Big Data for public policy: the quadruple helix

Julia Lane in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management: “Data from the federal statistical system, particularly the Census Bureau, have long been a key resource for public policy. Although most of those data have been collected through purposive surveys, there have been enormous strides in the use of administrative records on business (Jarmin & Miranda, 2002), jobs (Abowd, Halti- wanger, & Lane, 2004), and individuals (Wagner & Layne, 2014). Those strides are now becoming institutionalized. The President has allocated $10 million to an Administrative Records Clearing House in his FY2016 budget. Congress is considering a bill to use administrative records, entitled the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act, sponsored by Patty Murray and Paul Ryan. In addition, the Census Bureau has established a Center for “Big Data.” In my view, these steps represent important strides for public policy, but they are only part of the story. Public policy researchers must look beyond the federal statistical system and make use of the vast resources now available for research and evaluation.

All politics is local; “Big Data” now mean that policy analysis can increasingly be local. Modern empirical policy should be grounded in data provided by a network of city/university data centers. Public policy schools should partner with scholars in the emerging field of data science to train the next generation of policy researchers in the thoughtful use of the new types of data; the apparent secular decline in the applications to public policy schools is coincident with the emergence of data science as a field of study in its own right. The role of national statistical agencies should be fundamentally rethought—and reformulated to one of four necessary strands in the data infrastructure; that of providing benchmarks, confidentiality protections, and national statistics….(More)”