A bill urging evidence-based policy-making is receiving support from both sides of aisle.

Despite the strident division currently wracking Congress, the bill introduced by Republican Speaker Paul Ryan and Democrat Patty Murray already sailed through the House on November 15. The companion bill in the Senate is still in committee but it is expected to have few problems.

The bill proposes that federal government collect and analyze more data about its programs and operations in order to become more effective and efficient in delivering services to citizens. A secondary purpose of the bill is to smooth the path towards a more comprehensive review of government programs. The bill will also improve citizen access to government data while assuaging security and privacy concerns.

According to The Hill:

Major elements of the House-passed bill include:

*Requiring for federal agencies to submit an annual evidence-building plan for consolidation into a single, government-wide plan by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

*Appointing or designating a Chief Evaluation Officer in every agency

*Establishing a government-wide advisory committee on evidence-based policymaking and an interagency council on evaluation policy led by OMB.

Paul Decker, president of Mathematica Policy Research, praised evidence-based policy making: “Evidence-based policymaking isn’t just an approach that holds great potential, it is part of our government’s promise to us as a good steward of our collective resources—to invest in what works and fix what doesn’t.”

Decker warns:

…evidence-based policy-making is only possible if we commit to improving access to data, maintaining privacy and confidentiality protections, and investing in the resources and leadership necessary to increase the capacity of the federal government and its partners to generate evidence.

When researchers and others have difficulty accessing these data, or face antiquated restrictions on their use, the value of these resources are greatly diminished. When citizens fear their personal information may be used for nefarious purposes, it further erodes their trust in government. And if conducting thoughtful evaluations of the solutions to our nation’s biggest problems continues to be an afterthought in the policy process, a rounding error in most program budgets, or a luxury available only to the programs with the most funding, the promise of evidence-based policy-making will surely go unfulfilled.

Critics of the bill, however, pointed out some areas where the bill falls short of satisfactory. Most prominent of these faults is that the bill will not cover independent regulatory agencies like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). These agencies will not be compelled to follow evidence-based policy-making even though researches have shown that these agencies have even less tangible justifications to support their programs.

Among the bill’s other provisions is the establishment of a National Secure Data Service which would oversee privacy and transparency protocols and serve as a secure conduit that would remove personal identifiers from government data.