The Federal government’s Chief Data Officer (CDO) Council has made measurable progress over the past two years in helping strengthen the government’s use of data-based evidence in policymaking, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The CDO Council – established by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 – has taken a range of actions intended to strengthen Federal evidence-building activities. The law established the Council as an entity within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and it receives administrative support from the General Services Administration.

GAO’s analysis also found that the “Council has taken one or more actions related to each of its five statutory requirements, which outline how to contribute to Federal efforts to generate and use evidence.”

Actions taken by the Council include:

  • Releasing a toolkit to help agencies develop training programs that improve the skills of staff involved in evidence-building activities;
  • Establishing a fellowship program to offer professional development for Federal data-related jobs;
  • Offering a data-training workshop; and
  • Working with OMB and the Office of Personnel Management to streamline the data scientist hiring processes.

GAO also found that the Council helped agencies develop data inventories that make their data accessible to the public while ensuring sensitive data are protected, and created tools and processes to make data sharing between agencies more efficient.

In addition, the Council is required to evaluate tech solutions for data collection and use. To do so, the Council evaluated how agencies could use data visualization technologies, according to the GAO report.

These actions came after GAO recommended that the CDO Council implement fully formed plans and performance management activities for meeting its statutory requirements because the lack of such plans could limit continued progress.

The Council agreed with GAO’s recommendation and in August 2022 provided an updated planning document to the agency that identified how the Council’s goals and planned activities now support each requirement, along with related performance measures.

“Moving forward, these tools will provide the Council with performance information it can use to assess progress and ensure it sufficiently addresses each requirement before its authorization expires in December 2024,” the GAO report stated.

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.