Open Legislative Data is a term mixing Open Data (the idea that public data should be made freely available to anyone for re-use and redistribution) & Legislative Studies (the academic study of parliaments and legislators).
The Law Factory is a French group composed of hacktivists (Regards Citoyens) and academics (Centre d’études européennes & Médialab Sciences Po). In July 2012, we organized a first conference in Paris about Parliamentary informatics.
Following the same tradition we will organize in May 2014, a second conference mainly focused on law tracking. The aim is to:
- Discuss, present and compare the latest developments regarding law tracking, i.e. the visualization and analysis of the legislative procedure through computer analysis.
- Reassemble two groups that rarely communicate: the academic world of legislative studies and individuals and organizations from across the open data and parliamentary informatics spectrum
Tell me more…
Two years ago, we organized in Paris an international conference, which gathered more than 100 participants from academics and practitioners to activists and technical experts. More about this conference can be found on our website:
The next conference Open Legislative Data In Paris II will focus on process tracking of legislation. The many changes which affect bills during the parliamentary legislative procedure is still, to a large extent, a black box. We know that things happen in parliaments, that bills are amended and in some cases fully altered, but we still don’t know exactly to which extent and why.
Three reasons may explain why the black box is still there. Firstly, the legislative process is complex. Thousands of amendments, several stages of readings (committee & floor) and, in many cases, the shuttle between 2 chambers of the parliament: everything seems to be done to get you lost. Secondly, the data produced throughout the legislative process is hardly accessible: some information is easy to find (like plenary amendments), some is only partially there (like committee debates) and some is just hidden (like lobbies inputs). Finally, process tracking of legislation has not really been, so far, the focus of people interested in parliament’s business. Legislative studies scholars have been more interested in studying votes over legislation than actual contents of legislation. Hacktivists have been first and foremost known for monitoring MPs individual activities – such individual focus being not well fitted for understanding law-making, a collective process if there is one.
Few has been done with new technologies to understand how parliaments (re)write bills. There are good reasons to believe that time has come to do so: programmers have now the capacity to deal with gigantic corpora of data, parliaments have been more and more pushed to open their data, parliamentary monitoring websites have prepared citizens to understand and analyze legislative “serious” activities, and, last but not least, assessing the actual role of parliaments in law production is a prerequisite for understanding the quality of any democracy. We know that in modern democracies, law is not fully written in parliament and that the executive branch benefits from privileged tools for initiating (in Europe) or vetoing (in America) legislation. Yet, there is lack of systematic knowledge about what remains to parliaments, in which cases and in which policy fields.
Yes, the time has come to open the black box of parliaments’ legislative activities.