What role does data play in policymaking?

(Lorraine Chuen) #1

Hello! I’m Lorraine; I work with Michael at Powered by Data as a Communications Lead. I’m excited to be part of this discussion. Today, I wanted to post about something related to our long term vision at Powered by Data: a society where data is being effectively leveraged by organizations and government for public good. One of the ways this is already happening—and that we’re excited about—is through evidence-based policymaking.

Evidence-based policymaking asks: what kinds of social interventions are effective at doing what they’re set out to do? It means policy-makers looking at research and data to better understand how they can improve educational outcomes, reduce crime, or improve population health. A good example in the Canadian context could be the 49 peer-reviewed studies indicating that Vancouver’s safe injection site, InSite, has been an effective intervention to reduce overdose deaths, reduce HIV transmission, and increase referrals to health and addictions treatment.

Of course, the ability to make informed policy decisions from data depends on the availability of relevant data. Policymakers can’t make decisions from a dataset that is fragmented, or one that doesn’t exist. (As an example, most recently I chatted with a friend who works in public health and harm reduction; and he highlighted a particular challenge of acquiring data in public health interventions).

Next week, we’ll be talking about how increased access to government administrative data is a key piece in the move towards evidence-based policymaking. In the meantime, we wanted to share an article we like from the GovLab on how “policy labs” and “data labs”—research think tanks that that let policy makers and data scientists collaborate on government data sets— can help inform policy decisions.