Robert Shea, principal at Grant Thornton Public Sector, discusses why the latest piece of open data legislation was a long time coming and the important changes it makes.
The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act was signed into law on Monday. One of the bill’s most important aspects are its open data provisions. Equally as important are the act’s guidance and requirements for using data in decision-making. Robert Shea, principal at Grant Thornton Public Sector, was a member of the commission that informed the final bill. Shea says that the bill’s guidance surrounding chief data officers was incredibly important. “If you asked for a convening of the chief data officers across government, you might not know who to call. You might have a room filled with half empty seats,” Shea told Government Matters. This requires agencies to anoint those people, it enumerates their responsibilities, and it requires that they collaborate on best practices so they can adopted across government.” Shea said that implementing the data policy changes will take a while, but that it will eventually result in progress for the government. “It will take years. The model for evidence-based policymaking is in the Department of Labor. They have a chief evaluation officer who coordinates the learning agenda with program leads. They are obviously way ahead. Many other agencies will have to follow in their wake and adapt this to their own cultures. It’ll be several years before we really see the impact of it. But, hope springs eternal. You really can’t have a measurable impact if we are focusing policymaking on things that work and not on things that don’t,” Shea said.