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Unlocking Data to Improve Public Policy

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Credit: Andrii Orlov

There is a growing consensus among policymakers that bringing high-quality evidence to bear on public policy decisions is essential to supporting the effective and efficient government their constituencies want and need. At the U.S. federal level, this view is reflected in a recent Congressional report by the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, which recommends creating a data infrastructure that enables "a future in which rigorous evidence is created efficiently, as a routine part of government operations, and used to construct effective public policy."4

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This article describes a new approach to data infrastructure for fact-based policy, developed through a partnership between our interdisciplinary organization Research Improving People's Livesa and the State of Rhode Island.13 Together, we constructed RI 360, an anonymized database that integrates administrative records from siloed databases across nearly every Rhode Island state agency. The comprehensive scope of RI 360 has enabled new insights across a wide range of policy areas, and supports ongoing research into improving policies to alleviate poverty and increase economic opportunity for all Rhode Island residents (see the sidebar "Policy Areas in which RI 360 Has Contributed Insights"). Our approach can guide other policymakers and researchers seeking to similarly transform and integrate administrative data to guide and improve policy.


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