Site Launched to Help Evaluate Evidence-Based Decision-Making by Agencies
Published: September 08, 2021
In late August, OMB launched Evaluation.gov to serve as a repository for agency plans and policies related to the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act).
The Evidence Act establishes processes for the federal government to modernize its data management practices, evidence-building functions, and statistical efficiency to inform policy decisions. Signed into law in 2019, the act required agencies to designate a senior employee as an Evaluation Officer to coordinate evidence-building activities for each agency. It also required naming an official with statistical expertise to advise on statistical policy, techniques, and procedures.
According to the act, agencies must submit to OMB and Congress an Annual Evaluation Plan to include:
- Questions for developing evidence to support policymaking.
- Data the agency intends to collect, use, or acquire to facilitate the use of evidence in policymaking.
- Methods and analytical approaches that may be used to develop evidence to support policymaking.
- Challenges to developing evidence to support policymaking.
Additionally, the Evidence Act requires agencies to develop a Learning Agenda, Evaluation Policies, and Capacity Assessments. Learning Agendas, according to Evaluation.gov, “are systematic plans for identifying and addressing priority questions relevant to the programs, policies, and regulations of an agency. They identify, prioritize, and establish strategies to develop evidence to answer important short- and long-term questions.”
Capacity Assessments analyze the coverage, quality, methods, effectiveness, and independence of agency statistics, evaluation, research, and analysis efforts. These assessments are intended to help agencies evaluate their ability and infrastructure to conduct evidence-building activities like foundational fact finding, performance measurement, policy analysis, and program evaluation.
Over the last two years, OMB released three memos providing guidance to agencies for implementing the act:
- July 2019 - Phase 1 Implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018: Leaming Agendas, Personnel, and Planning Guidance
- March 2020 - Phase 4 Implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018: Program Evaluation Standards and Practices
- June 2021 - Evidence-Based Policymaking: Learning Agendas and Annual Evaluation Plans
In early 2020, GSA’s Office of Evaluation Sciences (OES) developed resources to support agency Evaluation Officers and their staff to help define priority questions, plan evaluations and evidence-building activities. Available toolkits include guides for developing learning agendas and annual evaluation plans, as well as workbooks and samples for both.
The new Evaluation.gov site will serve as a central location for agency plans and policies to guide evaluation efforts across the federal government. Currently the site contains the following:
- A list of the Evaluation Officers from each agency
- The role of the Evaluation Officer Council and the Interagency Council on Evaluation Policy (ICEP)
- Provides a repository for Agency Evidence Plans – including Learning Agendas, Capacity Assessments and Annual Evaluation Plans.
According to the site, all agency Learning Agendas and Capacity Assessments are slated for release in February 2022. The availability of Annual Evaluation Plans varies by agency. Some agencies have Annual Evaluation Plans for FY 2022 and/or prior years and others plan to publish their first Annual Evaluation Plan in February 2022. Agencies with published Evaluation Plans for FY 2022 include Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, HHS, Treasury, NRC, OPM, SBA, SSA, and USAID.
The act also required agencies to establish Evaluation Policies. Agencies with published Evaluation Policies accessible via Evalution.gov include Education, HHS, HUD, Labor, State, Treasury, GSA, NASA, NSF, NRC, OPM, SBA, SSA, and USAID.
As agencies continue to implement the Evidence Act and move toward evidence-based decision-making, they will likely require IT contractor support to beef up IT infrastructure for data storage, retrieval, and management. Agencies may also require additional big data and analytics solutions, and professional services in the area of data science.