Making policy research efficient and accessible with Policy Connector

Policy Connector helps support government operations by making policy research and analysis faster and more consistent.

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From processing tax returns to funding healthcare, the day-to-day operations of our government rely on meticulous and timely answers to very specialized legal questions. Which is why it’s surprising just how few tools exist to make that policy research easier. 

Policy Connector is an open source, customizable policy knowledge management service. It connects regulation text, statute, and a curated selection of critical subregulatory guidance and other resources. Embedded links to exact statute and regulation references reduces user burden and time by removing the need to search and find the right, and most current reference.

The opportunity

We built Policy Connector to tackle the central problem that government policy information resides in many different places—both external and internal—making research and analysis time-consuming and burdensome. We wanted to help government staff, stakeholders, and the general public have an easier way to find policies, and increase their confidence that they have all the right information. This helps government staff make accurate policy and compliance decisions, often on tight deadlines, and stakeholders and the public understand requirements they must follow.

Let’s take a hypothetical scenario where a Medicare provider is looking for information about the requirements for Medicare Evaluation and Management claims. Getting to all the information would require navigating multiple websites, plus documents on an individual or shared computer drive. Policy Connector can consolidate all that information in one place.

Not only does checking all those websites take a lot of time, but analysts are often not sure they have found all the relevant information. In addition, the policy landscape is always changing as new laws are passed, regulations published, and Administrations change. Newcomers to the field or to a topic who don’t know the specialized terminology may find that their searches return information that is hard to sort through and struggle to determine its relevance. 

The time and energy spent tracking down documents is time that can’t go to interpretation, communication, and providing assistance. It creates significant burden to government staff, policy stakeholders, and in the end, the public.

How does Policy Connector help?

Policy Connector speeds up policy research by linking together key resources that researchers previously had to retrieve by searching multiple sites. For professionals who know their domain well, having all the relevant information in one place just makes their job simpler. For novices, curated guidance can avoid hours of online searching and stress.

We designed and built these features based on iterative rounds of research, co-design with experts, and testing to ensure they fit into policy research workflows. While we and our partners at Fearless entirely rebuilt the original open source code, Policy Connector wouldn’t exist without previous versions created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Key features and connections

Policy Connector curates connections between statutes, rules, regulation text, subregulatory guidance, resources, and subjects. A comprehensive search feature makes tracking down specific topics easier for people who aren’t quite sure where to start.

Statute

Reduce research burden

Tagging curated documents to relevant statute reduces the need to visit multiple sites for research. Users can easily refer to the statutory basis for regulations or policy guidance documents. Policy Connector also helps the user identify which statute versions are the most up to date.

Proposed and final rules

Reduces time and burden of researching regulation history 

The Federal Register is checked daily via APIs for new proposed and final rules. All versions of a rule (e.g. proposed, final, interim, corrections) are connected to make it easier to trace the development of a rule.

Current regulation text 

Regulation text retrieved daily from eCFR guarantees reliable information

Policy Connector pulls regulation text from eCFR daily via API connection. Users can be sure they are working with the most up-to-date, official regulation text.

Subregulatory guidance and resources

Shortcuts to key information 

Public policy and technical assistance materials curated by SMEs are linked to related regulation sections. This helps speed up research and helps users feel more confident that they have found all related information for their research.

Internal Documents

Workflow integration

Policy Connector can also make curated connections to internal agency documents. This optional enhancement makes the research experience more comprehensive and complete. Having internal documents organized, categorized by subjects, and linked to regulation or statute can help streamline internal workflows. 

Subjects

More precise document filtering

Policy researchers often think in terms of subjects, such as “Medicaid home and community-based services,” or “Medicare Part D.” They will often start research with a search for a particular subject area. Policy Connector responds to this mental model by allowing curators to add subject “tags” to documents, in addition to the relevant regulation and statute sections. 

Comprehensive search

Finds what you’re looking for, no matter where it is on the site

Search results include not only web content or document titles, but text in linked documents, including PDFs.

How to get Policy Connector

Connect with us

Policy Connector’s code is 100% free and open source, available on GitHub.

However, putting Policy Connector to work for your policy research needs will require customizing it to agency-specific regulation sections and policy guidance structures. It also requires ongoing content curation to make sure guidance stays up-to-date. Our integrated team of product, design and policy experts can help you with both. Get in touch to learn more.

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