Harris Public Policy Prof. Meyer on the Release of the Report of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking

Twenty-first century democracy rests on a foundation of informed public decision-making, and making effective policy decisions requires access and analysis of public data while respecting the confidentiality concerns of our citizens. By making vitally needed information available to researchers and policy analysts, we can improve our understanding of where government succeeds and where it does not – and develop smart new policies that are based on sound data and analysis. 

Many parts of our government already are working to expand data-driven policymaking.  The proposals in this report are intended to support those efforts and to encourage the use of data both to reform programs that can be improved and to eliminate those that cannot be made to work.

Our proposals would make data access dependent on its value to the general public, rather than limiting access based on the more narrow interests of the single agency that may have captured the data. Given that the federal government already collects mountains of data in the administration of its programs, expanding the availability of such data for research would increase efficiency by reducing the need to ask multiple redundant questions in government surveys.  Increasing data access would further improve statistical accuracy and would support the growing body of high-quality research that relies on data collected by government programs. 

In this report, the Commission also provides thoughtful and pragmatic proposals to enhance the transparency of data access and research while improving privacy protections for survey and program participants.  

This Commission grew out of an initial idea that a group of us developed more than three years ago. We are indebted to Speaker Ryan and Senator Murray for sponsoring the Commission’s enabling legislation, and we are very proud of the work done by all 15 commissioners and staff over the past 15 months.

I am thrilled by the release of this report, and I hope that legislation and administrative actions will soon follow to implement these timely and potentially transformative recommendations.

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