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Open Government: Defining, Designing, and Sustaining Transparency

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
8:00 am


Sherrerd Hall
Sherrerd Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544 United States
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What: A Two-Day Workshop at Princeton sponsored by CITP
When: January 21-22, 2009
Location: Friend Center Convocation Room
Hashtag: #pogw

Organizers: Joseph Lorenzo Hall, Stephen Schultze & Ed Felten

Despite increasing interest in issues of open government and governmental transparency, the values of “openness” and “transparency” have been undertheorized. This workshop will bring together academics, government, advocates and tinkerers to examine a few critical issues in open and transparent government. How can we better conceptualize openness and transparency for government? Are there specific design and architectural needs and requirements placed upon systems by openness and transparency? How can openness and transparency best be sustained? How should we change the provision and access of primary legal materials? Finally, how do we best coordinate the supply of open government projects with the demand from tinkerers?

Video Recordings:

Day 1
Panel 1, Part 1
Panel 1 Part 2
Panel 2, Part 1
Panel 2, Part 2
Panel 3

Day 2
Engaging Tinkerers

This workshop is free and open to the public.

Day 1: Thursday January 21, 2009 (9:00 AM – 5:00 PM)

Registration and Breakfast (8:00 AM – 9:00 AM)

Keynote address: Anil Dash (Director, Expert Labs)

Defining Transparency (10:30 AM – 12:00 PM)

This session will aim to take a critical look at what government transparency means. Some of the questions the panel will consider are: What do people mean when they use these terms? Are open government and government transparency a means or an end? What are the boundaries and tensions involved with different conceptions? What is the history of the use of these concepts and what are various flavors of transparency?


  • Joseph Lorenzo Hall (UC Berkeley/Princeton), Chair
  • Patrice McDermott (
  • Helen Nissenbaum (New York University)
  • J.H. Snider (
  • Jonathan Weinberg (Wayne State University)

Designing Transparency (1:30 PM – 3:00 PM)

This session seeks to take a deep look into architecting systems such that they support open government and transparency. Some of the questions the panel will consider include: How do we design systems, infrastructures and processes to support transparency? Is transparency a value like security, privacy and usability that must be designed into systems from the beginning? If so, how do we include transparency into policy and technical processes? Are there still effective ways to make existing systems more transparent without ineffectively “bolting on” transparency support after policies and systems are fielded?


  • Jerry Brito (GMU), Chair
  • Ginny Hunt (Google)
  • Clay Johnson (Sunlight Labs)
  • Eric Kansa (UC Berkeley)
  • Josh Tauberer (

Sustaining Transparency (3:30 PM – 5:00 PM)

We’d like to think that open government and transparency are not “fads” or “trends” that could disappear. It seems that now is the time to think deeply about how open government and transparency can be sustained. Can we measure how open or transparent government is, such that we would notice any adverse downturns? How do we ensure that transparency is a value that outlasts changes in political winds? In addition to making data available on an ongoing basis, what are strategies for sustainable transparency? Can we embed transparency into key legislative and bureaucratic systems? How do we educate the public to recognize the value of open government and demand transparency of governmental systems? How much of this can we control and what strategies can we conceptualize that will result in obvious public interest value to bolster open government?


  • Roger Schonfeld (Ithaka S+R), Chair
  • Lewis Shepherd (Microsoft)
  • Mike Wash (GPO)
  • John Wonderlich (Sunlight Foundation)


Day 2: Friday January 22, 2009 (9:00 AM – 12:30 PM)

Breakfast (8:30 AM – 9:00 AM) Session (9:00 AM – 10:30 AM)

Access to primary legal materials in the United States is the subject of this session. We’ll discuss current provision of these materials by the Federal and State governments through government systems (such as the GPO’s FDSys and the Judiciary’s PACER system), through commercial providers such as Lexis and West, and various alternatives that have sprung up in both the private sector and from nongovernmental organizations such as Public.Resource, Altlaw, and the RECAP project. In addition to examining the current situation for access to materials, this session will include discussion of the Law.Gov effort, a year-long effort to document detailed specifications that would enable the Federal and then state and local governments to provide a distributed, open source, authenticated registry and repository for primary legal materials. Similar in spirit to the Data.Gov system recently launched, the Law.Gov effort includes a series of workshops at ten major law schools in early 2010.


  • Tom Bruce (Cornell)
  • John Joergensen (Rutgers)
  • Carl Malamud (, Chair
  • Stephen Schultze (Princeton)

[Submit Questions for Panel 4 via Google Moderator]

Engaging Tinkerers (11:00 AM – 12:30 PM)

The availability of data sources and access to government agencies are only a first step in projects involving open government and governmental transparency. The next step is matching the supply of such projects with demand for working on such projects. Tinkerers–those that would create systems that use data from and increased access to government systems–and governmental suppliers need to coordinate in some fashion to best realize project-based open government efforts. What are mechanisms that might match governmental supply of data and access to these tinkerers in an efficient manner? Would a mini-CFP system work, where tinkerers would be on a distribution list that governmental actors could post opportunities for project-based open government work and then decide which projects to work with? Are there legal barriers to such organization? Does it even make sense to “launch” such data sets and access opportunities with projects that benefited from exclusive access before a public launch?


  • Silona Bonewald (League of Technical Voters)
  • Brian Carver (UC Berkeley)
  • Anil Dash (Expert Labs)
  • Ed Felten (Princeton), Chair
  • Robynn Sturm (Office of Science and Technology Policy)

[Submit Questions for Panel 5 via Google Moderator]