U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking Releases Report

Approved Unanimously by Fifteen-Member Group


On Sept. 7, 2017, the Commission released The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking, the result of a year's worth of collaborative work. The bipartisan commission was tasked to develop strategies to aid the U.S. government's evidence-building and policymaking, including how to more effectively use data already being collected.

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COSSA (The Consortium of Social Science Associations), of which NCFR is a member, has been covering this commission since its conception.

Here is a summary of details from COSSA related to this report:

On July, 27, 2015, U.S. House of Representatives passes the bipartisan Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015 (H.R. 1831). Introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) with companion legislation introduced in the Senate (S. 991) by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the bill establishes a 15 member commission tasked with studying how best to expand the use of and/or coordinate federal administrative data for use in evaluation of federal programs. The bill was signed into law on March 30, 2016. The first of seven meetings was held July 22, 2016. (More background information from COSSA)

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.

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.

See the Commission's website