Credible evidence is necessary for effective government, and credible evidence comes from quality data collection, storage, and analysis. That is the central theme of a report issued this morning by the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, on which Professor Bob Hahn, faculty member at the University of Oxford and member of the Technology Policy Institute’s Board of Academic Advisors, recently completed service.
The Commission was charged with studying the current state of data infrastructure, inventory, and security in the context of Federal policymaking. Its final report offered recommendations to improve the evidence building process, with particular emphasis on data linkages, privacy, transparency and institutional capacity.
In order for policymakers to adequately address the challenges of the day, they require quality evidence about how programs and policies are functioning. The Commission’s report noted that the current system of evidence building falls short of meeting this need: access to data is limited, privacy protections are inadequate, and the institutional capacity to produce evidence is insufficient.
The Commission’s recommendations for improving access and privacy protections include:
- Establishing a National Secure Data Service to facilitate access to data protected by modern technologies and privacy criteria, and subject to ongoing, comprehensive risk assessments.
- Develop and codify a process through which external researchers may apply for access to data.
- Update Federal laws governing data collection and use to promote access and protect privacy.
- Streamline the administrative processes associated with evidence building. Identify and connect chief evaluation officers across organizations, determine what information is valuable, and conduct analyses using relevant or related data.
Make available financial and administrative resources for these projects.
As policymakers continue to look to evidence to inform their policy positions, the Federal government must concern itself with the integrity of the data and analysis upon which it was built. In this pursuit, data privacy, secure linkages, and institutional capacity will be vital to success.