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Beyer Introduces National Secure Data Service Act

Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) today introduced the National Secure Data Service Act, legislation to improve the federal government’s data analysis capabilities. The bill follows a recommendation by the 2017 Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP) report calling for the establishment of a National Secure Data Service (NSDS) to facilitate access to data across government.

“It has been years since a commission established by Congressional mandate identified a widespread need for a consolidated data infrastructure, which would generate solutions for American society. It’s time we followed through on this recommendation,” said Rep. Beyer. “Researchers must be able to link data collected through surveys, federal program administration, and non-governmental data sources; the lack of coordination across our data infrastructure is a serious limitation on our ability to inform evidence-based policymaking. The National Secure Data Service Act would take an important first step towards solving this problem.”

Beyer’s legislation was endorsed by the Data Coalition. Data Foundation President Nick Hart said:

“The National Secure Data Service Act responsibly addresses a major gap in our country’s data infrastructure by establishing a new capability for sharing, combining, and using data with strong privacy safeguards. Creating a data service at the National Science Foundation is a practical, cost-effective, and much-needed resource for researchers and data analysts to provide decision-makers with information they need for evidence-based policymaking, including to support implementation of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018.

“Building on the bipartisan and unanimous recommendations from the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, a consensus proposal from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and a suggested roadmap from the Data Foundation, the National Secure Data Service Act creates an expectation for NSF to make rapid progress in launching a data service and transparently supporting government-wide evidence-building activities. The Data Coalition calls on Congress to pass the National Secure Data Service Act to enable long-overdue and modern data capabilities alongside responsible privacy protections.”

The National Secure Data Service, as envisioned by the CEP, would allow access to government data by qualified researchers for approved purposes, ensuring privacy and transparency for the data service’s activities. Beyer’s bill would create a NSDS demonstration project housed within the National Science Foundation to test and refine approaches that would inform the implementation of a government-wide data linkage and access infrastructure, with the goal of scaling up the project in the future.

Text of the bill is available here, with a one-pager here.