At the CHI 2012 conference in Austin, Whitney joined Janice Tasi, Ben Bederson, Lorrie Faith Cranor and Herb Lin for a panel discussion - Occupy CHI! Engaging U.S. Policy Makers.
Lorrie Faith Cranor, from Carnegie Mellon’s CyLab, offered advice for anyone interested in getting involved in policy issues. Most of the audience worked in academic research, but her ideas are useful for anyone.
- Get up to speed. Do your reading. Government reports, reports from advocacy groups, relevant laws or regulations, and research papers will all help you learn the background and who else is working in this area.
- Follow current events. Identify and follow relevant mailing lists, blogs, Twitter feeds. Attend policy conferences, public hearings, or workshops.
- Do relevant research. Whether you are an academic researcher, or an advocate with research skills, find policy questions where empirical data, design ideas, or new skills will advance the debate.
- Make your research (or views) easy to understand. Don’t expect policy-makers and their staff to read long research papers.
- Network. Meet other researchers, meet staff of government agencies, industry, and other activists. Let them know about your work.
- Get involved. Standards committees, policy groups, public task forces are all opportunities to get involved, but all demand time and a commitment.
Her final advice echoes what we’ve learned at Usability in Civic Life:
- Public policy moves slowly.
- But be prepared to respond quickly.
There are legislative cycles, long public review periods, and time for consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. But when things move, they often move very fast. On one project, we were told to expect a draft of a bill and to be ready to say whether we could support it – on the spot.