The Case for Evidence in Government – Doug Criscitello

Doug Criscitello, Executive Director of MIT’s Center for Finance and Policy

Doug Criscitello, Executive Director of MIT’s Center for Finance and Policy

From Government Executive

Although the U.S. government presides over what collectively must be one of the world’s largest data repositories, its capacity to use that data to build citizen trust and make informed, evidence-based decisions is severely constrained. As explained in an enlightening report recently issued by the bipartisan Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP), the mere existence of data is a necessary but not sufficient condition for creating empirical evidence to inform decisions throughout the full lifecycle of public programs—enactment, funding, operation, reform, termination.

The digitization of many facets of various activities the government funds through its $4 trillion annual budget has resulted in a data explosion at federal agencies. But that data needs to be synthesized into actionable information to satisfy taxpayers’ demands for better results and greater transparency. The CEP report makes clear that much remains to be done to achieve that goal and provides a comprehensive plan to improve access to federal data, strengthen privacy protections and expand the public, private and academic research communities’ capacity to analyze data.

CEP provides an insightful list of recommendations such as establishing a National Secure Data Service to enable and leverage capabilities across government, addressing statutory impediments that obstruct smart data use, and streamlining processes used to grant researchers access to data. The report appropriately emphasizes strong privacy protections and advocates for comprehensive risk assessments for publicly released data and for the use of better technology and greater coordination across government. To prioritize efficient evidence building, CEP points out the need to coordinate statistical activities, evaluation and policy research within and between departments and across levels of government.

Read More »

Is this the new class every student should take? – Dimitris Bertsimas

MIT Sloan Prof. Dimitris Bertsimas

From eSchool News

With the high-school graduation season over, it’s time for grads and parents alike to celebrate and relax a bit – and maybe enjoy a long summer before recently minted graduates start college or a new job.

But here is something to contemplate (hopefully not too strenuously) over the coming summer weeks and months: What is the next learning step in the graduate’s preparation for a future career?

Whether a recent graduate plans to study 18th Century English literature in college or jump right into the workforce in any number of jobs, I have a one-word suggestion for them: Data.

Specifically, start learning about the analysis of data.

As seemingly odd as that might sound – perhaps even odder than the elder gentleman who recommends “plastics” to the young Dustin Hoffman character in the classic movie “The Graduate” – the simple fact is that our lives and careers, moving forward, will be increasingly influenced and determined by data analytics in just about every field, from what consumer products we buy to the type of medical treatments our doctors prescribe.

The data analytics era is already here. We see it every time we surf the web and those same pesky advertisements keep following us around, from site to site, no matter how much we try to lose them. Those ads are the result of data-analytic computations by Google and others designed to specifically figure out, mathematically, our consumer interests based on past purchases and web browsing histories.

Read More »