Evidence-Based Policymaking

The term evidence-based policymaking has many different facets. The recent bipartisan Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking defined it as the application of evidence to inform decisions in government. This simple definition, however, raises difficult questions: what types of activities are included in the application of evidence, what counts as evidence, how rigorous should evidence be, who is included in the decision-making process, and what the best methods to inform decision-making are.

The Forum seeks to inform policymakers of potential answers to these questions. Through our work organizing the Cross-Agency Learning Community on Federal Investments in Research and Evaluation as well as our more recent work writing the report Managing for Success: Strengthening the Federal Infrastructure for Evidence-Based Policymaking, the Forum is ideally placed to support policymakers in their efforts to build and ultimately use evidence in the policymaking process.



The Forum views the following key principles as vital for expanding the use of evidence:

·       Integrate multiple types of evidence into decision-making – data, statistics, performance improvement, evaluation, and social and behavioral sciences often have their own silos in government. There is one infrastructure for statistics and a separate infrastructure for evaluation, for example. Evidence-based policymaking works best when multiple types of evidence are created, collected, and presented to policymakers as a coherent, integrated package.

·       Elevate evaluation – the infrastructure supporting evaluation lags behind the infrastructure for other types of evidence like statistics or data. Policymakers should work to close this gap by elevating the use and status of evaluations in government by creating or increasing the prominence of new positions to lead this work, formalizing practices in laws and statutes, and setting aside more funding for evaluations.

·       Use revenue-neutral approaches to scale the use of evidence – policymakers should either: (1) shift funding from programs that evidence suggests do not work to programs that evidence suggests do work for the same population and issue area or (2) spend the exact same amount of money on the exact same program and use evidence to encourage or require changes to the program that will make it more efficient and effective. These approaches avoid large increases in funding that are infeasible given the current budget and ensure that decreases in funding do not tamper enthusiasm for evidence-based policy in general.

·       Advance evidence-based practices – practices are a key part of evidence use as well. In addition to ‘brand-name’ proven programs, policymakers can also promote practices (generic types of interventions, and even particular elements and staff practices) to scale the use of evidence. Policymakers need to look inside the ‘black box’ of programs and find the core practices that truly make that program effective if they really want to scale what works. Focusing on practices can support local innovation, ensure flexibility, and drive improvement. Programs, in contrast, can lead to implementation challenges, a lack of local buy-in, and low sustainability.

·       Focus on the science of youth readiness – too many young people move through adolescence and into adulthood without the abilities, skillsets and mindsets they need to manage life’s opportunities and challenges. The past decade has brought a growing sense of urgency and attention to the issues of readiness and equity. Readiness is the dynamic combination of being prepared for and willing to take advantage of life’s opportunities while managing its challenges. The Forum remains committed to promoting the science of youth readiness across all policy areas. For more information please look here.


Our work in evidence-based policymaking now includes:

·       Publications (reports, issue briefs, and blogs) on topics related to evidence-based policymaking

·       Webinars on topics related to evidence-based policymaking

·       Convenings designed to support the use of evidence among policymakers, particularly federal career staff

·       Consultations to discuss and analyze potential ways to further the use of evidence in policymaking.