By Eamonn Noonan, CEO
"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government." – Barack Obama, inaugural address, 20 January 2009
President Obama’s comments give grounds for optimism about the future of evidence-based research. Who will provide the answers he seeks? How will government arrive at well-founded decisions on individual programs? The strategy must involve independent, rigorous analysis of relevant evidence on the effect of programs. This is precisely the kind of research that the Campbell Collaboration was created to conduct, and conducts today to a greater extent than ever before. Little wonder, then, that the President’s words bring to mind a comment by Donald T. Campbell, made thirty years ago:
"The United States and other modern nations should be ready for an experimental approach to social reform, an approach in which we try out new programs designed to cure specific problems, in which we learn whether or not these programs are effective, and in which we retain, imitate, modify or discard them on the basis of their effectiveness on the multiple imperfect criteria available."