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AAAS:
Expressing Concern About Legislation Opening all Federally-Funded Research Awards to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Demands

Whereas the Congress in 1998 passed legislation requiring that all data produced under federal awards be made available to the public through the procedures established under the Freedom of Information Act (HR 4328, directing amendment of Section--.36 of OMB Circular A-110); and

Whereas this provision was not subjected to public hearings or debate, and now risks causing serious unintended consequences; and

Whereas draft regulations implementing this provision by the Office of Management and Budget are believed to be imminent; and

Whereas the implementation of this legislation would create a sweeping new precedent for extending the scope of FOIA to materials that have never before been considered government records, including, potentially, the entire files and notes of researchers receiving federal funding; and

Whereas this mandate may have the effect of requiring premature disclosure of research data and results, disrupting the processes of analysis, interpretation and peer review that normally and properly precede such public disclosure; and

Whereas this mandate may also raise serious threats to the privacy of human subjects in federally-funded research projects, and may even undermine the participation of these subjects in research necessary to reach scientifically valid conclusions; and

Whereas this mandate also raises serious threats to the protection of proprietary and national security information and to the intellectual property rights of those who conduct such research, and may subject them to FOIA demands both from competitors and from other self-interested parties; and

Whereas this mandate thus also imposes significant uncompensated burdens of cost and effort on all recipients of federal research grants, including universities, hospitals, and other nonprofit scientific research organizations; and

Whereas the American Association for the Advancement of Science supports the public disclosure of scientific data that form the evidentiary basis for scientific findings and regulatory decisions, at the appropriate time and with appropriate safeguards for the concerns identified above; and

Whereas the American Association for the Advancement of Science stands ready to provide advice and counsel as necessary to support appropriate public disclosures of scientific data produces under federal awards;

Be it therefore resolved that the Council urges that the leadership of the American Association for the Advancement of Science bring these concerns in a timely fashion to the attention of the Congress and the Administration.

[Approved by the AAAS Council, January 24, 1999.]