • Action 13: Develop a Curated Data Skills Catalog
  • Action 14: Develop a Data Ethics Framework
  • Action 15: Develop a Data Protection Toolkit
  • Action 16: Pilot a One-stop Standard Research Application
  • Action 17: Pilot an Automated Tool for Information Collection Reviews that Supports Data Inventory Creation and Updates
  • Action 18: Pilot Enhanced Data Management Tool for Federal Agencies
  • Action 19: Develop Data Quality Measuring and Reporting Guidance
  • Action 20: Develop a Data Standards Repository

The Strategy outlines a series of milestones, measurements, target dates, and responsible entities for each action. The full action plan is available on the data strategy website. COSSA will continue to report on the activities related to the Data Strategy as the actions are implemented and the next year’s action plan is developed.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

ICPSR Launches Pilot Tool to Streamline Access to Restricted Federal Data

In December, ICPSR at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research released a new tool to simplify the application process for accessing restricted microdata from principal statistical agencies. ResearchDataGov gives researchers access to a single portal and a standard application to access restricted data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census Bureau, National Center for Health Statistics, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. More federal data sources are expected to be added as the pilot moves forward.

The project is supported by funding from the Census Bureau under the direction of the White House Office of Management and Budget. It was created thanks to a requirement in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, which required that the government simplify the application process for external researchers to access federal data (see COSSA’s previous coverage). More details can be found on the ICSPSR website.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 7), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

House Science Committee Holds Hearing on Improving Science and Technology Advice for Congress

On December 5, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) held a hearing to discuss options in improving the advice-giving infrastructure available to Members of Congress on science and technology issues. Members discussed recommendations from a recent National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) report on Science and Technology Policy Assessment as well as the possibility of reinstating the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which was dismantled in 1995. Witnesses present at the hearing included Director of Civil-Military Programs at the Stennis Center for Public Service Michael McCord, Director of the Technology and Public Purpose Project in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Laura Manley, Chief Scientist and Managing Director of Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics in the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Dr. Tim Persons, and Executive Director of the Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Dr. Peter Blair.

Committee Members questioned the witnesses on the findings of the NAPA report, the merits of reinstating OTA, technology assessment activities occurring at GAO, and other issues. While Members of both parties expressed interest in strengthening the quality of knowledge and tools available to Congress, the two parties disagreed on the method. Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and other Democrats supported a multi-lateral approach including reinstating and refunding OTA while Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) and other Republicans favored a consolidation of technology assessment into GAO along with other recommendations listed in the NAPA report.

The House Legislative Branch Appropriations report for FY 2020 includes $6 million for the re-establishment of OTA. However, the Senate version does not include this funding which makes the reinstatement of OTA unlikely to become law. A recording of the hearing and a statement from Chairwoman Johnson can be found on the SST website and the full NAPA report can be found on the NAPA website.

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Posted in Issue 24 (December 10), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

New Advisory Committee on Evidence Building Seeking Nominations

The Department of Commerce is accepting nominations for a new Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building, established by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (see COSSA’s coverage) and in accordance with the Federal Data Strategy.  The Committee is authorized for two years and is tasked with assisting the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in carrying out its statutorily-mandated responsibilities related to evidence-building, “evaluating and providing recommendations to the OMB Director on how to facilitate data sharing, enable data linkage, and develop privacy enhancing techniques;” and “reviewing the coordination of data sharing or availability for evidence building across all agencies.”  The Committee will be chaired by the Chief Statistician of the United States, who will appoint members of the Committee from federal agencies. In addition, at least 10 members will be appointed from the non-federal stakeholder community, who will have expertise in transparency policy, privacy policy, statistical data use, information management, and information technology, as well as at least one member from the research and evaluation community. Nominations must be submitted by December 4, 2019. More details on the Committee and how to nominate members is available in the Federal Register notice.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 12), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

OMB Releases First Set of Evidence Act Guidance

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued the first set of guidance related to implementing the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (or Evidence Act), legislation that builds on the recommendations of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking to formalize the use of data and evidence in informing the everyday work of federal agencies. The guidance provides detailed information for federal agencies on developing Learning Agendas, which identify the agency’s priority questions to be informed by evidence; sets out the requirements and responsibilities for the senior roles mandated by the legislation—Chief Data Officer, Evaluation Officer, and Statistical Official; and provides direction on creating evaluation plans, undertaking capacity assessments, and identifying data needs. The full guidance is available online. OMB will release additional Evidence Act guidance covering open data access and management, data access for statistical purposes, and program evaluation in the coming months.

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Posted in Issue 15 (July 23), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Comments Sought on Federal Data Strategy Action Plan

The White House is seeking public comment on its Draft 2019-2020 Federal Data Strategy Action Plan. The Federal Data Strategy, which is being coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is a “ten-year vision for how the Federal government will accelerate the use of data to support the foundations of democracy, deliver on mission, serve the public, and steward resources while protecting security, privacy and confidentiality.” The Strategy consists of 10 principles, and 40 best practices to guide federal agencies on how to leverage the value of their data. The next phase in the Strategy’s implementation is the development of a first-year Action Plan, which details concrete steps to align existing efforts and establish a firm basis of tools, processes, and capacities to leverage data as a strategic asset. The action plan also incorporates several mandated actions from the recently-passed Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018.

The proposed actions are:

Shared Actions: Government-wide Data Services

  • Action 1: Create an OMB Data Council
  • Action 2: Develop a Curated Data Science Training and Credentialing Catalog
  • Action 3: Develop a Data Ethics Framework
  • Action 4: Develop a Data Protection Toolkit
  • Action 5: Develop a Repository of Federal Data Strategy Resources and Tools
  • Action 6: Pilot a One-stop Standard Research Application
  • Action 7: Pilot an Automated Inventory Tool for Data.gov
  • Action 8: Pilot Standard Data Catalogs for Data.gov

Community Actions: Cross-Agency Collaboration

  • Action 9: Improve Data Resources for AI Research and Development
  • Action 10: Improve Financial Management Data Standards
  • Action 11: Improve Geospatial Data Standards

Agency-Specific Actions: Agency Activities

  • Action 12: Constitute a Diverse Data Governance Body
  • Action 13: Assess Data and Related Infrastructure Maturity
  • Action 14: Identify Opportunities to Increase Staff Data Skills
  • Action 15: Identify Data Needs to Answer Key Agency Questions
  • Action 16: Identify Priority Datasets for Agency Open Data Plans

Comments are sought on whether the proposed actions accurately describe the needed activities, if any actions should be added or removed, and on what resources would be needed to implement the actions. Comments should be submitted by July 5, 2019. Full details are available on the Federal Data Strategy Website.

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Posted in Issue 12 (June 11), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

COSSA to Honor Leaders in Evidence-Based Policymaking with 2019 Awards

COSSA will recognize two sets of champions of the evidence-based policymaking movement with its 2019 awards (read the full press release). COSSA’s 2019 Distinguished Service Award will be presented to Katharine Abraham and Ron Haskins, whose leadership of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking helped catalyze efforts across federal agencies to integrate science- and evidence-based decision-making into the everyday work of government. COSSA will also present its first-ever Public Impact Award to The Lab @ DC, a team of social scientists working within the District of Columbia government to use scientific methods and insights to test and improve District policies and programs. Members of the COSSA community are invited to attend the presentation of the awards at COSSA’s annual Celebration of Social Science Reception on April 30, 2019, which is part of COSSA’s 2019 Social Science Advocacy Day festivities. RSVP for the reception here.

The COSSA Distinguished Service Award recognizes leaders who have gone above and beyond to promote, protect, and advance the social and behavioral science research enterprise. The newly established COSSA Public Impact Award seeks to celebrate ways individuals or organizations are using social and behavioral science research to achieve notable improvements in communities. Awardees are chosen by the COSSA Board of Directors, which represents COSSA’s governing member associations. More information about the awards is available on COSSA’s website.

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Posted in Issue 8 (April 16), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

NIH Seeks Input on the Need for an Administrative Data Enclave

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) on the potential development of a secure data enclave within the NIH using existing funds. This enclave would allow approved research organizations to access sensitive non-public NIH information such as information on peer review outcomes, grant progress reports, and demographic information of NIH grant applicants. NIH approval would be required for researchers to access the data. The NIH is seeking information about this proposed data enclave including examples of research that is currently not pursuable without such access, whether the benefits of a data enclave are worth the opportunity cost of the necessary NIH funds, preferences about accessing a data enclave virtually or in a designated physical location, quantity of “seats” of researchers given access to the data enclave, examples of high level data protection procedures, and examples of potential research outputs from a data enclave. NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research Mike Lauer published a blog post discussing the RFI in greater detail. Responses can be submitted here by May 30, 2019.

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Posted in Issue 5 (March 5), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

The Research-to-Policy Collaboration Answers “Why Social Science?”

why-social-scienceThe latest Why Social Science? guest post comes from Taylor Scott and Max Crowley of the Research-to-Policy Collaboration (RPC), who write about how the RPC is connecting social scientists and government officials to enhance the use of research in policymaking. Read it here and subscribe.

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Posted in Issue 3 (February 5), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

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