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The Public Interface Project (Phase I)

PROJECT SUMMARY

In this project, CeRI is helping to create a substantially enriched public user interface for Regulations.gov, the official government-run Internet portal and document repository for all federal agency rulemaking. It resulted from the E-Government Act of 2002's directive to provide the public with Web-based access to, and participation in, rulemaking. It is still incomplete, both as a database and in its interface design. Of particular relevance to this Project, the Web interface currently provides little support or information to the nonexpert user unfamiliar with the rulemaking process. Even for expert users, certain technical and database shortcomings combined with undeveloped potential enhancements result in Regulations.gov being far less useful than it could be.

Phase I of the project includes:

  • creating informational text and graphics to explain the complex rulemaking process to a lay audience, presented through web design aimed at enhancing the accessibility of this material [See these pages];

  • developing a portfolio that includes a best-practices guide and web-design protocols to help agency rulewriters facilitate public participation in rulemaking by, e.g., annotating the proposed rule with links to primary legal materials as well as to scientific, technical and/or economic materials on which the agency relied in making the proposal; and

  • developing more accessible formats of presentation for document search results, including a method of arraying documents so that the user can easily track the course of a rulemaking proceeding

  • Project website thumbnail

    This Phase of the project will help Regulations.gov realize two core goals of the E-Government Act: making the rulemaking process more transparent, which in turn may facilitate more participation. This is one of a very few instances in which public interest groups and the business community, as well as the public and the private sectors, all have a common interest. Individuals, small business owners, profit and non-profit organizations, state and local governments, trade associations and regulatory lawyers will benefit from enhancements to this site. Also, because Regulations.gov will be the sole rulemaking venue for the entire federal government, adding a genuine educational component could draw secondary and undergraduate educators to the site as a classroom resource.

    Phase I lays essential groundwork for a second phase, in which it would be possible to explore ways directly to improve the scope and substance of public participation in rulemaking. Such ways could range from interactive prompts at comment submission (for soliciting more useful information from commenters) to experiments in web-based facilitation of policy forums and comment preparation groups on issues underlying the rule.

    This project is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-0535099. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed here are those of the researchers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.