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LEARN > Evidence Act Hub > Blueprints for Learning: A Synthesis of Federal Evidence-Building Plans under the Evidence Act

Blueprints for Learning: A Synthesis of Federal Evidence-Building Plans under the Evidence Act

Download Blueprint for Learning Report


The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (Evidence Act) required the creation of learning agendas for the largest federal agencies. These agendas outline how agencies will identify and answer priority questions through data and evidence-building activities. The Data Foundation undertook an analysis of the agendas to understand how they were developed and plans for implementation as part of the 5-Year milestone of the Evidence Act.

The analysis reveals both progress and areas for improvement in the development and use of learning agendas. All but one large agency produced a publicly-available learning agenda, demonstrating a significant initial effort. However, several challenges were identified:

  • Limited detail on execution and use: Many learning agendas lacked specifics on how the identified priority questions would be addressed or how the evidence generated would be used.

  • Variation in quality: Agencies diverged in the comprehensiveness and clarity of their agendas, with some providing more detailed plans than others.

  • Resource constraints: The analysis suggests that a lack of dedicated resources may be hindering some agencies' capacity to fully implement their learning agendas.

The report offers five key recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of learning agendas:

  1. Practice continuous improvement: Agencies need to identify clear plans for use of the learning agendas. Learning agendas should be used regularly, reviewed at a minimum annually, and evaluated and adjusted more frequently to reflect developing trends and issues that agencies face.

  2. Strengthen analysis of evidence capacity: Agencies need to conduct further analysis as part of the evidence capacity assessments to calibrate varying needs identified in the agency learning agendas.

  3. Build appropriate capacity: Agencies must ensure sufficient capacity exists to support learning agenda prioritization, including development and use.

  4. Facilitate collaboration: Agencies should meaningfully collaborate internally and externally to ensure that key perspectives are heard and incorporated into the learning agenda development process.

  5. Community support for the agendas: Agencies should foster and encourage collaborative approaches for the development and use of the learning agendas, including through professional associations, non-profits, academics, and key stakeholder communities.

While there is room for improvement, the initial development of learning agendas represents a positive step towards evidence-informed policymaking within federal agencies. Implementing the recommendations outlined in this report can help unlock the full potential of learning agendas to enhance the use of data and evidence for informing critical government decisions.

Download Blueprint for learning Report


The Data Foundation thanks the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its generous support which helped fund this work. The authors thank Tomasz Kupiec and Zuzanna Popis of EGO for their work on the qualitative analysis.  


This paper is a product of the Data Foundation, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The findings and conclusions do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Data Foundation, its funders and sponsors, or its board of directors.

This paper was partially drafted and edited with support from enhanced writing tools. The qualitative assessment was supported by generative AI for selected thematic synthesis. This paper is updated from an initial undesigned version available in April 2024.

© 2024 Data Foundation. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation

Hart, N., S. Stefanik, C. Murrell, and K. Olejniczak. (2024). Blueprints for Learning: A Synthesis of Federal Evidence-Building Plans Under the Evidence Act. Washington, D.C.: Data Foundation.



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