Paperwork Reduction Act

The Paperwork Reduction Act requires that all federal websites request permission from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) before collecting information from 10 or more members of the public. On EERE, offices often have to request OMB approval before conducting surveys or user experience (UX) research projects.

What Does the Paperwork Reduction Act Require?

You must get approval from OMB if you conduct any activity that collects information from 10 or more respondents from the general public. This generally applies to surveys or UX research projects, but it can apply to any project that gathers user data.

You do not need approval if you're only collecting information from federal employees. However, OMB does not consider government contractors to be federal employees, so any survey that collects information from more than 10 contractors will need OMB approval.

If you don't know whether your survey requires OMB approval, contact the Web Usability Coordinator before you begin work on your survey.

Getting Approval from the Office of Management and Budget

You can get OMB approval through two different processes: the fast track system or standard OMB approval. Most UX research or surveys for EERE can use the fast track system.

The Fast Track System

Your UX research or survey is eligible for the fast track process if:

  • The data collection is focused on improving existing or future services, products, or communication materials;
  • The data collection is voluntary;
  • Statistical rigor is not required;
  • The burden on participants is not high; and
  • You won't distribute the results publicly.

To submit your UX research or survey for fast track approval, follow these steps:

  1. Contact the Web Usability Coordinator and ask for the PRA submission form.
    • The form will ask you to estimate your total potential burden to the public. This is the total number of people who will see the survey multiplied by the amount of time it takes to take the survey. For example, if you are sending the survey out over a mailing list, you would take the total number of newsletter subscribers, subtract all federal employees, and then multiply that number by the number of minutes it takes to complete the survey. If you planned to put the survey on a website for two weeks, you could use your website statistics to estimate the number of visitors you get, on average, in two weeks. The number of people can be estimated, but the total burden MUST be that number multiplied by the time. (Do not factor in the fact that most people who visit the site or read the newsletter will not read your survey.)
  2. Submit the completed PRA submission form and your survey questions to the Web Usability Coordinator, who may recommend changes before it is submitted to OMB.
  3. Once she has approved your survey, you can submit the forms and survey questions to Markus Robinson, the U.S. Department of Energy's liaison with OMB. There is also a central mailbox for these requests:
  4. Markus will review your survey and suggest changes.
  5. Make these changes and send them back to Markus Robinson.
  6. He will submit your survey for a preliminary review by OMB. OMB will provide preliminary suggestions and recommendations.
  7. Make these changes and send them back to Markus.
  8. He will formally submit your survey to OMB. OMB has 5 business days to respond. If they have a question or require more information, they will contact you in this time.
    • If OMB inquires within those 5 days, they have an additional 5 days to respond after you send them your response.
    • If no response is received in 5 days, the survey is assumed approved on the 6th day and you may begin your survey.

The amount of time it takes to get approval varies widely, but often takes more than a month to complete.

Standard Office of Management and Budget Approval

If your survey isn't eligible for the fast track system, you will need to go through a more lengthy submission process. OMB can take more than 60 days to approve requests submitted this way. If you do not qualify for the fast track process, contact the Web Usability Coordinator.

Labeling Your Approved Materials

Once you've received OMB approval, you will need to add this text to your survey or UX research test or questionnaire. This needs to be prominently placed on your product.

The text below is incomplete. Replace the section that reads "…average XX minutes per response…" with the estimated time for your survey.

  • OMB Number 1910-5160
  • Expiration date: 6/30/14
  • Public burden: Public reporting burden for this collection of information is estimated to average XX minutes per response, including the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. Send comments regarding this estimate or any other aspect of this information, including suggestions for reducing this burden, to Information, Records, and Resource Management, MA-41-GTN, Paperwork Reduction Project (1910-5160), U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, DC 20874-1290; and to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Paperwork Reduction Project (1910-5160),Washington, DC 20503.

More Information