Online forum slow for Regulations.gov

The site has collected only about two dozen comments

The Obama administration’s new Web forum for soliciting ideas to improve the online portal for federal rule-making information is getting off to a relatively slow start: It has collected about two dozen comments in its first week of operation.

The new forum site, Regulations.gov/exchange, was launched May 21 to stimulate public discussion of how to improve Regulations.gov, is the federal government’s Web site for review and comment on rule-making dockets. The discussion site will operate until July 21.

As of today, the new forum on regulations had collected 22 ideas. By contrast, a previous Obama administration Web forum — an economic stimulus law information technology discussion sponsored by Recovery.gov -- drew more than 500 comments in its week of operation that ended May 3.

The lower participation for the new forum might have been anticipated because federal regulations are highly technical and often arcane, according to a transparency advocate.

“We work on regulatory stuff all the time and it does not tend to get a lot of attention,” said Matthew Madia, regulatory policy analyst for OMB Watch, a watchdog group for government transparency. “This is much less sexy than stimulus spending, so it’s not surprising.”

The Regulations.gov/exchange site offers an opportunity for forum participants to comment on a new layout for Regulations.gov, expanded RSS feeds, customizable features for the site and downloadable information.

“Gone are the days where concerned citizens must examine a paper edition of the Federal Register and send comments by snail mail,” Madia wrote on his blog May 26. “Utilizing the internet to promote public participation makes perfect sense, but Regulations.gov has yet to live up to its potential.”

Madia and other advocates have suggested changes to Regulations.gov that include the option to limit RSS feeds to a single agency or docket, improved searches, links with agency regulatory sites and capabilities to allow people to make their own interfaces with Regulations.gov.

“Any kind of dialogue they can build around this is good, ” Madia said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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