The Idea

RegulationRoom is an experimental platform for public participation in government rulemaking processes created by a cross-disciplinary group of Cornell researchers, the Cornell eRulemaking Initiative (CeRI). CeRI uses selected live rulemakings to experiment with human and computer support for public engagement and discussion. The ultimate goal of RegulationRoom is to provide guidance on design, technological, and human intervention strategies—grounded in theory and tested in practice—for effective Rulemaking 2.0 systems.

The Work

At the core of the project is an experimental online public learning and participation platform that supports research in using social media outreach, web design, and facilitative moderation techniques to achieve broader, better public participation in “live” (i.e., ongoing) federal rulemakings. An example of what is now being called “socially intelligent computing,” RegulationRoom comprises an evolving mix of human, automated, and computer-assisted elements. These elements support knowledge acquisition and creation by users, individually and collectively. It is one of the first instances of the second generation of federal e-rulemaking, “Rulemaking 2.0.”

Early results give some cause for optimism about the open government potential of Web 2.0-supported rulemaking. Still, significant challenges remain. Broader, better public participation is hampered by 1) ignorance of the rulemaking process; 2) unawareness that rulemakings of interest are going on; and 3) information overload from the length and complexity of rulemaking materials. No existing, commonly used Web services or applications are good analogies for what a Rulemaking 2.0 system must do to lower these barriers. To be effective, the system must not only provide the right mix of technology, content, and human assistance to support users in the unfamiliar environment of complex government policy-making—it must also spur them to revise their expectations about how they engage with information on the Web and also, perhaps, about what is required for civic participation.

The Brains

CeRI brings together faculty and students from Communications, Computing and Information Science, Law, and the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution. We consult and engage in theoretical and applied research about using technology to make policymaking more democratic, efficient, and effective. CeRI researchers develop the theories, generate the hypotheses, and prioritize the inquiries that ultimately determine RegulationRoom design decisions and operating protocols. For more information, see Meet the Team.

The Design

RegulationRoom is purposefully designed to include elements that could make rulemaking more transparent, participatory, and collaborative. After a rule closes, the research team works to design a new version of the site for the next proposed rule. These revisions are an important element of the research, as iterations are driven by experiences, user feedback, and features specific to the current rule. We make previous versions both separate and accessible to preserve the history of the site's evolution for research purposes.

The Technology

RegulationRoom and its sister sites are built in Drupal, an open source content management system and web application platform written in PHP, and uses a number of contributed Drupal modules. Functionality specific to the design and goals of these sites is provided by the custom RegRoom module, developed in-house by the RegulationRoom technology team.

RegulationRoom is designed for a resolution of 1024×768 pixels or greater. It works best with recent versions of Internet Explorer (versions 8 and above), Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. The site depends critically on JavaScript, and cannot be properly viewed or used if JavaScript has been disabled. If you have any display or browser problems, please contact us.

If you have specific questions about the content, moderation, or use of the site, check out the FAQs.