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The Future of Public Partnership Regulation Room How the Internet improves public participation in rulemaking. by MS. JACKELINE SOLIVAN Open Government Fellow Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative PROFESSOR CYNTHIA R. FARINA McRoberts Professor of Research in the Administration of the Law CeRI Principal Researcher Cornell eRulemaking Initiative (CeRI) designed and operated Regulation Room, a pilot project that provides an online environment for people and groups to learn about, discuss, and react to selected proposed federal rules. The project is a unique collaboration between CeRI academic researchers and the government. The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) was CeRI's Àrst agency partner and chose Regulation Room as its Àrst open government "Áagship initiative." USDOT received a White House Open Government Leading Practices Award for its collaboration in the project. CeRI owns, designs, operates, and controls Regulation Room, but works closely with partner agencies to identify suitable "live" rulemakings for the site and to evaluate success after a rule closes.1 The CeRI team includes researchers from communication, computing, conÁict resolution, information science, law, legal informatics, and political science. This interdisciplinary approach is unusual and has allowed the team to draw on many different areas of research in designing Regulation Room. Four USDOT rulemakings have been offered so far on the site. Background When rulemaking occurs, the originating agency must give public notice of the proposal, reveal any scientiÀc studies or data, and explain legal and policy 58 Proceedings Winter 2012 | Spring 2013 rationales. The agency must also provide a reasonable time (typically 45 to 90 days) for public comments. The agency is also legally required to read these comments and consider them. Although the right to comment is universal, industry groups, trade and professional associations, and similar legally sophisticated and well-resourced entities have dominated the process.2 Since the mid-1990s, individual agencies and the federal government have used the Internet to broaden rulemaking participation. Early agency-speciÀc systems, such as USDOT's Docket Management System, were superseded by www.regulations.gov (the government-wide e-rulemaking portal). These systems essentially put the conventional process online: Citizens go to a website, view the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and other key rulemaking documents, and submit a comment in a comment box or by attaching a document Àle. This approach makes rulemaking materials easier to access, to submit and view comments. However, there has not been a substantial expansion of meaningful public participation.3 To be sure, some rulemakings now spark more than 100,000 email comments generated via advocacy groups, but these largely duplicative comments tend to add little substantive information to the rulemaking. Simply putting the notice-andcomment process online has not been enough to elicit informed and helpful participation by a broader range www.uscg.mil/proceedings