Congress lacks basic knowledge management, finds paper

Tools

Congress lacks basic knowledge management strategies, depending instead on outdated systems for information referral, sorting, communicating and collaborating, according to a policy document (.pdf) published Dec. 4 by the New America Foundation.

Lawmakers have information—in fact, they are drowning in it—but they do not have a deliberate system providing inclusive information that is not overshadowed by special interest and advocacy-group data, writes Lorelei Kelly, a research fellow at the New America Foundation.

There are, however, some new legislative dashboards and communication management tools that are helping. Correlate helps legislators with constituent correspondence, iConstituent offers data management and communications tools and Popvox provides information curation and gathers constituent input on pending legislation, says the report.

However, use of such tools is not widespread, they are not a silver bullet and broader organizational problems exacerbate the problem of knowledge asymmetry within Congress, writes Kelly. For example, there is a serious disparity between the subject matter information provided to committees, that provided to personal staff on the Hill and that provided to staff back home in the state or district.

Not all politicians want to routinely share data or encourage robust knowledge management either, notes the report.

"Reaction and ignorance about long term impacts of decision making inevitably serves one interest or another," writes Kelly. "On any particular action, one side will want to minimize negative outcomes and highlight benefits."

The report makes several recommendations for improving knowledge management within Congress. Among them, Kelly suggests Congress open more data so outside groups can create tools to benefit public information access and explore creating knowledge tools for public sharing and submission of information using new technologies.

The report also recommends the Congressional Research Service adopt mapping tools to help members see consolidated data, via dashboards.  

For more:
- download the policy document, "Congress' Wicked Problem: Seeking Knowledge Inside the Information Tsunami" (.pdf)

Related Articles:
Congress seeks better reports, data
House proposal would make CRS reports available online
THOMAS.gov reboots