Congress: Getting Serious about Evaluation?

The US Congress is not a very popular institution, and the list of its neglected policy work is pretty long.   As a program evaluator, I’ve been disappointed in the longstanding lack of interest and support for serious program evaluations and assessments.  I’m old enough to remember when Congressional committees dug deep into the issues, and groups like the sadly lost Office of Technology Assessment did excellent in-house policy research.  So, I’m very pleased with a newly-introduced bill:  HR 4174, the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017.   The proposal has high-level bipartisan sponsors in House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), and it contains a lot of good ideas.   It builds on the ideas of a bipartisan White House Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, convened late in the Obama Administration.   Among other things, the bill would push agencies to build evaluation into all new programs, and provide adequate funding to support this work.   It would also improve researchers’ access to data and allow better cross-agency sharing of information.  These are all excellent and sensible ideas that shouldn’t be partisan.  After all, all sides want to know if new or existing programs really work.   I’m pleased to see this bill introduced and encourage you to advocate for its passage.