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LEARN > Evidence Act Hub > 5 Years of Evidence Commission: Progress Report on Building an Evidence-informed Society

5 Years of Evidence Commission: Progress Report on Building an Evidence-informed Society

A Progress Report on the Promise for a More Evidence-Informed Society
Executive Summary

In 2017, the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (Evidence Commission) issued a report to Congress and the President with 22 recommendations. Those recommendations focused on improving access to data, enhancing privacy protections, and capacity for evidence-informed policymaking, all building toward a vision for generating and using data as a routine activity in society. Over the past five years, Congress and the Executive Branch have collectively taken action on the majority of these recommendations through three key implementation vehicles: the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, the National Secure Data Service Act, and the Federal Data Strategy. In addition, many agencies are taking steps to implement the vision of the Evidence Commission suggesting substantial progress overall in fulfilling the commission’s recommendations. In reviewing progress on implementation of the Evidence Commission’s 22 recommendations, there are five clear effects to date of this effort on the evidence and data communities:

  1. The emergence of new thinking about an existing evidence system has a tremendous positive effect. The new approach aligns cooperation across disciplinary and organizational siloes, including coordination across what is increasingly viewed as a collaborative “evidence ecosystem.”

  2. Shifting from dichotomous to risk-based data protection approaches strengthen privacy capabilities and data access frameworks. Should not be underestimated. Traditional data protection approaches are improving to align with emerging understanding of the need for integrating risk models that account for benefits of sharing and using data, enabling realistic discussions about the value of data in society and the meaningful protections that can be deployed to protect information. The benefits of this shift should not be understated.

  3. New leadership roles benefit capacity and momentum. Chief data officers, evaluation officers, and statistical officials are improving coordination across the data and evidence ecosystem.

  4. Implementation delays resulting from the lack of capacity have effects government-wide. Despite new capacity in agencies, capacity gaps for central coordination pose challenges for system-wide implementation of the Evidence Act and other frameworks used for accomplishing the Evidence Commission’s vision.

  5. Resources are vital to the success of the evidence ecosystem, and sorely needed. Resources for all aspects of the data life-cycle and for the people to support this work are clearly needed.

As the Evidence Commission celebrates its five-year anniversary, this is an opportunity to recognize there are clear areas for growth. These recommendations provide practical next steps for the evidence community:

  1. Prioritize the Recommendations, Best Practices, and Use Cases from the Federal Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building. Established by the Evidence Act, the advisory committee will issue recommendations in October 2022 about implementation of the data service. The evidence community can take action to support the recommendations by participating in the release, reading the report, sharing with their respective agencies and organizations, and then calling on the OMB Director to ensure those recommendations are implemented.

  2. Encourage Publication of Guidance and Draft Regulations from the Evidence Act. Multiple regulations and provisions from the Evidence Act are without implementation guidance needed for agencies to begin taking action. The evidence community can call on the OMB Director to issue these guidance and regulatory actions as soon as possible to ensure implementation of the Evidence Act continues to proceed without further delay.

  3. Facilitate Dialogue and Build Procedures within Agencies to Develop Proposals on Unaddressed Recommendations. Several of the Evidence Commission’s recommendations that require legal changes have not yet been addressed. The evidence community can collaborate to develop draft legislative text on key provisions and call on OMB and agencies to develop proposals in the FY 2024 Budget for consideration.

  4. Identify Resource Gaps and Request Additional Resources and Capacity to Address Needs. Agency officials in new leadership roles continue to report gaps in funding and general operating capacity to support basic mission and duty expectations related to the Evidence Act. The evidence community can call on political leaders to align resource needs with agency evidence-building capacity assessments or the minimum funding expectations for each agency identified by the Congressional Budget Office when the Evidence Act passed in 2017.

In the five years since the Evidence Commission issued its final report to Congress and the President, much has changed to advance evidence-informed policymaking in the United States. Yet, there is still much room for continued progress in the years ahead.


This paper is a product of the Data Foundation. The findings and conclusions expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Data Foundation, its funders and sponsors, or its board of directors.



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