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GAO Reforms to Expand Science and Technology Activities Offer Promise

Washington, D.C.– Congress needs better support to engage in evidence-based policymaking, and the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) announcement this week to increasingly focus on science and technology policy is a promising start.

“As science, technology, and data capabilities evolve in our society, Congress must be positioned to rapidly receive timely, high-quality, non-partisan advice for deploying the best strategies for the American people,” Nick Hart, director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Evidence Project, said.

“GAO’s reforms offer a valuable opportunity for Congress to engage in oversight of agencies implementing the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, a new law that will revolutionize government’s data analysis and evidence generating capabilities,” he said.

Last year BPC research on congressional capacity for evidence-based policymaking identified numerous opportunities for improvement, including expanding the capabilities of existing legislative support agencies like GAO and ensuring that expertise is available in Congress to connect researchers to congressional staff. GAO’s new Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics group seizes on these opportunities.

“Congress needs capacity to capitalize on emerging approaches for ensuring sensitive data about the American public are protected. If policymakers are unable to identify and promote privacy-preserving technologies adequately, public support for evidence-based policymaking could be jeopardized,” Hart said.

In spring 2019, BPC will release the results of a demonstration project on a new privacy-preserving technology that has major implications for both government and private sector data analytics.