W.T. Grant Foundation Launches Blog Series on Research Evidence and Federal Policy

Thursday, October 29, 2015
W.T. Grant Foundation Launches Blog Series on Research Evidence and Federal Policy
New York, NY - What role should research evidence play in public policy decisions? Does evidence improve policymaking and program development? Is knowledge that a program or practice worked elsewhere useful for local implementation?
Evidence at the Crossroads is a new blog series, edited by the William T. Grant Foundation, that focuses on the federal government’s efforts to build and use research evidence to improve social programs. In posts over the coming weeks, researchers, policymakers, and advocates will examine what we’ve learned from federal initiatives that allocate public dollars for evidence-based social programs. In addition to taking stock of these efforts, contributors will outline the key issues that policymakers will have to tackle as they debate the future of evidence-based policy.
For nearly two decades, the federal government has focused on building research evidence on federally funded social programs and targeting investments toward those programs with strong evidence of effectiveness. This focus, which promotes the use of randomized controlled trials (RCT) to evaluate program impacts, has come to embody the “What Works” agenda.
Incentives for programs that demonstrate effectiveness through rigorous evaluation methods are vast. Since 2008, the federal government has invested over six billion dollars in grantmaking initiatives that prioritize What Works evidence in funding decisions. In “tiered evidence” initiatives, for instance, programs that demonstrate positive impacts by RCTs are eligible for the most funding, while relatively untested programs with emerging evidence are eligible for lesser awards. As evaluation evidence on the major tiered evidence initiatives will be released in the next year, and as we await a new Congress and administration, now is the time to examine these initiatives and the What Works agenda.
Vivian Tseng, Vice President of Program at the William T. Grant Foundation, kicked off the series today with a post that identifies and provides context for salient issues Congress and the next administration will have to weigh as they determine the future of evidence-based policy: “We start with the premise that research evidence can improve public policies and programs, but fulfilling that potential will require honest assessments of current initiatives, coming to terms with outsized expectations, identifying supports to optimize the benefits of research, and learning ways to improve.” 
Federal tiered-evidence initiatives include the Investing in Innovation Program, Social Innovation Fund, Evidence-based Home Visitation program, Evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, Workforce Innovation Fund, Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program, and the First in the World Initiative.
“Now is the best time to take stock of these initiatives if we are to learn from the programs’ successes and failures. We don’t want to lose momentum. We need to ensure that future initiatives better meet the needs of states, localities, and practitioners,” said Vivian Tseng.
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