Internet-Draft Policy experts are IETF stakeholders March 2023
Hoffmann & Blachut Expires 28 September 2023 [Page]
gendispatch Working Group
Intended Status:
S. Hoffmann
UK Dept. for Science, Innovation & Technology
M. Blachut
UK Dept. for Science, Innovation & Technology

Policy experts are IETF stakeholders


At IETF115 a side meeting on policymaker engagement with the IETF was held. This meeting identified the significance of the IETF’s work for wider societal, economic, and political communities, as well as existing gaps and barriers to engagement for policy experts. This informational draft provides an overview of the side meeting and introduces the problem statement and gap analysis of existing initiatives in this space. It also poses questions we hope to work through with others in the IETF community regarding how to better enable policy expert engagement in IETF standardisation, and on how we can build a culture which better supports technical and policy experts working together to develop more robust standards.

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on 28 September 2023.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The openness of processes is one of the defining characteristics of the IETF and its work to develop and improve the Internet. The success of IETF standards is underpinned by the ability of the community to bring together diverse individuals with a range of relevant expertise - including stakeholders from industry, academia, civil society, and government.

Across various parts of the IETF community, and over time, the challenge of putting this into practice has been noted, for example: (1) in the IETF mission statement [RFC3935] and the openStand principles signed up to by the IETF and IAB [OPENSTAND]; (2) the charter and work of the Education, Mentoring, and Outreach directorate[EMODIR]; (3) in the Tao of the IETF [TAO]; (4) in [RFC8890]: The Internet is for the end user; (5) The Human Rights and Protocol Considerations Research Group in the IRTF[HRPC]; and, (6) in other groups that participate in and around the IETF, such as The Public Interest Technology Group[PITG].

These all recognise the wider context of standardisation, and the value in involving a diverse set of inputs as part of open processes.

The decisions made in the IETF have the potential to create ripple-effects across the globe. We are increasingly reliant on the Internet for virtually every facet of life, and many stakeholders are actively working to increase access to the Internet. The success of the Internet is built on open standards.

Multistakeholder approaches help to develop standards in ways that reflect a balance of various considerations, on the basis of relevant expertise. Alongside technical expertise in domains like routing, security, or operations, wider expertise and experience with regard to the societal, economic, and geopolitical impacts of standardisation can fruitfully contribute to the IETF’s work.

“Policy experts” - individuals who have expertise in these domains relevant to public policy - exist across many types of stakeholder groups, and actively engage in support of the public interest. Taken broadly, “policy communities” extend far beyond governments. The best policy approaches to Internet issues are developed through multistakeholder processes, such as the Internet Governance Forum, which exemplify the diverse and unique contribution of policy and technical experts from civil society, academia, industry and governments.

Policy communities bring a distinct, relevant, and useful perspective to the IETF’s work, but face a unique set of challenges in contributing to standards development. On this basis, the IETF community should consider avenues that better enable policy experts to engage in IETF processes as productive contributors.

Section 2 summarises a side meeting held on this topic at IETF 115, Section 3 outlines a problem statement, and Section 4 identifies ongoing work and initiates discussion on ways forward.

2. Policymaker engagement side meeting at IETF 115

At IETF115 the Internet Society and the UK Government held a side meeting on policymaker engagement with the IETF, in discussion with chairs of the IETF, IRTF, and IAB along with other members of the community.

The session discussed the rationale behind policymaker engagement in the IETF, including the societal, economic, and geopolitical implications of IETF standards and of the importance of the multistakeholder evolution of the Internet built on open standards. Incorporating policy expertise into the standardisation process helps create more robust standards for the benefit of all.

Challenges for policy experts wishing to engage in the IETF were identified, such as difficulties in knowing when to engage in emerging standards work and how to identify issues with significance for policy, as well as wider barriers to engagement in the IETF. These can include difficulty in understanding ways of working, lack of technical knowledge and where and how to engage effectively.

Opportunities for policy and technical communities around the IETF to mutually build a better understanding of technology as well as policy were noted. This included opportunities to collaborate with stakeholders such as the Internet Society and the IAB in their respective roles.

It was noted that what is missing is a clear touchpoint for policy experts within the IETF space and join-up with standardisation work and technical experts. Opportunities to learn from existing initiatives in the IRTF and in other organisations in the wider Internet governance ecosystem that bring together policy and technical expertise were flagged, such as HRPC and RIPE NCC’s roundtable meetings for technology experts and policymakers.

While the session focused primarily on the perspective of policymakers in governments, the conversation affirmed the valuable role of policy experts across other stakeholder groups. Other side meetings were held at IETF 115 which focused on wider connections between policy issues and IETF standardisation [CDT-A19]. A common theme in these sessions noted that the IETF already carries out work with great significance for policy, societal and economic outcomes, but that there is still more to do in improving ways of working between policy experts and technical experts.

3. Problem statement

How do we ensure we are benefitting from the contributions of individuals with policy expertise in the IETF? There are a range of challenges to be addressed, including: (1) improving communication between the IETF and policy communities, (2) education and upskilling of policy experts to meaningfully engage, and (3) building community and a culture that enables policy and technical experts to work together.

There are clear barriers to productive contribution of policy expertise in the IETF. There are factors that motivate work to mitigate these barriers. One is the IETF’s important contribution to the ecosystem of global Internet governance through the development of the Internet’s open standards. There is a need to strengthen the IETF in this critical role as other standards bodies and actors look to use different fora to develop and influence Internet protocol standards, at the risk of undermining the Internet’s openness and interoperability. Another is the need to better understand the real-world impact of those standards. Learning from other multistakeholder processes and better incorporating a wider range of expertise can help make IETF standards more robust and help identify global deployment barriers, and can help raise the IETF’s profile and make the IETF community better connected globally.

Two big questions still remain for us: (1) How can we better enable and benefit from the contribution of policy expertise to IETF standardisation? (2) How can we build a culture and ways of working which better support technical and policy experts collaborating to develop more robust standards?

There are a range of initiatives within and around the IETF that are addressing particular aspects of the above points. Some of these are venues for considering the intersection of policy and technology, some of these are mechanisms for improving communication, or bringing together relevant stakeholders. Below is a non-exhaustive list of identified workstreams relevant to this problem space, as a starting point for identifying remaining gaps.

4. Identifying solutions and ways forward

In March 2023 we identified the following groups and initiatives:

(1) HRPC RG: The Human Rights and Protocol Considerations research group in IRTF has served as a venue to consider a range of policy-relevant topics related to human rights, and has brought valuable expertise into the IETF. The group is discussing rechartering as “Human Rights and Policy Considerations”.

(2) ISOC Policymaker Program [ISOC]: The educational program, co-located at IETF meetings, serves to train and introduce government policymakers to Internet standards.

(3) IAB-ISOC coordination group: A new coordination group has been set up to better facilitate liaison between the IAB and ISOC [IAB-ISOC]. This is in the context of a longer standing practice of collaboration.

(4) RASP RG chartering: A new research group in the IRTF is being chartered to look at Research and Analysis of the Standards Process, including barriers to participation and engagement [RASPRG].

(5) EMODIR Directorate: The Education, Mentoring, and Outreach directorate is chartered to increase the diversity and inclusiveness of the IETF, and oversees a variety of relevant initiatives [EMODIR].

(6) Article 19 and Centre for Democracy and Technology: These civil society organisations have created guides for engaging with Internet standardisation, including an almanac of relevant Internet standards work across the IETF, W3C, ITU, IEEE and other standards bodies [ARTICLE19], as well as a handbook on how to engage as a public interest advocate [KNODEL].

Sharing information to identify further initiatives, and collaborating to better understand the overlaps and gaps between this collection of work, will be key to addressing the identified problem statement.

Addressing this problem space over the long-term will require a range of activities and contributions from the wider IETF community. It is expected that part of this work will support existing initiatives, but new initiatives or ideas may also be needed. For example, it is not clear that any of the existing initiatives will help create a clear touchpoint for those with policy expertise and it is unclear how they bridge the gap between technology and policy experts working on IETF standardisation.

Building off of what exists (see above), how can we best support this activity: (1) Is there existing activity that can be expanded to make clear touchpoints for those with policy expertise and for those experts to better contribute to IETF standards work through open and inclusive processes? (2) Are there other relevant initiatives not listed here we should be following/engaging?

From an initial review of the landscape, a few gaps have been identified, such as liaisons/communications, technical contributions from policy experts, and identification of key stages in the standardisation process for policy engagement. (1) Is there agreement that diverse expertise including that of policy communities strengthens the IETF’s standardisation work? (2) Are there other ways in which the IETF community would benefit from further communication and collaboration with policy experts? (3) Where is best placed for us to start discussions on or build clarity around these points?

5. Security Considerations

This document has no security considerations.

6. IANA Considerations

This document has no IANA actions.

7. Informative References

19, A., "Internet Standards Almanac", , <>.
"Center for Democracy & Technology and Article 19, Connecting Internet protocols and standards with policy", , <>.
"Education, Mentoring, and Outreach Directorate", , <>.
"Human Rights and Protocol Considerations Research Group", , <>.
"IAB-ISOC coordination group", , <>.
"Internet Society Policymakers Program", , <>.
Knodel, M., Salazar, J., and M. Ansari, "A Guide to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for Public Interest Advocates", , <>.
"OpenStand principles", , <>.
"Public Interest Technology Group", n.d., <>.
"Research and Analysis of Standard-Setting Processes Proposed Research Group", , <>.
Alvestrand, H., "A Mission Statement for the IETF", BCP 95, RFC 3935, DOI 10.17487/RFC3935, , <>.
Nottingham, M., "The Internet is for End Users", RFC 8890, DOI 10.17487/RFC8890, , <>.
"Tao of the IETF", , <>.

Appendix A. Acknowledgments

Thanks to Olaf Kolkman for his review of this draft.

Many discussions influenced this draft, including with the participants of the IETF 115 side meeting.

Authors' Addresses

Stacie Hoffmann
UK Dept. for Science, Innovation & Technology
Marek Blachut
UK Dept. for Science, Innovation & Technology