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Congress has information, needs more knowledge

New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) has released a new report that The U.S. Congress lacks “shared expert knowledge capacity” and that has “created a critical weakness in our democratic process.” The report says that Congress depends on outdated and in some cases antiquated systems of information referral, sorting, communicating, and convening.”

  • Congress’ Wicked Problem [announcement and summary].

    This paper does not put forward a simple recipe to fix these ailments, but argues that the absence of basic knowledge management in our legislature is a critical weakness. Congress struggles to make policy on complex issues while it equally lacks the wherewithal to effectively compete on substance in today’s 24 hour news cycle. This paper points out that Congress is not so much venal and corrupt as it is incapacitated and obsolete. And, in its present state, it cannot serve the needs of American democracy in the 21st Century.

  • Congress’ Wicked Problem, Seeking Knowledge Inside the Information Tsunami, By Lorelei Kelly, New America Foundation, (December 2012). [PDF, 6 pages]

    This paper distinguishes between information and knowledge: Members of Congress and their staff do not lack access to information. Yet information backed by financial interests and high-decibel advocacy is disproportionately represented. Most importantly, they lack the institutional wisdom that can be built via a deliberate system that feeds broadly inclusive information through defined processes of review, context, comparison and evaluation of the implications for the nation as a whole. Concurrently, Congress also needs more expert judgment available to it during the policymaking process, which, for the purposes of this paper, means a focus on development of knowledge.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


  1. Congress needs to reinstate the staff of the Joint Committee on printing and combine it with the Joint Committee on the Library. JCP had experts in a number of fields who helped Congress better organize its information and make it available to to Congress to make good decisions. Congress refuses to provide itself with enough money to hire enough experts to make it possible to do their job of oversight and creation of legislation. I urge the library and information community to lobby for the return of the JCP in a new form, perhaps the Joint Committee on Publishing, Library, and Information Services.

  2. I hope this situation has been corrected. I worked at the JCP as a detailee for over 2 years. The staff supplies an oversight of keeping GPO work consistent with Congressional style and tradition. It supplies a very essential duty to America.

  3. I had the honor and privilege to work at the JCP for Staff Director John Chambers and Anne Chambers. The JCP has always provided an essential link for Congress for the GPO. They provide the consistency and tradition of GPO Style and Congressional traditional printing.

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