The Institute of Fiscal Studies is one of the key institutions behind a new body set up to help governments discover whether their policies actually work.In recent years there has been a growing realisation in government that policy should be empirically evaluated, before, during and after implementation. If, for instance, a policy is aimed at specific individuals, then data about those individuals needs to be gathered and analysed, and the impact of any change fully understood.
The IFS says that while the government collects large sets of valuable data about the state of society, the number of people in government and elsewhere qualified to carry out the necessary analysis is inadequate.
It says a recent report by the Cabinet Office’s own Performance and Innovation Unit into the use of analytical and modelling techniques in government concluded that whilst macroeconomic skills were good, analysis of microeconomic and microsocial data was less than state of the art.
With this in mind, a new centre is being set up with goals to develop improved methods for the statistical analysis of microdata and to encourage good practice amongst academics and practitioners. The centre, cemmap, is a joint venture by the IFS and the Economics Department of University College London.
The centre will run courses at several levels, from master-classes for postdoctoral researchers to practical statistical techniques for government officials.