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Strengthening Federal Data Infrastructure

Experts present ideas aimed at making it easier for the government to use data as part of the policymaking process.

Paul Ryan and Patty Murray

At the federal level, there is a bipartisan movement to incorporate data and evidence into decisions. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) established the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking to increase the availability and use of data in order to build evidence about government programs, while protecting privacy and confidentiality. This year, roughly 20 LJAF-funded experts, in addition to Foundation staff, testified before or met with the Commission. They presented ideas aimed at making it easier for the government to use data as part of the policymaking process.

We also helped fund proof-of-concept projects to demonstrate how public- and private-sector data can be linked securely among organizations, agencies, and levels of government using privacy-protecting technology to ensure that no personal data is disclosed. For example, our grant to New York University (NYU) helped support the development of a secure, low-cost digital platform and a workshop series that is teaching government employees how to link state and local data across programs to tackle challenges in criminal justice and social services.

In September, the Commission released a report that incorporates a number of recommendations from our team and our grantees. These include appointing chief evaluation officers to federal agencies and creating a National Secure Data Service that would enable researchers to better access data to study the impact of government spending in health care, education, housing, labor markets, and other sectors of the economy.

A network of our grantees, including the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Urban Institute, and Results for America, is now working to help policymakers implement the Commission’s recommendations. The group is providing technical assistance focused on expanding access to information, enhancing data privacy protections, and making it easier for agencies to evaluate their programs. It is also helping agencies within the federal government partner with each other and with states to build channels for linking and sharing data in order to better understand the ways that people use public programs and to evaluate how well those programs work.

This story is part of the 2017 Annual Report See Report