The federal government and red tape go together like peaches and bourbon caramel sauce like Brussels sprouts and protesting eaters. In the spirit of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), today the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced that it would be making efforts to help federal agencies test whether forms are sufficiently clear and comprehensible. The reasoning for these efforts is clear for anyone dealing with forms ranging from licenses to grant applications; from a larger perspective, “unnecessarily burdensome paperwork requirements can undermine economic and other goals.”
Some of the announcement reads:
Advance testing might take the form of focus groups, in-person observations of users' perceptions of the forms and questions (cognitive testing), web-based experiments, and randomized controlled experiments. When renewing information collection requests, agencies shall … compile actual evidence about the burden imposed by those requests, and refine or simplify the requests on the basis of such evidence.
Sounds like a bureaucratic breath of fresh air to ease our collective headaches. I hope it will result in real changes at the paper- and e-trail level, with a concerted effort to pop the jargon bubbles and focus on using plain language. The federal government already deserves applause for consolidating federal procurement systems in the newly born System for Award Management (SAM). Let’s hope we can applaud some tangible results from this announcement.
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