Testimony and Statements

Contact: Bill Noxon
Date: February 23, 1999
(703) 306-1070/wnoxon@nsf.gov
Document No: (NSB 99-30) PS 99-2

Statement by


On the Sharing of Research Data

Recent legislation* permits individuals to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to compel access to raw, partially processed research data. The premature release of raw research data disrupts the process of discovery. It:

∑ Creates a mechanism that allows research to be misinterpreted, or unfairly and inappropriately delayed or attacked;

Interferes with the publication of researchersí work in peer reviewed journals through compulsory and premature disclosure of research data;

∑ Discourages participation of research subjects because of the legitimate fear that their responses might not ultimately be confidential;

∑ Undermines public-private cooperative research efforts by breaching the protections for participantsí proprietary rights and information;

∑ Jeopardizes researchersí ability to obtain international patent protection for discoveries; and

∑ Imposes significant administrative and financial burdens on research institutions with no clear means of recouping such costs beyond drawing from research funds.

This countryís science and technology research policies and partnerships have contributed to robust innovation, unprecedented increases in productivity, improvements in the quality of life, and understanding of our world. The conduct of the Nationís science and engineering enterprise requires publication of research results, as well as timely and wide sharing of data. Current sharing practices promote free and open exchange of research data in a context that supports the rapid creation of knowledge, widespread evaluation of research results, and the entry of highly talented individuals to research.

For all these reasons, the Board urges the repeal of the provision in recent legislation that relies upon FOIA to obtain premature access to research data.

The National Science Board, the governing board of the National Science Foundation, is charged with advising the President and Congress on science and engineering policy.


* Editors: Public Law 105-277, the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 1998, directs that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) apply Freedom of Information Act procedures to data produced under federal awards for the purpose of improving dissemination of federally supported data. Draft OMB Circular A-110, now out for public comment, proposes rules under which this new law would apply. The above statement was adopted on February 18, 1999 at the NSB's 351st meeting in Los Angeles, Calif.

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