Dr. Stuart Shulman

Contact: Karen Hoffmann [412-624-4356;]


Editors: Stuart Shulman can be reached by telephone at 412-624-3776 and by e-mail at

Mass E-mail Campaigns May Do More Harm Than Good

Report: Internet is shifting how public participates in regulatory process

PITTSBURGH -Groups that send out tens or hundreds of thousands of similar e-mails seeking to influence government regulations may be "inadvertently petitioning themselves into obscurity," according to a new report by a University of Pittsburgh professor.

photo of Dr.Stuart Shulman
Dr. Stuart Shulman

"The assumption has been that the more people participate in the policy-making process, the more they'll be listened to," said Stuart W. Shulman, assistant professor of information sciences and public administration at Pitt and senior research associate in Pitt's University Center for Social and Urban Research . " The fact may be that the more they participate in mass e-mail campaigns-without creating substantive, detailed, specific new information relevant to a decision-the lower the agency estimates the role of the public to be over time."

Federal agencies promulgate more than 4,000 new regulations each year; the term "electronic rulemaking" refers to the use of information technology and the Internet in this process. The public has a right to participate under the "notice and comment" provisions in the federal Administrative Procedure Act of 1946.

As a part of his work leading the eRulemaking Research Group-Jamie Callan, associate professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University; Eduard Hovy, research associate professor of computer science at the University of Southern California; and Stephen Zavestoski, assistant professor of sociology and environmental studies at the University of San Francisco-Shulman has published a report, titled "The Internet Still Might (but Probably Won't) Change Everything: Stakeholder Views on the Future of Electronic Rulemaking ," about the impact of modern information technology and the Internet on the federal rulemaking process. The report is available in hard copy beginning today.