Congress seeks better reports, data
Quality information is paramount for congressional staffers, who have very large portfolios from which to give defensible recommendations to their members, said Jessica Lee, senior legislative assistant to Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), during an Aug. 7 panel discussion at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C.
Lee's sentiment is a common one, said Lorelei Kelly, research fellow at the New America Foudation's open technology institute.
"I've conducted dozens of interviews with staff, both on Capitol Hill and in districts," said Kelly. "What they lack are things like foresight analysis, comparative analysis, contextual analysis, institutional memory, real-time expertise, peer-reviewed knowledge."
As staffers sort through the most complex issues, there are few mechanisms for collaboration. There's little work done between the armed services and foreign affairs committees, for example, making it hard to accurately cover the largest issues.
There needs to be better integration of disparate reporting on the Hill, said Daniel Schuman, policy counsel and director of the advisory committee on transparency for the Sunlight Foundation, following the presentation.
"You've got CRS reports, GAO reports, CBO reports, bills--these are all in different places on the Internet. They're not connected together in a coherent kind of way," he said.
"But if you're researching a particular issue, say healthcare, you want all of the things related to this particular bill or this particular topic."
This problem can be solved by better access to underlying information, said Schuman. Sunlight Foundation is just one group trying to bring these pieces together with a tool called Scout, but even that is hamstrung by poor data, he said.
- go to the event page (includes archived webcast and speaker bios)
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