Information Governance

In the information age, one of the key challenges is the production and dissemination of information—making sure that the wheel is invented, on the one hand, but not re-invented on the other. I argue in (2) (with Friedman) and (8) that these two objectives—discovery and dissemination—are potentially at odds. That is, in an age where more information can spread faster than ever before, in the absence of property rights or other supporting norms, fewer innovations will be produced, although those that are produced will be exploited more fully. Further, with Carpenter and Esterling, I argue in (7), and with Friedman in (2), that individual incentives in creating the network may result in a network that is quite suboptimal from the system point of view.

These ideas are then examined in the context of policy diffusion in (6) (10) (11). In (11) I examine the “informational mode” of policy interdependence, comparing to the coordinative and cooperative modes of interdependence. In (10) Mayer-Schoenberger and I apply the informational (and cooperative and coordinative) mode to an evaluation of the governance frameworks of telecommunications in the US and EU. In (6) I focus exclusively on the informational mode of interdependence, examining the various networks and institutions that create and disseminate information in the international system.

In (1), Mayer-Schoenberger and I have assembled a collection of work from leading researchers focusing on the intersection of governance and information technology. Governing is increasingly about managing information, and government, because of its massive needs, has been a major driver of the development of information technology in the 20th century. This volume examines both how information technology is potentially at odds with the hierarchical nature of government—because bits can follow the commands of multiple silo’s at once—and how IT makes the boundary between government and governed blurrier. In both the edited volume and in (5) we also examine the particular ethical and privacy challenges involved in how government governs its own information.

In collaboration with Ines Mergel and Maria Binz-Scharf, and an NSF grant, I am also examining the processes of knowledge sharing among state and local forensics DNA laboratories across the US. The rise of the use of DNA in the criminal justice system has posed particular knowledge-sharing challenges for these laboratories that are, on the one hand, both extreme (because of the dynamic nature of the area) and typical (because of their cross-boundary nature). We are conducting both qualitative research (based on interviews) and quantitative research (based on surveys) to examine these knowledge sharing processes. In addition, we have created a quasi-experimental intervention, through the creation of a website,, to examine the potential of the Internet to facilitate knowledge sharing.

With Ines Mergel, Nancy Katz, and a $150,000 grant from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, I am now launching a project to evaluate the inter-state network among state health officials (SHO’s), as well as the impact of the RWJF’s State Health Initiative on the social capital of SHO’s (13).

Finally, with Kevin Esterling and Michael Neblo, and the Congressional Management Foundation, and supported by approximately $1m of NSF grants, I am examining the role that information technology may play in transforming the citizen-representative relationship. In part, this involves the potential of the Internet to facilitate the capacity of representatives to communicate with constituents regarding policy; and, conversely, for constituents to find out about policy and to communicate preferences to their representatives. In our initial forays into this area, we have examined what predicts aggressive use of the Internet by Members of Congress in (3) (4). We will also be conducting a series of online deliberative experiments involving Members of Congress and their constituents this Spring (14).

(1) From E-Gov to I-Gov: Governance and Information Technology in the 21st Century, edited with Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger (MIT Press 2007), including chapters: “From Egov to Igov” (with Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger), “The Governing of Government Information” (with Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger), and “It Takes a Network to Build a Network” (with Maria Binz-Scharf).

(2) David Lazer and Allan Friedman, “The social structure of exploration and exploitation,” in Administrative Science Quarterly 52 (2007): 667–694.

(3) Kevin Esterling, David Lazer, and Michael Neblo, "Managing the web: how Members of Congress use the Internet,” in Advanced Topics in Electronic Government Research, Donald Norris, editor, Hershey, PA: Idea Group, forthcoming in 2006.

(4) Kevin Esterling, David Lazer, and Michael Neblo, “Home (Page) Style: Determinates of the Quality of House Members’ Websites,” International Journal of Electronic Government Research 2(1), 2005.

(5) David Lazer and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, “Statutory Frameworks for Regulating Information Flows: Drawing Lessons for the DNA Databanks from other Government Data Systems,” Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, 34.2 (Summer 2006): 366-374.

(6) David Lazer, “Regulatory Capitalism as a Networked Order: The International System as an Informational Network,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 2005.

(7) Daniel Carpenter, Kevin Esterling and David Lazer, “The Strength of Strong Ties:  A Model of Contact-Making in Policy Networks with Evidence from the U.S. Health Politics,” Rationality and Society, November 2003.

(8) David Lazer, “Information and Innovation in a Networked World,” in Dynamic Network Analysis: Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences, 2003.

(9) David Lazer, “Regulatory Review: Presidential Control Through Selective Communication and Institutionalized Conflict,” Center for Public Leadership Working paper, 2003.

(10) David Lazer and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, “Governing Networks,” Brooklyn Journal of International Law, volume 27, number 3, 2002, 819-851.

(11) David Lazer, “Regulatory Interdependence and International Governance,” Journal of European Public Policy, April 2001, 474-492.

(12) The initiative

(13) The state health official initiative

(14) The Connecting to Congress project

**(For any of the above articles without a link, please email david_lazer(at) for a PDF or hardcopy)

Concept & Design © Alexander Schellong