White House Announces Executive Order on Using Behavioral Science Insights

September 2015

On September 15, President Obama called on federal agencies and departments to use “behavioral science insights” to “design government policies to better serve the American people.”

In addition to signing an Executive Order, the president issued new guidance to agencies and released a progress report—all aiming to encourage the use of insights about how people participate in, engage with, and respond to programs to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of federal programs.

The order was informed by the first report of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST), a team of about a dozen behavioral scientists within the National Science and Technology Council. The SBST was established in 2014 to test and apply social and behavioral science interventions to make government programs more efficient and more accessible. The team is chaired by a representative from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. A dozen federal agencies, departments, and White House offices are represented.

The president’s executive order comes at a time when federal funding for social and behavioral sciences is under attack, particularly in the discussion about reauthorizing the National Science Foundation. AERA has worked closely with colleagues to bring attention to the valuable contributions of the social and behavioral sciences.