Another interesting tidbit from the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan that was released yesterday:

3. Continue to Pilot Expert Networking Platforms

Expert networking platforms offer the potential for Government officials to find and connect with Federal colleagues, academic researchers, or members of the general public that have specialized skills or unique expertise. The pilot program ExpertNet, launched by the Food and Drug Administration to connect Federal experts with each other and with citizens who have expertise on a pertinent topic, will be expanded in 2014. The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture are also working to leverage a similar networking platform to enable collaboration and discovery among researchers and scientists. The Administration will work with the research community to assess the impact of expert networking and will convene agencies to identify best practices

So there is a pilot program currently under way? I can’t seem to find any additional information anywhere. Did any of the pending questions get resolved?

Having followed the ExpertNet idea since its first mention in December 2010 (see our coverage), I’d be curious to find out.

A GovLab workshop earlier this year had ExpertNet on the agenda. They appear to have since been exploring opportunities at the local level:

While, at least initially, the targeted population for ExpertNet has shifted from experts within the general public to experts within city governments, the central objective remains essentially the same: the creation of a purpose-built question-asking tool that will enable government employees to tap dormant, existing expertise to help solve problems.

Not sure if and how the FDA pilot program is connected.

Earlier this year, it sounded like the federal government had more or less pulled the plug on ExpertNet as a custom-built tool. In its March 2013 Open Government Self-Assessment Report (PDF), the White House stated (pages 34-35, emphasis mine):

After further exploring the concept, the Administration recognized that a single government-wide software platform would face implementation challenges. Soliciting expert citizen opinions, outside the process of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, is as much a culture-change and business process challenge as it is a question of technology platform. Furthermore, a number of private-sector platforms have emerged, such as Quora or Stack Overflow, which are online communities that already have self-sustaining, vibrant ecosystems that enable users to ask citizen experts very specific questions. Finding ways to take government questions to these and other relevant communities, rather than attempting to create a network from scratch that requires the government to find and aggregate experts itself, will ultimately be more sustainable, dynamic, open, and beneficial to the American people.

While the ExpertNet commitment has not yet been met, the Administration is committed to continuing to explore the concept in specific agencies that have mission objectives and business processes that will substantially benefit from consulting citizen experts.

So maybe the FDA got to go first.