Arnold Foundation Launches New Evidence-Based Policy Division

The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, equivalent to CEGA’s domestic counterpart and a leading force working to institutionalize evidence-based policy making, will merge with one of its funders, the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF). Also a funder of BITSS, LJAF will integrate the staff of the Coalition into its newly established Evidence-Based Policy and Innovation division. The mission of the new division will be very similar to the one of the Coalition it is replacing which will close down its operations in the next few days and transition its staff to the LJAF in the coming weeks.

According to a LJAF press release, the evidence-based policy subdivision, that will be led by Jon Baron, the former president of the Coalition, will focus on “strategic investments in rigorous evaluations, collaborations with policy officials to advance evidence-based reforms, and evidence reviews to identify promising and proven programs” (LJAF). The innovation subdivision, to be led by Kathy Stack, former adviser for evidence-based innovation at the White House Office of Management and Budget, “will bring policymakers, researchers, and data experts from the public and private sectors together to strengthen the infrastructure and processes needed to support evidence-based decision making” (LJAF).

As stated in an article by Kiersten Marek of Inside Philanthropy, “based on the excitement expressed for these leaders and the level of government enthusiasm for this project,” the new division comes with a lot of promise. Their work will build on the tremendous momentum the movement for evidence-based policy has already achieved as illustrated by the following examples included in a letter to the Coalition’s board:

  • The Senate gave final Congressional approval to legislation reauthorizing HHS’s [Health and Human Service] $400 million/year evidence-based home visiting program[…];
  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously adopted a bipartisan amendment establishing a new Social Spending Innovation Research (SSIR) program in K-12 education, based on a concept proposed by the Coalition[…]; and
  • [The introduction of] legislation to create a bipartisan Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, whose responsibilities include “mak[ing] recommendations on how best to incorporate outcomes measurement [and] institutionalize randomized controlled trials and rigorous impact analysis into program design.”

The potential impact of these changes is staggering. With research playing an increasingly significant role in important decision making processes, it is essential now, more than ever, that findings are verified to ensure research is not subject to bias or political manipulations. In the words of renowned American Social Scientist, Donald Campbell:

The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.

The flurry of good news for evidence-based policy reaffirms the importance of BITSS and its partners work, and serves as a reminder to the research community that there is both a professional and moral obligation to ensure findings can be verified so that they can reliably inform policy decisions.