Digital Gov

Implementing evidence-based policymaking

Data analytics 

Almost a year after the passage of the OPEN Government Data Act and the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policy Act, federal agencies continue to grapple with how best to implement requirements mandating they make their data publicly available and accessible. 

One solution, according to the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking Executive Director Shelly Wilkie Martinez, has been to more formally codify the process by which agencies use open data to support their core missions.

"There will be a formal process that all agencies must undertake, with a stakeholder input process, where [agency leaders] will write down the big question when they want to develop evidence," Martinez said at a Nov. 5 event at the Technology Policy Institute. "We'll figure out what approach to take to get those questions addressed and what data are needed to do that. That's going to really reset a lot of conversations because we can use those plans as a basis for setting priorities in a variety of ways such as data collection and budget priorities."

In September, leaders from specialties such as data science and evaluation were invited to attend a multiday plenary session to discuss best practices and learn what the new law required.

"We sent them back to their agencies with their first homework assignment," Martinez said. "They were to set up a data governance board of some kind, something we are requiring of all the agencies in our guidance." The idea is to get people together to work "as a team, trying to figure out the best way to set some priorities for the agencies to meet both the open data requirements as well as the evidence-building requirements around data and evidence," she said.

On budget and funding for implementation, Wilkie Martinez said that agencies had to play catch up because of the lull between when the act took effect in January and when officials were designated to their positions in July. She said she hoped that the budget process would be just one more communications channel that could be regularly reviewed as agencies continue to implement their plans.

"One nice thing about working across all the silos is we're trying to look for how we use all of the different levers" at the Office of Management and Budget, Martinez said. "We have the regulatory process, we have the budget process, and if we can actually start thinking of this as a year-long conversation, I think will actually be … better off than if we just do it once a year."

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at lrussell@fcw.com and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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