CMU E-Rulemaking
project  -  resources  -  demonstration    

Project Description

The 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 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 digital.

The Carnegie 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.

The initial 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:  

Graduate Students
Jamie Callan
Peter Suen
Ramayya Krishnan


Updated on April 21, 2003.