FOIA Freedom of Information Act Requests

The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) facilitates public access to federal documents. FOIA requests to federal agencies include requests for proposal and award information. Federal agencies are required to disclose any information requested under the FOIA unless it falls under one of nine exemptions that protect interests such as personal privacy, national security, and law enforcement.

The agency will alert a Principal Investigator (PI) that a FOIA request has been received, and the PI will have a limited period of time to confirm that there is no confidential commercial or financial information in the document that should be withheld before the document is released by the federal agency.  

There is almost never any information that can legally be withheld under FOIA. Congress has established nine exemptions and three exclusions to protect certain information.

In a rare case, such as a pending patent application, a few paragraphs or pages of a proposal or progress report might be withheld. The PI should tell the agency this by responding directly or by asking SPA to respond. The response to the agency must include specific lines of content that are requested to be redacted and the justification.  

If there is no information that the PI wishes to withhold, the PI or SPA can sign the form that the agency provides to confirm that nothing must be withheld. 

If the PI and UMB do not respond by the federal agency’s deadline then the agency will send its documents out with “routine redaction” of personal information (such as SSN, date of birth, institutional base salary, and other personal or business information).  NIH grant redactions.  NIH contract redactions.