To promote evidence-based policy by facilitating scientists' engagement in public comment on federal regulations.
(1) Communicate the role of independent scientists in federal rule-making processes.
We have developed an educational resource to familiarize scientists with the processes that different federal agencies undergo when creating regulations. This includes informative figures describing where scientific review and public comment plug into these processes, as well as short summaries of relevant legislation, such as the Clean Air Act for the Environmental Protection Agency or the Magnuson-Stevens Act for the National Marine Fisheries Service. We are constantly expanding our educational resources to encompass a broader range of scientific disciplines, from ecology to engineering.
(2) Provide tools to increase the accessibility of public comment to scientists.
Currently available resources for public comment are powerful, but have a high barrier to access for individuals with little training or experience in the policy realm. Navigation of the Federal Register database can be difficult without an understanding of executive documents, while review of agency rule and notice publications requires readers to decipher administrative jargon. This calls for the dedication of a certain amount of time and training that is not always feasible for scientists. We have created a user-friendly search dashboard that allows scientists to find documents open for public comment, from proposed rules to notices of proposed information collection. We then identify regulations deemed particularly important to certain fields of study and compose layperson summaries. Our crowd-sourcing platform allows us to identify relevant content across fields, provide key technical context from experts in those fields, and cater to a wide range of scientists. The content and functionality of our tools will be continually evolving to ensure that we are effectively lowering barriers to access and encouraging scientists’ use of public comment.