Blog Archives

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)

February’s Headlines Webchat to Feature a Deep Dive on Evidence-Based Policymaking

headlines bannerCOSSA members are encouraged to sign up for the monthly Headlines webchat on February 14 at 2:00 pm Eastern, in which COSSA staff will recap the most important social and behavioral science news from the past month and answer participants’ questions. The February chat will feature a deep dive discussion on the recently-passed Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 with special guest Nick Hart, Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Evidence Project. Individuals employed by or affiliated with a COSSA member organization or university can register for the webchat here.

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

Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act Becomes Law

On January 14, President Trump signed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 into law. Championed by former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the legislation represents a bipartisan recognition of the importance of science and data in helping to design and improve policies (see COSSA’s previous coverage for more details on the legislation). After the bill was signed, COSSA released a statement applauding the legislation. We will continue to report on details of the bill’s implementation as they become available.

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Posted in Issue 2 (January 22), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

Evidence-Based Policymaking Bill Awaiting President’s Signature

After languishing in the Senate for over a year, the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (H.R. 4174) was passed by both chambers in the last days of 2018 and is currently awaiting the President’s signature. The President has until January 14 to sign the bill into law. The legislation, which is intended to be a “down-payment” enacting some of the less complicated (and less controversial) recommendations of the report from the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (see COSSA’s coverage and statement), contains some minor changes from the version passed by the House in November 2017 but generally conforms to the recommendations of the Commission. It contains four titles: (I) enhancing federal evidence-building activities; (II) enacting the OPEN Government Data Act introduced by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI); (III) reauthorizing and enhancing the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA); and (IV) general provisions to ensure that the directions in the bill comport with existing laws and requirements. The Bipartisan Policy Center has published a summary of the Act and a crosswalk between its provisions and the recommendations of the Commission.

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Posted in Issue 1 (January 8), Update, Volume 38 (2019)

White House Seeks Input on New Government Effectiveness Research Center

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently issued a request for information (RFI) to inform the establishment of a new Government Effectiveness and Advanced Research (GEAR) Center. The GEAR Center was proposed in the White House’s plan to reorganize the federal government, Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century, released in June (see COSSA’s analysis for details). The Center was described as a public-private partnership that would “engage researchers, academics, non-profits, and private industry from disciplines ranging from behavioral economics, to computer science, to design thinking to use creative, data-driven, and interdisciplinary approaches to re-imagine and realize new possibilities in how citizens and Government interact.”

The RFI is seeking recommendations and models to emulate related to the mission, structure, funding, and early focus areas for the new center, as well as information on how existing federal data resources can be used to support its work. A full list of questions is available here. Responses are requested by September 15, 2018.

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Posted in Issue 17 (September 4), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

Event Highlights State Evidence-Based Policymaking

On July 24, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) hosted an event entitled “How States Use Data and Evidence for Policymaking: Current Trends and Future Opportunities.” The event began with a fireside chat between Nick Hart, Director of the Evidence-Based Policymaking Initiative at BPC, and Sara Dube, Director of the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative at the Pew Research Center, who defined evidence-based policymaking (EBP) as “the systematic use of findings from program evaluations and outcome analyses to guide government policy and funding decisions.” Much of the conversation revolved around a report from Pew, “How States Engage in Evidence-Based Policymaking.” The report found that successful EBP efforts include four characteristics: (1) engaging decision makers, (2) building champions for evidence-building, (3) developing staff capacity, and (4) creating mechanisms for effective and continued use.

A panel moderated by Kira Fatherree, Senior Policy Analyst at BPC, highlighted several examples of state- and city-level evidence-based policymaking and discussed the challenges of implementing it. Jessica Corvinus, Research and Evidence-Based Policy Manager at the Colorado Office of State Planning and Budgeting, went over the work the Colorado Governor’s Office has been doing to increase the use of EBP since 2014. Eric W. Trupin, Director of the Division of Public Behavioral Health and Justice Policy at the University of Washington, discussed his work on incorporating evidence in the field of juvenile detention and youth recidivism. David Yokum, Director of The Lab @ DC, explained that a big hurdle in implementing evidence-based policymaking is that most states and cities don’t have the means to collect survey data themselves, and the data that is available to them is often not in a format that is easily used. Overall, the speakers agreed that the best way to normalize and increase use of evidence-based policymaking is to build a culture where it is expected and where policy that isn’t evidence-based is not accepted.

This article was contributed by COSSA’s summer intern, Catherine Cox of the University of Michigan.

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Posted in Issue 16 (August 7), Update, Volume 37 (2018)

House and Senate Release Bipartisan Evidence-Based Policymaking Bill

On November 1, members of the House and Senate introduced the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, the “down-payment” legislation that would enact some of the less complicated (and less controversial) recommendations of the report from the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (see COSSA’s coverage and statement). The bill was introduced in the House by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) as H.R. 4174 and cosponsored by Representatives Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Trey Gowdy (R-SC), and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and in the Senate by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) as S. 2046 and cosponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform unanimously approved the House version of the bill on November 2, and the bill is scheduled for consideration by the full chamber on Wednesday, November 15. While the Senate Committee with jurisdiction over the bill (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs) has not yet scheduled a markup of the Senate’s bill, Speaker Ryan is reportedly keen to see the legislation enacted by the end of the year, so the bill in the Senate could be attached to “must-pass” legislation, like an appropriations bill. COSSA has joined more than 100 organizations and leaders in a letter in support of the bill. Speaker Ryan and Sen. Murray had also pledged to introduce additional legislation to implement some of the more complex recommendations of the Commission, perhaps next year, although that likely depends on the success of the bill introduced this month.

The bill makes progress towards implementing 13 of the Commission’s recommendations, across the three major themes of the Commission’s report: strengthening privacy protections, improving access to data, and enhancing the government’s evidence-building capacity. Highlights include codifying Statistical Policy Directive #1 (which defines the responsibilities of principal statistical agencies as producers of relevant, timely and objective data while protecting the trust and confidentiality of data providers), mandating that agencies create evidence-building plans, establishing the roles of Chief Evaluation Officers and Chief Data Officers, strengthening the coordinating role of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and establishing a uniform process for outside researchers to apply for access to restricted federal data. The bill would also begin the process of examining the feasibility of the National Secure Data Service proposed by the Commission by establishing an Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building. The bill also incorporates a version of the OPEN Government Data Act (H.R. 1770/S. 760), introduced by Rep. Kilmer and Sen. Schatz, which would require that federal agencies make their data public and accessible by default (unless there were compelling reasons not to) and create inventories of federal data.

The Bipartisan Policy Center, which is housing the ongoing activities of the Commission, has published a thorough summary of the bill and cross-referenced the Commission’s recommendations with the provisions in the legislation.

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Posted in Issue 22 (November 14), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

CNSTAT Issues Report on Federal Statistics, Multiple Data Sources, and Privacy Protection

The Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently issued a consensus report entitled Federal Statistics, Multiple Data Sources, and Privacy Protection: Next Steps. The report was produced by the Panel on Improving Federal Statistics for Policy and Social Science Research Using Multiple Data Sources and State-of-the-Art Estimation Methods, chaired by Robert Groves of Georgetown University. The Panel’s first report, Innovations in Federal Statistics: Combining Data Sources While Protecting Privacy, was published in January 2017, and described some of the challenges currently facing the federal statistical system’s current paradigm of heavy reliance on sample surveys and recommended a new approach of combining different kinds of federal and private data, as well as the creation of an entity to facilitate that. Federal Statistics, Multiple Data Sources, and Privacy Protection builds on the first report and examines statistical methods for combining diverse types of data, the implications relying on multiple data sources may have for IT systems, different statistical and computer science approaches to enhancing privacy protections, how to ensure the quality and utility of statistics produced using multiple data sources, and ways to implement the “new entity” that would facilitate combining data sources. The pre-publication version of the report is available on the National Academies’ website.

There is quite a bit of overlap in the areas addressed by the CNSTAT panel and those addressed by the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, which released its report in September (see COSSA’s coverage the Commission)—in fact, Panel Chair Robert Groves served on the Commission as well. However, while the resulting reports from the two groups are hopefully complementary, their work was conducted independent of one another.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 31), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

COSSA Praises Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking Report

On October 11, COSSA issued a statement on the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking’s final report, released in September (see COSSA’s summary of the report’s recommendations). The statement reads:

“COSSA applauds the work of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and commends its open, thorough process in producing its final report, The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking. The report represents the beginning of what we hope will be an ongoing, nonpartisan discussion on how the federal government can incentivize decision-making based on sound science while ensuring the careful stewardship of confidential information. The Commission’s recommendations demonstrate that expanding the use of evidence and data collection for policymaking purposes is not incompatible with enhancing privacy protections and transparency.

“COSSA thanks the Commissioners and their staff for their hard work, as well as Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray both for their foresight in authoring the Commission’s establishing legislation and their ongoing commitment to removing barriers to generating and using evidence to build strong public policy. While the recommendations in the report are an important start, many details on how to implement the vision set forth by the Commission remain to be determined. COSSA looks forward to working with its partners in Congress and at federal agencies on legislation and policy changes to ensure that the work of the Commission is brought to fruition.”

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Posted in Issue 19 (October 3), Update, Volume 36 (2017)

Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking Releases Final Report

On September 7, the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) released its final report, The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking. The Commission was established by the bipartisan Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016, which had been introduced by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) in the House and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) in the Senate. The Commission consisted of 15 members appointed by the President, Speaker of the House, House Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader, with five members being selected for their privacy expertise. Katharine G. Abraham, University of Maryland, chaired the Commission, with Ron Haskins, Brookings Institution, as her co-chair. The CEP was given a little over a year to develop a strategy for strengthening the government’s evidence-building and policymaking efforts, including identifying ways to more effectively use the data the government already collects. The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking is the culmination of these efforts and was approved unanimously by all 15 commissioners. COSSA’s previous coverage of the Commission can be found here.

Recommendations for Enhancing Evidence-Based Policymaking

The report makes 22 recommendations, falling into four broad categories: (1) Improving Secure, Private, and Confidential Data Access; (2) Enhancing Privacy Protections for Evidence Building; (3) Modernizing America’s Data Infrastructure for Accountability and Privacy; and (4) Strengthening Federal Evidence-Building Capacity. One of the cornerstone recommendations is the establishment of a National Secure Data Service, which would be “charged with facilitating access and ensuring protection of data for evidence-building.” The Service would not be a clearinghouse or warehouse that stores federal data, but would instead facilitate temporary data linkages for discrete, approved projects and ensure that strict privacy standards are adhered to.

Other recommendations aim to build evidence-building and evaluation into the routine operations of federal agencies. These include requiring federal departments to appoint a Chief Evaluation Officer, directing departments and agencies to develop “learning agendas” that identify evidence-building priorities, directing the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to coordinate evidence-building and evaluation activities across the government, streamlining the approval process for data collection, and ensuring that departments and agencies are given sufficient resources for evidence-building.

The report also recommends:

  • Allowing statistical uses of survey and administrative data and repealing bans on collection and use of data for evidence-building
  • Facilitating access to state-collected data for evidence-building purposes, in particular quarterly earnings data
  • Establishing centralized, streamlined processes for granting approved outside researchers access to government data
  • Requiring federal agencies to conduct risk assessments before releasing data publicly

Next Steps

The Commission’s original legislative sponsors, Speaker Ryan and Sen. Murray, joined the Commissioners at a release event for the report at the Capitol on Thursday. Both lawmakers praised the work of the Commission and the final report and pledged to introduce legislation to enact some of the report’s recommendations. Speaker Ryan called the report a “phenomenal piece of work” and said that he would continue to work with Sen. Murray on bills “to improve access to data, improve privacy, and help expand our capacity to improve programs.” Sen. Murray likewise called the report “fantastic” and said, “We are working on legislation—and hope to introduce it soon—to turn several of the nearly two dozen recommendations into law and lay down a foundation for even more work to come.”

As for the Commission itself, the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center has announced that it will take on the future activities of the Commission as its new Evidence-Based Policymaking Initiative. Abraham and Haskins will retain their leadership roles as chair and co-chair, and the Commission’s policy and research director will move to the Bipartisan Policy Center to direct the new initiative. Detailed information on exactly what the future activities of this Initiative will entail are not yet available, however.

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Posted in Issue 18 (September 19), Update, Volume 36 (2017)


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