Commission led by UMD Professor Makes Recommendations to President, Congress

On Thursday, September 7, the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking released its final report to the President and members of Congress on how the government can make better use of data it already collects to improve the way federal programs operate. House Speaker Paul Ryan accepted the report from Commission Chair Dr. Katharine G. Abraham in a ceremony on Capitol Hill.

Created in March of 2016, the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking was charged with developing a strategy to increase the availability and use of data in order to build evidence about government programs, while protecting privacy and confidentiality. President Barack Obama appointed Dr. Abraham, Professor of Economics and Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland, as the commission’s chair.

In its 149-page report, “The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking,” the commission outlines the greatest problems facing evidence building today: data access is limited, privacy-protecting practices are inadequate; and the capacity to generate the evidence needed to support policy decisions is insufficient.

As a result, the commission recommended the federal government take several key steps, including:

  • Establish a National Secure Data Service that will improve the government’s capacity to use the data it currently collects while ensuring privacy and transparency about how the data are used;
  • Modernize privacy protections for evidence building by adopting emerging technologies, requiring comprehensive risk assessments, streamlining policies and assigning senior officials the responsibility for stewarding data within government departments; and
  • Strengthen federal evidence-building capacity by identifying a Chief Evaluation Officer and aligning administrative processes in each department to improve coordination of government-wide evidence-building efforts.

The commission’s full report can be accessed here

“Generating and using evidence to inform policy is not a partisan issue,” Dr. Abraham said. “The commission’s report represents a non-partisan approach to improving how government staff, private researchers, foundations, non-profits, the business community and the public interact to ensure the government delivers on its promises.”

Speaker Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) co-authored the legislation that established the commission and pledged to turn the committee’s recommendations into action.

“We will now be working with our colleagues in the House and Senate on legislation to do this—to improve access to data, improve privacy, and help expand our capacity to improve programs,” said Speaker Ryan. “That is what this is all about: it’s about changing our approach so we can actually change the status quo, and improve people’s lives.” 

Dr. Abraham was also asked to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the commission report on September 12. Over the next few months, she and commission co-chair Ron Haskins will meet with numerous interested groups to talk about the commission's findings and recommendations.

Dr. Abraham first joined the University of Maryland faculty in 1987. She was appointed by President William J. Clinton to serve as Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 1993 through 2001, and served as a member of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2011 through 2013. She is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and an elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association and of the Society of Labor Economists. Dr. Abraham is also the current Director of the Maryland Center for Economics and Policy.

Dr. Katharine Abraham (far left) with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Capitol Hill.