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US Federal Evaluation Policy

US Federal agencies and programs are facing growing requirements for Evaluation Policies.

Here we’ve collected research and guidance to help evaluation staff develop their own policies.

1 - Guidance

What Can Evaluation Officers Do?

As Evaluation Officers and staff craft new or revise existing evaluation policies, here are some questions to consider:

1. Capacity and Resources

  • Is there an expressed commitment to building the knowledge and skills needed to commission, conduct, and use evaluations?
  • Is there expressed support for providing funding and personnel time for evaluation?

2. Participation

  • How are evaluators selected?
  • Is there acknowledgement that evaluation is not just the evaluators’ job, but one that extends to others in the organization?
  • Who should be involved and in what capacity (ex: planning, implementing, using findings)?

3. Use

  • How will findings from evaluations be used to inform actions? Is this clearly stated?
  • How will evaluation use be supported?

4. Equity

  • Are evaluations designed to surface local context that may impact the generalizability of findings?
  • How are evaluations providing value to grantees and the communities they serve?

2 - Research Findings: Government Evaluation Policies

What our research team studied and what we learned


The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 requires agencies to develop evaluation policies to regulate and guide their practice (H.R. 4174). Evaluation policies lay the foundation for virtually every aspect of evaluation practice. Despite their importance to commissioning, planning, implementing, and using evaluations, we know very little about these policies.

What did we study?

To fill this gap in knowledge, a team of research-practitioners from Claremont Graduate University and the University of California, Los Angeles set out to identify existing evaluation policies in the Federal government and learn about their content. Publicly available evaluation policies established between 2012 and 2019 at the agency or sub-agency level were cataloged. We reviewed their content for insights on what they most, and least, frequently include.

Data set

17 US Federal evaluation policies were examined:

1. Corporation for National & Community Service 10. Department of Housing & Urban Development
2. Department of Defense 11. Department of Labor
3. DoED/Institute of Education Sciences/NCEERA 12. Department of State
4. DHHS/Administration for Children & Families 13. GSA/Office of Evaluation Sciences
5. DHHS/Agency for Community Living 14. Millennium Challenge Corporation
6. DHHS/Centers for Disease Control & Prevention 15. NASA/Office of STEM Engagement
7. DHHS/Centers for Medicare & Medicaid 16. U.S. Agency for International Development
8. DHHS/Indian Health Service 17. USDA/Foreign Agricultural Service/Food Assistance
9. DHHS/Substance Abuse & Mental Health


Of 17 US Federal evaluation policies, 47% detailed procedural topics such as who is responsible for evaluation tasks, and procedures for commissioning and monitoring evaluations.

35% of policies covered technical topics such as principles guiding evaluation practice and prescriptions for evaluation practice, including expectations for study designs and methods.

Fewer policies covered how to use evaluation findings (13%), how to build stakeholder engagement (8%), or create evaluation capacity (5%)

Summary data of topics

Topics found in policies