The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative is creating a central portal to allow policymakers to access available evidence on what works in government programs and practices and make the best possible decisions about how to invest public dollars.
There is a growing body of research identifying the most effective public programs, but it has yet to be gathered and made easily accessible in a single place. Several clearinghouses compile and conduct methodological reviews of the available evidence, but they operate independently, generally focus on a specific policy area or type of research, and use somewhat different nomenclature when reporting results. As a result, policymakers who want to rely on rigorous research to strengthen their decision-making must review multiple clearinghouses, interpret the ratings, and compare the findings. Understandably, few policymakers can undertake such a complicated process, especially as critical decisions are being made under time pressure during budget and appropriations negotiations.
To address this challenge, the Results First evidence gateway project will initially provide a one-stop database that compiles information from eight research clearinghouses to enable policymakers and their staffs to readily identify effective, evidence-based programs in multiple policy areas, including adult criminal justice, juvenile justice, mental health, substance abuse, early education, K-12 education, and child welfare. This database will convert the clearinghouses’ disparate ratings into a common system, allowing users to quickly assess where each intervention falls on the spectrum of effectiveness and linking to clearinghouse program pages so that users can easily obtain additional information.
A second phase of the project will develop the database into a more comprehensive Web tool—the evidence gateway—that will allow users to search across clearinghouses to identify evidence-based interventions in a wide range of policy areas. The evidence gateway will be a robust, interactive tool that will update automatically to reflect new programs or information added by the clearinghouses and provide a wide variety of search options. For example, users could search for interventions by name, policy area (e.g., adult criminal justice, child welfare), desired outcome (e.g., reduced recidivism, lower dropout rates), target population (e.g., low-income youth, homeless families), and setting (e.g., community and institutional placements). In addition, the gateway will continue to link directly to subsidiary information on each intervention, such as detailed descriptions, implementation guidelines, and research supporting the effectiveness ratings.