Frequently Asked Questions
Questions about the site
Agencies publish their Learning Agendas and Capacity Assessments as part of their strategic plans. The first publication of these documents will be February 2022. The FY 2023 Annual Evaluation Plans will also be published at that time. Evaluation.gov will be updated to provide active links to these agency documents.
The agency pages on this site include links to offices where evaluations and related activities take place. Visit those sites to learn more about the evaluation activities underway within those agencies.
To request updates or provide new information about your agency that you would like added to site, please email the OMB Evidence Team at firstname.lastname@example.org. For corrections, broken links, or other technical concerns, please email email@example.com.
Questions about the Evaluation Officer Council
The Evaluation Officer Council is comprised of the Evaluation Officers designated by the 24 CFO Act agencies. It was established in OMB M-19-23 as a forum for Evaluation Officers to exchange information, consult with and advise OMB on issues that affect evaluation functions (e.g., evaluator competencies, program evaluation best practices, and evaluation capacity-building), coordinate and collaborate on areas of common interest, and serve in a leadership role for the broader Federal evaluation community.
The full scope of responsibilities of Evaluation Officers are determined by each agency. Among other responsibilities, the Evaluation Officer coordinates activities with agency officials necessary to: (1) continually assess the coverage, quality, methods, consistency, effectiveness, independence, and balance of the portfolio of evaluations, policy research, and ongoing evaluation activities of the agency; (2) assess agency capacity to support the development and use of evaluation; (3) establish and implement an agency evaluation policy; and (4) coordinate, develop, and implement the agency evidence-building plan (Learning Agenda) and Annual Evaluation Plan. Appendix C of OMB M-19-23 outlines the full scope of qualifications and responsibilities of Evaluation Officers.
Questions about the Evidence Act
The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act ("Evidence Act") provides a statutory framework to advance a vision for a nation that relies on evidence and data to make decisions at all levels of government. To do so, it calls on agencies to strategically plan and organize evidence-building, data management, and data access functions to ensure an integrated and direct connection to evidence needs. It emphasizes collaboration and coordination to advance data and evidence-building in the Federal Government by establishing processes to modernize evidence-building functions, data management practices, and statistical efficiency to inform policy decisions. The Evidence Act establishes critical leadership positions and activities to facilitate a culture of evidence. Fundamental to this task are effective processes to strategically plan for evidence building, including using the Learning Agenda (evidence-building plan) and Annual Evaluation Plans as tools to do so.
In 2017, the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking issued a bipartisan report for ensuring that rigorous evidence is created efficiently and as a routine part of government operations that can, in turn, be used to construct effective public policy. As part of that report, the Commission unanimously approved 22 recommendations to improve data access, strengthen privacy protections, and enhance government’s capacity for evidence building.
The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (the “Evidence Act”) was introduced by former House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senator Patty Murray of Washington after the release of the Commission’s report in September 2017, and was signed into law on January 14, 2019. It addresses 11 of the Commission’s 22 recommendations.
Title I requires agencies to, among other activities, develop multi-year Learning Agendas (evidence-building plans) and a Capacity Assessment as part of the agency strategic plan, develop Annual Evaluation Plans, create an agency evaluation policy, and designate an Evaluation Officer.
The 24 CFO Act agencies are required to implement these requirements; however, all agencies, including non-CFO Act agencies, as well as sub-components such as bureaus and sub-agencies are encouraged to undertake these activities to the extent practicable. The Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act of 1990 is a United States federal law intended to improve the government's financial management, outlining standards of financial performance and disclosure. Those 24 agencies include:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Defense
- Department of Education
- Department of Energy
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Homeland Security
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Department of Interior
- Department of Justice
- Department of Labor
- Department of State
- Department of Transportation
- Department of Treasury
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- Environmental Protection Agency
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Agency for International Development
- Social Security Administration
- General Services Administration
- National Science Foundation
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission
- Office of Personnel Management
- Small Business Administration
You can learn more about the Evidence Act on our resources page.
Questions about the evidence planning documents required by the Evidence Act
Learning agendas, or evidence-building plans, provide an evidence-building roadmap to support effective and efficient agency functioning. They identify, prioritize, and establish strategies to develop evidence to answer important short- and long-term strategic questions (i.e., questions about how the agency meets its mission(s), including about how programs, policies, and regulations function) and operational questions (i.e., questions about the agency's operations like human resources, grant-making procedures, financial systems and tracking, and internal processes).
Whereas a Learning Agenda is a multi-year plan to identify and address priority questions relevant to the programs, policies, and regulations of the agency, the Annual Evaluation Plan describes “significant” evaluation activities that the agency intends to undertake in the fiscal year indicated. While a Learning Agenda may include all types of evidence-building activities, the Annual Evaluation Plan includes only evaluation activities.
Through the Capacity Assessment, agencies are required to assess the coverage, quality, methods, effectiveness, and independence of an agency’s statistics, evaluation, research, and analysis efforts. Essentially, it looks at the agency’s ability to build and use evidence.
Questions about Evidence-Building and Use
Agencies must determine which types of evidence are needed to answer their specific questions, and use appropriate methodological approaches that match those questions. Evaluation is best suited to answer questions of effectiveness or efficiency. Existing OMB guidance (OMB M-20-12 and OMB Circular No. A-11) describes different types of evaluation (i.e., impact, outcome, process/implementation, and formative), discusses when they should be used, and provides potential research questions that each type of evaluation can answer.
Agencies should consider a range of evidence types. OMB M-19-23 defines four different types of evidence:
- Foundational Fact Finding: Foundational research and analysis such as aggregate indicators, exploratory studies, descriptive statistics, and basic research.
- Performance Measurement: Ongoing, systematic tracking of information relevant to policies, strategies, programs, projects, goals/objectives, and/or activities.
- Policy Analysis: Analysis of data, such as general purpose survey or program-specific administrative data, to generate and inform policy, e.g., estimating regulatory impacts and other relevant effects.
- Evaluation: Systematic analysis of a program, policy, organization, or component of these to assess effectiveness and efficiency.
Source: OMB M-19-23