WASHINGTON—A new federal panel tasked with improving the government’s use of data in policymaking held its first meeting on Friday. The Evidence-Based Policy Commission is the result of a bipartisan initiative authored by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

The commission brings together leading researchers and social scientists to conduct an inventory of the data the government collects and to determine the best methods for policymakers to make use of that information. Speaker Ryan has touted the commission as integral to a new approach to fighting poverty that emphasizes policies and programs with a track record of success.

“This is not just another commission. It is part of a sea change in how we solve problems,” Speaker Ryan said. "You always hear people in Washington talk about how much money was spent on a program, but you rarely hear whether it actually worked. That has to change. This panel will give us the tools to make better decisions and achieve better results. I’m very pleased that the commission is getting to work, and look forward to its findings.”

Background. The Evidence-Based Policy Commission Act, which became law in March, started with conversations between Speaker Ryan and Senator Murray about ways they could work across the aisle to make government better serve the people.

The commission is charged with reviewing the inventory, infrastructure, and protocols related to data from federal programs and tax expenditures while developing recommendations for increasing the availability and use of this data in support of rigorous program evaluation.

In addition, the commission is required to evaluate the merits of and provide guidance for creating a clearinghouse for program and survey data.

The commission consists of 15 members appointed by the president, the speaker, the Senate majority leader, and the minority leaders in both chambers. Its findings are due to Congress in the next 15 months. Speaker Ryan’s appointees to the commission include Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and Robert Hahn of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford.

Track the commission’s work here.