Data for all?

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Science  10 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6325, pp. 573
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6325.573

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Researchers say they could paint a better picture of the American experience if they had greater access to the trove of personal information collected by government surveys and program offices, such as tax and census data. Policymakers say that crunching the data, called administrative records, could help them make better decisions. A new federal panel has been asked to recommend ways to make both those things happen—while safeguarding the privacy of every person whose life story exists in digital form across any number of government agencies. The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking is the bipartisan brainchild of House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan (R–WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D–WA). Its 15 members are a politically balanced mix of researchers, government officials, and privacy advocates. Created last spring, the commission has been holding public meetings across the country, and is expected to issue a report in September. One group of researchers hopes the commission will make recommendations that would boost their proposed American Opportunity Study. The study would examine intergenerational mobility—changes in education, occupation, and social status, for example—by using administrative records on an ongoing basis.