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Evidence-based governments make most of programs and budgets

January 22, 2021

A year into the pandemic, state governments are facing a collective budget cut of at least $6 billion as residents are leaning into public leaders for public health and economic stability.

To maximize benefits from public-sector investments, a results-driven strategy prioritizes analysis of key indicators from data — not all data — to determine if decisions and operations will meet goals.

Data and data quality are undoubtedly important. However, more data without insight can compromise a decision-maker’s level of confidence. A laser-focus on a fewer but significant metrics may be counterintuitive. The ability to get information that directly correlates to short- and long-term results under conditions of limited funding and personnel is critical.

With current and sharp cuts, operating budgets may never return to pre-COVID levels. Cross-department support and collaboration can determine common and complementary data sources. Then each data sharing partner clearly define particular parameters to stay on track toward achievements and continual improvement. Collaboration is a significant factor as a single database of record for open channel flow monitoring data can support forecast flooding, stormwater management, and hydropower scheduling.

Results-driven operations can be accomplished without redundant expenses.

Ongoing evaluation is based on principles of capacity, collaboration, effectiveness and efficiency. Each organization will determine for itself if these principles have different weights. Nonetheless, as data storage capacity is increasingly affordable and quality control protocol is becoming more automated, scrutiny of the right data elements for effectiveness and efficiency will take precedence.

KISTERS environmental data management systems enable agencies to strategically maintain an inventory of, rigorously analyze, and share data to evaluate environmental protection and environmental quality programs. The commercial software includes an array of analytical tools and dashboards to enhance tracking of program results. User administration settings facilitate cross-department collaboration within organizations that monitor weather impacts on droughts, floods and fires.


Since the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017, utilization of data to drive better federal program results and cost-effectiveness has been catalyzed by the Bush and Obama administrations. The establishment of best practices for the use, protection, dissemination and generation of data as well as the promotion of data sharing agreements among agencies are fundamental to tracking performance and outcomes.

Under the Biden administration, as the Federal Data Strategy is developing (and will maintain) a comprehensive data inventory for all government data assets, the issue of analytics capacity building and potential federal funding for resources and training may follow within a few years.