On Thursday, April 7th, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the White House Office of Management and Budget hosted a Summit to highlight the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to evidence-based policymaking that incorporates the best-available science, research, and data, and advances scientific integrity.
This first of its kind Summit included nearly five hundred participants, including Federal Government leaders and evidence practitioners, as well as leading experts in developing, translating, and using evidence from academia, the non-profit sector, and State, territorial, Tribal, and local governments, and members of the public.
The Summit focused on two Administration pillars: evidence-based policymaking and equity. Through panel discussions with Federal government leaders and evidence practitioners, and a best-in-class example of “evidence for action” provided by research experts outside of the Federal Government, the Summit showcased how policies shaped by the best-available evidence are critical to keeping the American public safe, healthy, informed, and economically prosperous, and serving it equitably.
The head of OSTP and Deputy Assistant to the President Dr. Alondra Nelson, spoke on the first panel, “Lessons from Crossing Divides: Leadership Panel on Evidence for Action.” During the session, she spotlighted the importance of cultivating a “culture of evidence” throughout the Federal Government.
“A culture of evidence is about asking the right questions and consulting the people who need policy to change the most when developing our evidence and ensuring that it informs policy…” said Dr. Nelson. Referencing the historical Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, she continued: “We have had so much discussion of ‘infrastructure’in the Biden-Harris Administration, so I’ve been thinking quite a lot about building bridges… of the metaphorical kind: we need to build evidence bridges and fill them with two- and three-way traffic flows involving communities, evidence creators, and policymakers. That can be done with program resources, through grants, with a commitment to evidence translation—and also by having more conversations and dialogues like this.”
Speakers on the Leadership Panel also pointed to the importance of building and incorporating a wide array of evidence sources to tackle the Nation’s pressing challenges. Dr. Sabeel Rahman, Senior Counselor in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, commented directly on this issue.
“Government is about solving the most critical, urgent problems that our communities face. And that requires good evidence. But evidence takes lots of different forms. It’s not just what we might conventionally think of as the numbers on a spreadsheet or what comes out of a statistical model, though those are of course important, too,” said Dr. Rahman. “There are so many things that are not easily shoe-horned into a conventional cost-benefit analysis. We really want to make sure we’re thinking about human dignity, equity, the intergenerational effects of climate change, among other considerations.”
Robert Santos, Director of the Census Bureau, also underscored the importance of developing data resources that can support evidence-based policymaking, noting:
“Traditionally, the Census Bureau’s approach has been that we go out and we produce data and make it available. We disseminate it, so that stakeholders can use it as they see fit. But with the Evidence Act, there is a genuine opportunity to flip that model a little bit on its head,” said Mr. Santos. “We at Census and other statistical agencies will continue to do the work of our portfolios as we must. But we must also focus on collecting data that are more relevant to policymakers, to State and local governments, to researchers, and to communities, for their use in evidence-based policymaking…. If the data aren’t useful for creating an evidence base, then evidence-based policymaking can’t occur.”
Building from these principles, the Summit also launched a “Year of Evidence for Action.” During this Year of Evidence, the Biden-Harris Administration will:
- Share leading practices from Federal agencies to generate and use research-backed knowledge to advance better, more equitable outcomes for all of America;
- Strengthen and develop new strategies and structures to promote consistent evidence-based decision-making inside the Federal Government; and
- Increase connection and collaboration among researchers, knowledge producers, and decision makers inside and outside of the Federal Government.
As a centerpiece of this effort, the Administration will co-host a series of events over the course of the Year of Evidence with non-profits and academic organizations to co-develop concrete strategies for mobilizing research-based evidence that can make life healthier, safer, more equitable, and more prosperous for the American public. These organizations have demonstrated expertise in translating research evidence to practice and policy, and include: the Data Foundation; the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative at the Pennsylvania State University; the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at the University of Illinois-Chicago and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability; Pew Charitable Trusts; the Policy Lab at Brown University; Results for America; and the Urban Institute.
More information on the Summit’s speakers and agenda can be found here. More information on ongoing efforts across the Federal Government to advance evidence for action on behalf of the American public, including three new initiatives, can be found in this White House Fact Sheet. These actions build on the President’s directive to Federal agencies to restore trust in Government through scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking.