Evidence-Based Policy (EBP)

(Spanish version)

Law on Transparency and Open Government

In Chile the Law 20.285 published in 2008 about “Acceso a la Información Pública” or “Transparency Law” are laws that arise in the context of extending the rights to freedom of expression that are enshrined in the Charter of Human Rights. The law speaks not only about freedom of expression, but also incidentally marks the access to information as a fundamental tool to achieve this freedom of expression.

In 2012 was officially presented the Presidential Instruction No. 005 on Open Government establish that state bodies should proactively, make available to the public the widest possible set of information and feasible data to be published in formats that allow reuse. Thus, it seeks to promote collaboration of citizens in the design and control of public policy, transparency of government, delivering better services and innovation.

Data, information and intelligence

Information is an organized set of processed data, the raw data itself has limited utility, however, when the data are collected and processed in an intelligible way, it becomes useful information. Information to make decisions, but when it relates to other information about a common environment and is considered in the light of past experience, leads to a new understanding of the information, which may be called “intelligence.” The basis of the process that produces intelligence is built by analyzing relationships or comparing information with other information or a database and make conclusions.

Computational reproducibility and the era of a society guided by data

Given the importance of access to information and how it relates to the data, it is possible to develop informed debate in society, which will increasingly depend on our ability to communicate information based on data. And for this communication to be a truly effective dialogue, it is necessary that the arguments presented on the database, can be deconstructed, analyzed, refuted or extended by others. Since these arguments in practice often depend mainly on code execution (if a spreadsheet or an appropriate program), means you really need tools to communicate effectively with narratives that combine code, data and interpretation results.

(Peng 2011)-Reproducibility Spectrum

(Peng 2011)-Reproducibility Spectrum

The above figure (Peng, 2011) shows the levels of reproducibility in scientific publications, same standard could be applied to political reforms.

What is the evidence?

They are results of experiments and / or objective, verifiable and reproducible reality, which validate or refute an idea observations. In general, the raw data are considered evidence, once interpreted in a way that reflects the truth of an idea.

Evidence-based policy (EBP) the next step

In the first decade of the century, some European countries like Spain, have the challenge of improving economic growth and productivity, which requires reforms in some of the institutions of the welfare state. The renewal of the welfare state poses technical and political difficulties, but the biggest difficulty is to solve both simultaneously as the technical and democratic procedures run through separate channels and have different objectives. The economic analysis seeks optimal solutions that are unlikely to be socially feasible. Democratic procedures seek compromise solutions that are unlikely to be economically optimal. Any innovative social reform, without an experimental basis socially validated, raises deep uncertainties about their consequences in the medium and long term.

In Chile on the other hand, it has the same problem of balancing economic growth with the welfare of people, but both factors are opposed to the European situation, because in Chile we have the legislative framework of a liberal economic model that has prioritized economic growth over the welfare of people. This situation presents a great opportunity for Chile. It can learn from the problems that already exist in Europe and vice versa, if you really make a systematic analysis of the evidence of problems in both cases and is adopted unbiased approach associated with the confrontation between “elites” with antagonistic political ideologies and economic interests, which today generate an atmosphere of hostility and lack of cooperation.

High priority is that citizens stay out of the “struggle of ideas and interests” and adopt a conciliatory and constructive attitude, which allows better synthesize and expand the welfare state and free market economy.

Clearly, societies today face complex social problems whose solution is not trapped in the ideological or economic model, is ensnared in the current political methodology, mired in an antagonistic competition, which today does not allow ideas and models evolve based on the evidence that is possible to collect the real world.

To address these uncertainties Evidence-based policy (EBP)  is proposed. Instead of seeking optimal policies, the framework of analysis of EBP proposes the systematic search for robust public policy. EBP procedures allow the creation, through political consensus based on empirical evaluation, technically correct and politically acceptable for any plausible future proposals.

(Pareja, 2006)

(Pareja, 2006) Translated to english

Figure 3 (Young, 2006) presents the typical process of Evidence-based policy (EBP) policy. In order to arrange the process in a logical sequence we can divide the process of developing a EBP in three phases: design of the proposed reform, the project empirical test, and evaluation (Davies, 2004). Figure 3 shows that the characteristic of the PBE is that all three phases, which constitute the essence of scientific algorithm, are inserted into the traditional political process. Under no circumstances replace it.The scientific algorithm is essentially intended learning from the contrast with reality.Just add quality to the process of institutional design.

Actual cases based on evidence analysis for reforms conducted in Chile

Two interesting and recent reforms to Chilean law, where the application of EBP would be desirable, cases are the Tax Reform and Reform Proposal of the Water Code.

The case of the Tax Reform was interesting the data analysis made by Leo Soto , because he realizes the importance that a reform is transparent to citizens, must be clearly documented assumptions, calculations and data , then tries to make an analysis with publicly available information and finally develops a simulator tax , which shows the approximate difference in the situation before and after the reform.

Unfortunately after all modifications made ​​in the Senate , would require investing a lot of time to adapt and simulate the analysis made ​​by Leo Soto, to the final terms that reform was enacted. This same difficulty of translating the final modifications in a simple and clear code, are signs of a poor reform, obfuscated and ambiguous design, which hardly allow it to assess in the future, the effectiveness of the changes that were made.

In a future article will be the case of the Water Code Reform, previous empirical information will be analyzed, focusing mainly on the problem of managing water rights in the Province of Petorca, Chile.