New e-Rulemaking Site Facilitates Participation

October 26, 2011

Cynthia Farina would be the first to acknowledge that it is difficult to get members of the public engaged in a meaningful way in federal rulemaking. The topics are complex and technical, and people generally have limited time to review and analyze them.

As a law professor at Cornell University and a principal researcher for the Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative, Farina leads the Regulation Room e-rulemaking project being conducted online in cooperation with the Transportation Department.

One of the lessons she has learned is that using cool new technologies is not enough to draw people to visit a website and comment on proposed rules they might have a stake in, she said. Initiatives must also be designed to target specific audiences affected by the rules, she added.

In Regulation Room, proposed rules are chosen carefully for discussion. The focus is on selecting proposals that could have a major effect on stakeholders who are not likely to be aware of the proposals and not likely to comment on them on their own, Farina said.

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