Public experts could become on-demand resources

Officials want the public to offer suggestions on a draft concept called ExpertNet

Will the real experts please step forward? The government has some questions.

The General Services Administration wants the public to offer suggestions on a draft concept named ExpertNet, a proposal for using the public's expertise in a manageable way, GSA wrote in a request for comments in today’s Federal Register.

“The goal of ExpertNet is to enable government officials to search for and communicate with citizens who have expertise on a topic,” GSA wrote.


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Officials plan to launch the program through a governmentwide software tool and process. However, for now, they want input from experts on how to set up a process for collecting experts’ insights on future questions.

In the ExpertNet concept, agency officials want to give experts the opportunity to participate in a public consultation that is relevant to their areas of interest and knowledge. They would pose questions to the public in hopes of finding experts and then interacting with them to accumulate useful, relevant feedback to make decisions.

Officials are accepting comments through Jan. 7. They are asking people to read the draft paper on the ideas behind ExpertNet. The White House Open Government Initiative and GSA will host discussions via an online forum and wiki.

ExpertNet is in its infancy stage as officials figures out ways to give and get information. They need to determine how to notify experts when there's a need for professional opinions on a particular subject. Officials also want to find the best ways for experts to return advice to government officials.

ExpertNet’s initial platform is based on the two ways agencies send information to the public: advisory committees and the daily Federal Register notices.

The concept stems from President Barack Obama’s 2009 memo on transparency and open government. In the memo, he wrote, “Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge.”

“Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made," GSA wrote. "It means recognizing that government does not have all the answers and that public officials need to draw on what citizens know.”

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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