A new report from the Data Foundation is evaluating Federal agencies’ abilities to implement the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act (Evidence Act), and makes eight recommendations to better implement the law’s evaluation provisions. Top among those asks are requests for more agency funding and personnel resources to properly implement the law.

The report’s results are based on a survey issued to Federal agencies, bureaus, and operating divisions about their roles related to the Evidence Act by the Data Foundation in partnership with the American Evaluation Association.

“While the goal of the law’s evaluation provisions is to enhance existing culture in federal agencies to produce and use evaluation, the requirements of the law focus on the people and processes to support capacity building,” the survey states. “With guidance issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget in mid-2021, many federal agencies beyond those legally required to advance evaluation practices are also building capacity.”

Key findings in the survey include:

  • Budget and personnel size to support evaluation vary greatly;
  • Implementing Evidence Act evaluation provisions is progressing collaboratively;
  • Evaluation officials are experienced and clear about their roles;
  • Evaluation officials are better positioned to support mission than prior to Evidence Act;
  • Use of evaluation results is lagging in many agencies; and
  • Evaluation officials need more resources and support for Evidence Act implementation;

“Federal evaluation officials indicate they are optimistic about the road ahead for the next year,” the report states. “With that optimism, the evaluation community, policymakers, and agency senior leaders must lend their support, encouragement, and enthusiasm for the evaluation endeavor to ensure that evaluative thinking is pervasive, evaluation practice is accepted, and evaluation use is expected throughout the Federal government.”

Based on survey results, the Data Foundation made eight recommendations for key opportunities to support evaluation functions, including:

  1. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and agencies should request increased resources and funding flexibility in the President’s Budget request for specific evaluations and evaluation capacity, including personnel;
  2. OMB and the Office of Personnel Management should accelerate efforts in issuing guidance on evaluation workforce and occupational series;
  3. Agency heads should ensure evaluation officers are full-time positions;
  4. Senior agency leaders should empower evaluation officials to conduct educational and training initiatives about evaluation;
  5. Agency leaders should establish clear expectations about when and how evaluation will be used in decision-making processes;
  6. Congressional committees and staff should periodically contact evaluation officers for updates on agency learning agendas and evaluation plans;
  7. Congress should appropriate funds for evaluation capacity and products; and
  8. Evaluation officials should join to proactively promote implementing the Evidence Act, advocate for increased resources dedicated to evaluation, and support evaluation use among Federal decision makers.
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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.