Agencies gain ‘momentum’ appointing Evidence Act leadership

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Government has seen “momentum” around evidence-based policymaking at agencies, the majority having placed senior officials in charge of advancing data-driven decision making, according to the Evidence Team lead at the Office of Management and Budget.

All agencies submitted their interim learning agendas, first annual evaluation plans and interim capacity assessments in September, as mandated by OMB guidance stemming from the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, said Diana Epstein.

More than two years after the passage of the Evidence Act, relatively few agencies lack the leadership needed to implement its requirements.

“For the most part agencies have named their designated officials: the evaluation officers, the statistical officials and the chief data officers,” Epstein said, during a Data Foundation event Thursday. “The councils for each of these officials have been meeting regularly, and we’ve had some great cross-council collaboration.”

The Evaluation Officer Council meets monthly and works regularly with the Federal CDO Council and Performance Improvement Council. Meanwhile, Epstein’s team and the Office of Evaluation Sciences within the General Services Administration hold a monthly Evaluation and Evidence Training Series for hundreds of federal employees. The Interagency Council on Evaluation Policy was also rebooted and expanded.

OMB provided detailed feedback on agencies’ draft documents, and some have already published their evaluation plans on their websites as required.

“The last thing we want is for this to be yet another compliance or reporting exercise where agencies just put in minimal effort, check the boxes and nothing really changes,” Epstein said.

Agencies are expected to submit their first full learning agendas — identifying priority questions about programs, policies and regulations that can be answered with data — and capacity assessments as part of their strategic plans next fall. That’s on top of their fiscal 2023 evaluation plans. 

The Biden administration recently reaffirmed government’s commitment to evidence-based policymaking with its Memo on Restoring Trust in Government, which will see OMB release additional guidance in the coming months.

“We still have a long way to go,” Epstein said. “But it’s very exciting to see all the progress that we’re making collectively.”

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Biden administration, data, Data Foundation, Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, General Services Administration (GSA), Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
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