Federal Register 2.0

Cross posted from the AOTUS blog.

Today, we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Federal Register Act by launching Federal Register 2.0.  In a special event in the Rotunda of the National Archives, I was joined by the Public Printer of the United States and distinguished guests from regulatory agencies and the open government community to introduce the web 2.0 version of the daily Federal Register.

What is the Federal Register?

The Federal Register is the legal newspaper of the U.S. government and contains rules, proposed rules, and public notices of federal agencies, as well Presidential documents. It’s an important, crucial part of our democracy. The Office of the Federal Register is a component of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Have you ever tried to find something in the Federal Register?

As you might expect, the Federal Register is dense and difficult to read whether in print or online as a PDF.  It’s also difficult to find what you’re looking for.

Federal Register 2.0 takes into consideration the 21st century user and turns the Federal Register website into a daily web newspaper. The clear layout will have tools to help users find what they need, comment on proposed rules, and share material relevant to their interests. In addition to greatly improved navigation and search tools, the site will highlight the most popular and newsworthy documents and feature each agency’s significant rules.

Federal Register 2.0

The website www.federalregister.gov, is divided into broad communities including: business & industry, environment, health & public welfare, money, science & technology, and world. Important documents stay on each section “above the fold.” Those documents that are most viewed, emailed, and cited appear in a “What’s Hot” feature.

The development of Federal Register 2.0 used XML data and open source code. The Office of the Federal Register worked in partnership with the Government Printing Office and developers who had already competed in the Sunlight Labs “Apps for America 2″ contest using Federal Register data.

In August 2009, Andrew Carpenter, Bob Burbach, and Dave Augustine banded together outside of their work at WestEd Interactive in San Francisco to enter the contest using data available on data.gov.  Understanding the wealth of important information published every day in the Federal Register, they used the raw data to develop GovPulse.us, which won second place in the contest. In March 2010, the Office of the Federal Register approached the trio to repurpose, refine, and expand on the GovPulse.us application to bring the Federal Register to a wider audience. Federal Register 2.0 is the product of this innovative partnership and was developed using the principles of open government.

Federal Register 2.0 is an important part of the National Archives’ Open Government Plan, and it harkens back to our historic role as an agency that helps maintain democracy itself.

The Federal Register Act of 1935 is now recognized as a landmark achievement in establishing a right of public access to government information. Passage of the act ensured that legal issuances could no longer be adopted in secret and arbitrarily enforced against the public. In later years, this system of open access to information was expanded and strengthened by the Administrative Procedure Act and the Freedom of Information Act. This is how the mission of the National Archives came to be integrally linked with the concepts of open government, fundamental fairness, and due process of law.

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” Federal Register 2.0 enables citizens and communities to better understand the regulatory process and participate in government decision-making. The National Archives and the Office of the Federal Register are committed to enabling the free flow of information to foster engaged and knowledgeable public discourse and collaboration.

Check out www.federalregister.gov and let us know what you think.

David Ferriero is Archivist of the United States

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