Commission for Evidence-Based Policy Releases Report
 
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September 2017

AERA highlights policy recommendations to expand data access, benefit research

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking this month released its
final report detailing legislative priorities and regulatory recommendations for evidence building and data management in the federal government. The bipartisan commission, created through a law co-sponsored by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), developed the report after more than a year of receiving public input from stakeholders and studying best practices.

On September 19, AERA joined close to 120 organizations and individuals in sending joint letters to Congress and the administration urging their support for the commission’s recommendations. AERA’s support and involvement in this endeavor began in March 2016 when the U.S. Senate advanced the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act into law.

“Generating and using evidence to inform government policymaking and program administration is not a partisan issue,” the report reads. “The strategy described in this report offers a non-partisan approach to improving how government staff, private researchers, foundations, non-profits, the business community, and the public interact to make sure government delivers on its promises.”

Among the recommendations in the report were:

  • Creating a National Secure Data Service to coordinate expanded data access for evidence building while continuing to promote data privacy.

  • Reviewing and revising laws in regard to federal data collection to enhance programs and policies through access to data, including repealing current bans and limiting future bans on data collection.

  • Expanding evidence-building efforts by allowing state-collected data to become available in improving federal programs.

  • Maintaining security of confidential data through implementing modern privacy-enhancing technologies.

  • Developing a more efficient process for external researchers to gain approval to access government data not initially made publicly available.

  • Seeking the designation of a senior official in federal departments with responsibility for coordinating access to and stewardship of data and noting that, for departments with statistical agencies, the head should serve that function.
 
House Committee on Oversight
and Government Reform hearing

On September 26, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the commission’s legislative recommendations. Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK), who chaired the meeting, noted, “The information produced in this report will help us strengthen our laws and fulfill our desire for a more efficient, effective, transparent, and accountable government.”

On September 15, Commission Chair Katharine G. Abraham and Co-Chair Ron Haskins discussed the report’s findings at the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (COPAFS) quarterly meeting.   

 
AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine
speaks at the COPAFS quarterly meeting.

AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine and Charles Rothwell, director for the National Center for Health Statistics, served as commentators, with Levine speaking from the perspective of scientific stakeholders.

Rothwell praised the report and noted that the report “is our call to work together.”


“This bipartisan report is a big step forward for advancing evidence-based policymaking,” said Levine. “The overall aims are quite profound—maximizing safe and secure use of administrative data, providing a framework for linking data and enhancing use within a framework of risk assessment, elevating the importance of statistical agency heads and, importantly, calling for legislative enactment of OMB Policy Directive #1 to protect public trust by ensuring that data acquired under a pledge of confidentiality can only be used for statistical purposes.”


“We should embrace this report for making clear the importance and feasibility of building programs and implementing policies based on sound and responsible science,” Levine said. “Thank you to the commission and legislators who spearheaded this bipartisan effort to serve the public good.”


In December 2016, AERA
sent a letter to the commission outlining the association’s guiding principles as the commissioners considered policy recommendations. The commission’s final report satisfied many of the points addressed in the letter through its legislative and regulatory proposals.


For example, Recommendation 2-7 in the report reads:

 

“The President should direct Federal departments that acquire state-collected administrative data to make them available for statistical purposes. Where there is substantial Federal investment in a program, Federal departments should, consistent with applicable law, direct states to provide the data necessary to support evidence building, such as complete administrative data when samples are already provided.”


This policy recommendation is very important as it relates to when a federal investment exists in programs implemented at the state level, Levine said at the COPAFS meeting. This includes federal investments provided by the National Center of Education Statistics in supporting Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems for examining K-12 student outcomes.


As reported in the 
October 2015 issue of AERA Highlights, the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act established a 15-member bipartisan commission to study how best to expand and coordinate the use of federal administrative data to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs. The report is a result of this effort.


To review the full report, click
here.

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