Frequently Asked Questions

Participation and moderation

  • Can the moderators remove something I submit?

    Yes, if the content is really off-topic or violates the Site Use Guidelines. The moderators will make it clear whenever has been removed. Someone who repeatedly or flagrantly violates the Guidelines may be banned from the site.

    Please don't include potentially sensitive personal information in your comments. If the moderators see this kind of information, they may remove it to make sure you didn't include it without thinking.

  • Why can’t I just vote on the proposed rule?

    Unlike members of Congress or the President, federal agencies aren't allowed to make decisions based on majority rule. Instead, they're supposed to use experience and expertise to come up with the overall best answer to the problems Congress has told them to solve. The law requires agencies to have good reasons, sound data, etc for the regulations they finally decide on. The federal courts would overturn any rule that an agency adopted just because a majority of commenters supported it.

    So, RegulationRoom isn't set up to let people just vote on the agency proposal because that kind of public "participation" wouldn't mean much of anything. The kind of participation that really matters is people explaining not only what they think the agency should do, but why. And giving any information they have to support their opinion.

  • Who are the site moderators and what do they do?

    The moderators are senior CeRi researchers, students in the E-Government Clinic at Cornell Law School, and other students during breaks in the academic year. The student moderators are trained and supervised by senior CeRI researchers with professional facilitation skills and legal expertise.

    The moderators' main job is to help people make effective comments. For example, they might ask commenters to give reasons or provide more details; answer questions or point people to additional info about the agency's proposal; or encourage commenters to consider other comments that take a different point of view or make a suggestion for how the agency should act.

    Moderators do not support or oppose the agency's proposal, or any particular viewpoint.

  • Is the agency involved in moderation?

    No agency we currently work with participates in moderating.

  • Are comments screened before they appear on the site?

    No. RegulationRoom users are expected to recognize and respect that the purpose of this site is open, civil and productive public discussion about real government policy decisions.

    Although the moderators will intervene if necessary (see the next FAQ), everyone has a stake in maintaining this kind of atmosphere. So, if you see a comment you believe violates the Site Use Guidelines, please feel free to speak up (civilly of course) by replying to that comment.

  • Why do moderators change comments made in all-capital letters to lowercase?

    In Netiquette, writing in all caps is considered to be shouting or yelling at other participants. Shouting is a violation of Site Use Guidelines. The Guidelines help create an environment where people can learn about and discuss even controversial proposals in a way that allows different viewpoints to be expressed and that helps the agency make a better decision.

    Sometimes using all-caps for a single word or a few words is just emphasis. But when all-caps is used enough that it seems the equivalent of shouting, the moderators will change the type to lower case.

Site use tips and help

  • Content on the site isn’t displaying properly. What’s up?

    The problem might be on our end, but check a couple of things:

    1. Make sure you are using a recent version of your browser. On Internet Explorer, you should be using at least version 9, although 8 will probably work (To check, click Help in the top menu bar, select About Internet Explorer). If you're using an older version, update it at the Windows site or switch to Chrome, Firefox or another browser.

    2. Be sure JavaScript is enabled in your browser. The site cannot be viewed or used properly without it. (You can check this, and get instructions for how to enable JavaScript if necessary, at this site.)

    If you're still having problems, please contact us.

  • Do I have to register to use the site?

    If you want to just read the site, no.

    If you want to make a comment, you must register with a username, password and email address

  • How do I change my password?

    On your Account page. Click the arrow by your username on the top righthand corner of every page

  • What will you do with my email address?

    We'll use it if you need to recover your password. We may email you to let you know things such as: when someone has replied to or endorsed one of your comments; when there’s been some new development about the government’s proposal; when the time for making comments is running out; or when the government has announced a decision. We may also ask you to fill out surveys that help with the research. We may email you when new discussions open on the site.

    We will not give out your email address to anyone, and we will not use it for any reason that is not directly related to the e-participation events and research this site is part of. (For more details about how we protect your personal information, see Privacy Notice.) You can opt out of receiving emails from us on your Account page.

  • Have a question we didn’t answer here?

    Please contact us to tell us what else you’d like to know about Regulation Room.

About this site and what's on it

  • Is this a government site?

    No. It's built and operated by CeRI (Cornell eRulemaking Initiative). CeRI is a cross-disciplinary group of Cornell University faculty and students from law, conflict resolution, computing and information science, and the social sciences. We collaborate with government agencies who share our interest in using the Web to improve citizen participation in public policy making.

    Learn more about the CeRI team and its e-participation research.

  • Who writes the topic posts and other material on the site?

    The Topic Posts are written by the RegulationRoom team of Cornell faculty and students working on the particular discussion. They are based on the agency’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) or Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) and other official rulemaking documents such as the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). The posts condense this information and try to make it easy to understand for people not familiar with the legal or technical aspects of the rulemaking. You can find links to sections of the NPRM/ANPRM and RIA throughout the Topic Posts. You can find the read the entire documents in the Important Documents section.

    The RegulationRoom team also writes the Learn Pages, basic site pages (such as Terms and Conditions and FAQs) and the glossary entries. The team writes the Announcements, although this may be done jointly with the sponsoring agency.

    Documents in the Important Documents list are clearly marked with their author.

  • Will the agency see what I say here?

    Each agency whose proposals are discussed on RegulationRoom will explain in its NPRM/ANPRM how it treats the discussion on this site. (You can find the NPRM/ANPRM in the Important Documents section.) Typically, the agency asks the RegulationRoom team to submit a formal public comment through Regulations.gov. This comment will be a very detailed summary of the discussion on the site. It will also describe how many people participated, how many were new to the rulemaking process, and the range of their interests in the particular rulemaking. (For an example, see the 49-page summary filed in a discussion about proposed new consumer mortgage servicing rules).

    Once we draft the summary, we email registered users asking them to review and comment on the draft before we submit it to the agency through Regulations.gov. RegulationRoom always makes the full text of the discussion available to the agency if the agency requests it--plus, the full text remains available to everyone through our archive site.

    The agency treats the detailed RegulatonRoom summary like any other public comment, and will talk about what RegulationRoom commenters have said when it announces its final decision. (For example, see what happened in the consumer mortgage servicing rules,)

  • So, if I join the discussion here, am I “submitting comments” on the proposed rule, as far as the agency is concerned?

    It depends on what the agency says in the NPRM/ANRPM. Usually, agencies don't treat comments here as formal comments in the rulemaking. But, the detailed report summarizing the discussion (which is submitted on Regulations.gov) is definitely a “comment” in the legal sense. The agency has a legal duty to read and consider it as part of its final decisionmaking. See What is rulemaking? and Why should you participate?

  • Why would it matter to me whether what I say legally counts as a “public comment” on the rule?

    It could matter if your interest in the rule is so great that you’d consider suing the agency if the final rule doesn’t come out the way you think it should. (Some federal courts won't allow people to challenge a new rule unless they made their arguments to the agency first by submitting a public comment.)

    If what’s important to you is having your viewpoint and ideas considered as part of the final decision about the rule (rather than maybe suing the agency), then participating on RegulationRoom is a good strategy. Proposals appear on RegulationRoom because the agency believes online discussion could help it make a better decision, so it’s safe to assume that the agency will carefully read the detailed discussion summaries that come out of this process. (For an example, see how the agency treated what RegulationRoom commenters said in the home mortgage servicing rules.)

    If you do want to submit a public comment in the legal sense, there’s an easy solution. Regulations.gov is the official web portal for submitting comments on all proposed federal rules. The NPRM/APNRM of every rule available on RegulationRoom contains a link to the Regulations.gov comment submission form for the rule. Copy and paste what you say on RegulationRoom into the “Public Comment or Submission” box on this form, and follow the submission directions. You can submit as many comments as you want through Regulations.gov until the comment period set by the agency closes.

  • I heard about a proposed rule but I don’t see it here. Why?

    Federal agencies propose thousands of new rules each year. CeRI is an academic research group working with a small budget, and so we can offer only a few rules each year on RegulationRoom.

    Generally, rules are chosen because an agency with whom we have a research collaboration thinks that broader public participation would help it reach a better decision, and we agree that offering the rule on RegulationRoom is feasible and could help us better understand how to use the Web more effectively in rulemaking.

    We're always happy to hear from new potential agency partners about doing their rules on RegulationRoom.

Ask a Question

Other questions? Contact us.