Site operation and relation to the official planning process

Q. Is this site connected with the federal government?

No. This site is built and operated by the Cornell eRulemaking Initiative (CeRI), based at Cornell Law School. It is hosted by the Legal Information Institute. CeRI is a research group of Cornell faculty and students from law, conflict resolution, computing and information science, and the social sciences. We collaborate with federal agencies who share our interest in using the Web to improve federal regulatory policy making. CeRI works closely with the agencies whose plans appear here; they are actively participating in this research effort. But all materials on the site are the full responsibility of, CeRI. No federal official or entity controls the content or operation of the site.

Q. Who writes the topic posts and explanations on Planning Room?

The topic posts and other material explaining the agency’s plan are written by the agency and CeRI team, and reflect the agency’s current thinking as accurately as possible, given Planning Room’s goal of making this material more accessible to people not familiar with the legal or technical aspects of the plan. The material explaining what an agency planning is was written by the Planning Room team of students and faculty working on the particular plan (unless a page expressly identifies some other author).

Q. Will the agency see what I say here?

Yes. The agency sees the discussion on Planning Room. What you say here will be considered by the agency when it decides on its final plan.

Q. So, if I join the discussion here, am I “submitting comments” on the plan, as far as the agency is concerned?

Yes. Although an agency is not legally required to solicit comments from the public on for most planning activities, the agencies on Planning Room want to make their plans living documents that take in input from the public. Planning may take external groups (like customers, partners, vendors, etc.) into account. But by and large, planning at any organization — including Federal agencies — is a largely internal process with limited consultation with other organizations or individuals. Planning Room represents an attempt to take a different approach, opening up the planning process at a Federal agency to input from a key stakeholder group: citizens and industry. The agency will use comments from this process to improve and clarify aspects of the plan affecting these stakeholders.

Q. I heard about other plans but I don’t see them here. Why?

All Federal agencies engage in planning. As an academic research group on a small budget, CeRI can offer only a few plans at a time on Planning Room. Generally, plans are chosen because an agency with whom CeRI works suggests it as a good candidate, and CeRI researchers agree that offering the plan on Planning Room is feasible and could advance our understanding of how to use the Web more effectively in federal regulatory policy making.

Q. Why can’t I just vote on ideas in or parts of the plan?

Planning is a policymaking process where voting, as such, doesn’t count. Unlike members of Congress or the President, federal agencies are not allowed to make decisions based on majority rule. Instead, they are supposed to use experience and expertise to come up with the overall best answer to the problems Congress has told them to solve. The kind of public participation that really matters is comments where people explain not only what they think the agency should do, but why.

One person with a really good idea can have more impact than 1,000 people who just give an unsupported opinion.

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The who and what of site moderation

Q. Who are the site moderators and what do they do?

The moderators are law students working under the close supervision and direction of senior CeRI researchers, who bring legal expertise and trained facilitation skills to the project. Occasionally, an outside professional facilitator with appropriate experience may join the moderator team. Meet the current CeRI researchers.

Site moderators prepare the Topic Posts (unless a page expressly identifies some other author), monitor compliance with the Site Use/Community Guidelines, and help prepare any inal summaries and reports. During the discussion, they may point users to additional information about the plan, pose questions designed to prompt fuller or more detailed discussion, and facilitate discussion between users with different views.

Q. Can the moderators remove something I submit?

Yes, if the content is inappropriate or clearly off-topic, or otherwise violates the Site Use/Community Guidelines in the Terms & Conditions. Depending on the problem, we may remove the submission entirely or modify it to deal with problem. Flagrant or repeated violations of the Terms & Conditions may cause us to ban you from the site. We will clearly indicate when material, or an entire submission, has been removed. Removed submissions can be viewed here.

We strongly encourage you not to include potentially sensitive personal information in your submissions. If we become aware of such information, we may take action to remove it to ensure that you have not revealed it inadvertently.

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Site use tips and help

Q. How does this site work?

Each of the main pages in Planning Room has a short video that explains what you can do and how to do it. If we haven’t covered something in the videos, please let us know.

Q. Do I have to register to use the site?

If you just want to read the site, no. If you want to make a comment, you must register with a username, password and email address and agree to our Terms and Conditions, Privacy Notice, Site Use/Community Guidelines and Statement of Consent. You’ll get the option of using either your username or your real name as the publicly visible author’s name for content you submit. You can choose to provide a short bio on your My Profile page and make it visible to other users who click on your author name.

A short questionnaire will appear the first time you wish to post a comment. The questions are designed to help us evaluate the effectiveness of the site and give the agency a more meaningful picture of the discussion.

Q. What will you do with my email address?

We will use it to provide password retrieval, notify you about new stages in the discussion, and ask you to complete a brief survey at the close of each plan. You will be able to opt out of receiving these emails. We will not sell or give your email to other organizations (including the agency).

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

The problem might be on our end, but before you ask the Moderator or contact us, check your screen resolution. (To adjust this, click View on your browser toolbar and try Zoom Out. For the more technically inclined, the site is designed for a display of 1024×728 pixels or more.) The site works best with recent versions of Internet Explorer (especially 8, 9 & 10; 7 is also supported), Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. If these suggestions don’t work, please contact us.

Q. How do I change my password?

You can change your password by going to your My Profile page; the link to your Profile is at the top of all the Planning Room pages. In “My Profile” you can change “Your Info,” including selecting a new password. Just type the new password once in the top box and again in the second box and hit the “change password” button.

Q. Have a question we didn’t answer here?

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

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