Online dispute resolution has proved successful in e-commerce and IP disputes, but can it be adapted to help resolve labor-management disputes? Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are about to delve into that question.

Under a three-year, $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, faculty from two UMass research centers, the Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution and the Electronic Enterprise Institute, will work with the National Mediaton Board, an independent federal agency that works to help resolve labor relations disputes in the railroad and airline industries, to investigate the use of technology and ODR to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the process.

“We’re testing the theory of technology as a fourth party,” says EEI co-director Norman K. Sondheimer, who is collaborating on the project with Leon Osterweil, a computer scientist and EEI co-director, and Ethan Katsh, professor of legal studies and CITDR director. “If we can really make it work and verify that such systems work for the people in government who will have to use them, then it opens the door for other federal agencies to adopt online dispute resolution.”

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Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.