Today marks an important milestone in the implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (“Evidence Act”) as Federal Agencies post their Learning Agendas, FY23 Annual Evaluation Plans, and Capacity Assessments. These plans will be used to guide agencies’ evidence-building efforts over the coming years as they undertake the activities needed to address their highest priority questions.
These documents reflect a multi-year process of collaboration among agency leadership, staff, and other stakeholders to identify learning questions and key evaluations and evidence-building activities in support of strategic goals and objectives. Led by agency Evaluation Officers, the process itself has been instrumental to building the culture of evidence that the Administration called for in the Presidential Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking and the subsequent OMB Memorandum M-21-27: Evidence-Based Policymaking: Learning Agendas and Annual Evaluation Plans. In many ways, the discussions, exchanges, brainstorming, and exploration carried out by agencies to inform these documents are even more meaningful and significant than the final products. By bringing diverse voices to the table to identify the most pressing gaps in evidence and the priority opportunities for addressing them, these conversations have built the relationships and connections that will ensure the use of evidence for decision making.
In addition to guiding agencies’ own evidence activities, these plans serve as a transparent signal to outside partners about the priority questions that agencies seek to answer. We know that Government cannot do this alone, and seeing the activities included in these plans come to fruition will require external partners. We hope that members of the public, research community, and others will take this opportunity to think about ways that their own efforts can align with and support agencies’ needs. The Federal Government is excited about this opportunity to bring new partners to the table to work with us to build evidence in service of our nation’s toughest challenges. Opportunities abound to engage with and support the generation of critical evidence that will inform future policy and programmatic decisions.
Now that the plans are public, you may be wondering, what’s in them? Where is evidence most needed? Which agencies are working to improve the evidence base that inform decisions in areas that align with your work? The questions in agencies’ Learning Agendas reflect the full breadth of the Federal Government, covering processes like agency operations, grantmaking, human capital management and development, and program administration, as well as mission strategic priorities, like program and service delivery. Topics range from supporting underserved communities to addressing the climate crisis to building a strong economy to ensuring the Federal workforce is positioned to take on current and future challenges. At the same time, they call attention to areas of common focus that highlight opportunities for cross-agency learning and collaboration, including the approaches to advancing equity and the need for evidence to inform responses to future public health emergencies.
Even as we celebrate the publication of these plans, OMB has been clear that this is an important step in a much longer process, and that these documents should be living, iterative, and put into action. Plans are of no use if they sit on shelves collecting dust. Now is the time for us to collectively pivot from planning to action, to begin building evidence where it is most needed and to ensure that the results from these efforts are used to inform policy and decision-making.
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