project - resources
laws of the U.S. federal government include both statutes as drafted and
passed by the legislative branch, and regulations that implement and make
specific those statutes. Regulations are created by administrative agencies
such as the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture.
The process of creating new regulations is called "notice and comment rulemaking"
because proposed regulations must be published in draft form, the public
must be allowed to comment, and the agency must consider the public's comments
before issuing the final regulations. This process is specified under section
553 of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), which was passed in 1946.
In the past, public comment
was submitted to the U.S. federal government primarily in paper form. However
during the last several years the government has begun to allow comments to
be submitted electronically in some cases. Recently a new Regulations.gov Web site was created
to facilitate the examination and commenting on proposed regulations by citizens.
As a part of this trend toward "Digital
Government," many other federal agencies are also in the process of experimentation
and adoption of e-rulemaking systems
The use information and other
digital technologies in the process of rulemaking, including the electronic
soliciation and processing of public comments, is called "E-Rulemaking".
E-Rulemaking offers opportunities for the government to reduce its costs and
improve the quality of notice and comment rulemaking, but it also poses a
variety of new social, political, and technical challenges. These issues will become increasingly more important as the regulatory rulemaking process and the
volume of electronic comments become more
Mellon E-Rulemaking project focuses primarily on a set of technical challenges
related to effective use of large amounts of unstructured public commentary.
Citizens and government administrators need a variety of navigation aids
and analysis tools to help them understand the contents of large public comment
databases. These aids and tools include full-text search, automatic construction
of browsing hierarchies, frequency analysis of discussion topics, and summarization
of similar comments, as well as more complex analysis tools that identify
stakeholder communities represented in a set of comments. The underlying
technologies are primarily Information Retrieval, Text Datamining, and simple
forms of Natural Language Processing.
research effort is centered around a set of about 22,000 public comments
from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program
(NOP). This is a small subset of the 277,000 comments that were received
for a single proposed regulation in 1998. We expect to begin working with
additional, and larger, datasets during the summer of 2003. Included are resources that can assist researchers in conducting
experiments in this field. This includes the subset of USDA public comment
mentioned above available for download along with corpus information and statistics.
The E-Rulemaking Project
is currently a joint initiative between the Language Technologies Instittue in
the School of Computer Science and
the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management. Some
of the people involved in the project include:
- Bikel, D.M., Miller,
S., Schwartz R., and Weischedel R. "Nymble: a
high-performance learning name-finder," Conference on Applied Natural
Language Processing (ANLP '97), 1997.
- Conrad, J.G. and
Utt, M.H. "A system
for discovering relationships by feature extraction from text databases,"
Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual International ACM SIGIR Conference
on Research and Development in Information Retrieval (SIGIR-94), pp. 260-270,
- Fountain, J. "Prospects for Improving the Regulatory Process Using
E-Rulemaking," ACM Press (2003), New York.
- Johnson, S.M.
"The Internet changes everything: Revolutionizing public participation
and access to government information through the Internet," Adminnistrative
Law Review, 50, pp 277-337, 1997.
- Kerwin, C. "RuleMaking:
How Government Agencies Write Law and Make Policy," Congressional
Quarterly Press (1994), Washington, D.C.
B., Agrawal, R., and Srikant R. "Discovering
trends in text databases," Proceedings of the 3rd International
Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD '97), 1997.
- Shulman, S. "Citizen
agenda-setting, digital government, and the National Organic Program."
American Political Science Association. 2000.
- Shulman, S. and
Schlosberg, D. "Electronic
rulemaking: New frontiers in public participation." American Political
Science Association, 2002.
- Shulman S., Schlosberg,
D., Zavestoski, S., and Courard-Hauri, D. "A
public participation research agenda for social sciences," Social
Science Computer Review, 21(2), 2003.
- Shulman, S. "An
experiment in digital government and the United States National Organic
Program," Agriculture and Human Values, 2003.
- U.S. General Accounting
Office. "Federal Rulemaking: Agencies' Use of Information Technology to
Facilitate Public Participation," GAO/GGD-00-135R (June 30, 2000).
- U.S. General Accounting
Office. "Regulatory Management: Communication about Technology-Based Innovations
Can Be Improved," GAO-01-232 (Feb. 12, 2001).
Updated on April 21, 2003.