Policy analysis plays a critical role in connecting research with policy by contextualizing evidence to inform specific policy decisions. A widespread lack of transparency in how these analyses are conducted and shared, however, leaves ample room for misinformation and “alternative facts” to influence policy debates. Policy reports tend to be judged more on the basis of reputation or ideology than on analytical quality, providing little incentive for analysts to make their methods and assumptions transparent. As a result, analyses using the same data often report wildly different estimates, and do not disclose the underlying assumptions and materials. This obfuscation often makes it impossible to assess their credibility, allowing for different parties to cherry-pick their own facts.
In the last decade, the growing use of open science practices like data and code sharing has helped improve the transparency and reproducibility of scientific research, which has experienced its own “credibility crisis.” Open Policy Analysis (OPA) translates these practices for policy analysis. In addition to reducing the spread of misinformation in policy debates, OPA facilitates the improvement and reuse of existing and recurring analyses. It also strengthens connections between science and policy by making clear where and how research findings are used to generate specific results in a policy analysis.
We develop and test tools, practices, and community standards for OPA, and support policy analysts and organizations in operationalizing them. Our goal is to accelerate the adoption of open practices in policy analysis, moving the community toward radical transparency and reproducibility. We hope to drive policy analysis to a tipping point where openness becomes the norm and ideologically-infused analysis has no place in policy debates.
The OPA framework discusses key problems that arise from traditionally opaque analysis, proposes a set of guiding principles for openness, and provides a demonstration of how those principles can be applied in practice. We are currently developing a set of guidelines for OPA, which will be validated with our community of practice.
Rather than conduct original policy analyses, we partner with analysts and organizations to open up published and ongoing analyses. These projects demonstrate how OPA principles can be applied, help us identify major challenges in producing OPAs, test and document solutions, and improve the credibility of specific analyses. We share our OPAs with relevant decision makers, as well as with organizations and agencies who can adapt them for their own analyses.
A list of projects, which include analyses of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal and a cost-benefit analysis of deworming programs in Kenya, can be found here. Forthcoming reports compare the benefits of various US unemployment insurance policies during the Covid-19 pandemic and the impacts of income support policies on economic outcomes and inequality in the US.
Our community of practice brings together policy analysts and open science leaders to share experiences, discuss approaches, and train others in OPA tools and methods.
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