Federal Register 2.0 (FR 2.0) — a new online version of the Federal Register, featuring Web 2.0 functions enabling users to comment, plain language summaries of regulations, and access by subject — is now available.
Of particular interest to those interested in open government data efforts is that FR 2.0 appears to include features and functions that were originally developed as part of innovative nongovernmental erulemaking efforts, such as the University at Albany’s DeER (Deliberative E-Rulemaking) Project, the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy‘s FedThread, the Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative‘s Regulation Room, and WestEd‘s GovPulse. Some of GovPulse’s innovative Federal Register-related technology was developed as part of The Sunlight Foundation’s 2009 Apps for America Challenge. Click here for a video describing the Federal Register-related innovations developed through the Apps for America Challenge.
These projects arose because in 2009 the Office of the Federal Register and the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) began making the Federal Register available online in XML for free of charge bulk access on GPO’s FDsys. This free bulk access to legal information enabled nongovernmental developers to create innovative systems and tools for use in connection with that information. With FR 2.0, the U.S. federal government is reincorporating some of these innovative systems and tools, to enhance public access to the law and public participation in agency rulemaking and other aspects of federal public policy.
This kind of socially beneficial collaboration between government as data provider and civil society organizations as technology innovators is consistent with the model proposed by David Robinson et al. in their paper, Government Data and the Invisible Hand, 11 Yale Journal of Law and Technology 160-175 (2009) (Issue No. 2).
One statement in the video describing new features of FR 2.0 seems questionable. The video seems to suggest that the “Summary” field in each proposed or final rule is a feature new to FR 2.0. However, the “Summary” field appears for many years to have been a required field for proposed or final rules published in the Federal Register. See, e.g., Federal Register Document Drafting Handbook 1-6, 1-8 (1998), and this proposed rule from 1998. I’ve sent an email to the Office of the Federal Register asking for clarification of this point; I’ll post any response I receive on the version of this post at the Legal Informatics Blog.