Hello again, Roger.
Thanks for giving me the go-ahead on this.
I have some experience with FOIA, and based on that, I can tell you
that one possible outcome of your request could be: "Sorry...we don't
have the information you're seeking in our possession".
NSF is only obligated by FOIA to make available information in its
file-drawers, so to speak. They are not obligate to create
information or go out and retrieve available data from a grantee. At
least, this is how I understand the operation of the law.
That said, however, the NSF does seem to have a genuinely proactive
stance to making information available, and I suspect they will at
least make a good faith effort on your behalf.
I've posted relevant links and excerpts (and a few of my own comments,
in brackets) below. If anything here is not clear -- or if you need
additional information -- please let me know before rating this
Just post a Request for Clarification to let me know what you need,
and I'll be happy to assist you further.
Best of luck.
NSF's FOIA website is here:
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act
National Science Foundation policy is to make the fullest possible
disclosure of information, subject to restrictions imposed by the
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act, to any person who
requests information, without unnecessary expense or delay.
Information is provided here on how to make FOIA and Privacy Act
requests for NSF records and how to contact the FOIA and Privacy Act
offices at NSF.
[here are the steps for making a FOIA request]
Making a FOIA Request
If you wish to make a FOIA request for records, NSF regulations
(published at 45 CFR, Part 612) describe the agency policies in
detail. At a minimum, requests should:
--be in writing, (regular mail, electronic mail, and facsimile
requests are accepted);
--be clearly identified as a FOIA request, this should be indicated in
the text, and on the envelope if the request is sent by regular mail);
--clearly describe the records sought, the more information provided -
name(s), date(s), specific subject area(s) - the easier it will be to
determine if the records you are seeking exist; more specific and
limited requests generally result in quicker responses and lower (or
no) fees); and
--state willingness to pay applicable fees (fees for search, review
and duplication may be applicable, depending upon the identity of the
Include the mailing address to which records should be sent. If you
include your telephone number, we can contact you if there is any
question about the scope of your request, possible fees, etc.. You
will not be charged if applicable fees are less than $25, but you may
wish to include a maximum dollar amount you are willing to pay.
[And here's the "file drawer" caveat I mentioned above]
Please remember that the FOIA applies only to existing agency records.
It does not require agencies to create records, or to answer
questions. However, NSF will attempt, in all cases, to provide the
National Science Foundation
FOIA Officer (Rm 1265)
4201 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22230
phone (703) 292-8060
fax: (703) 292-9041
The actual rules for NSF FOIA requests can be seen here:
Title 45--Public Welfare
CHAPTER VI--NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
PART 612--AVAILABILITY OF RECORDS AND INFORMATION
[Here is an important statement of NSF policy -- can't hurt to quote
this in your request]
As a matter of policy, the Foundation also makes discretionary
disclosures of records or information otherwise exempt under the FOIA
whenever disclosure would not foreseeably harm an interest protected
by a FOIA exemption.
This link explains FOIA exemptions:
[In particular, this language provides some protection to a grantee.
However, in your case, since the grantee has already stated their
intention to make the information broadly available, I think they
would be hard pressed to sustain a claim that their competitive
interests are threatened]
(4) Exemption 4--5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4). Trade secrets and commercial or
financial information obtained from a person, and privileged or
confidential. Information subject to this exemption is that customarily
held in confidence by the originator(s), including nonprofit
organizations and their employees. Release of such information is likely
to cause substantial harm to the competitive position of the originator
or submitter, or impair the Foundation's ability to obtain such
information in the future.
[Here are the rules regarding appeals]
Sec. 612.9 Appeals
a) Appeals of denials. You may appeal a denial of your request to
the General Counsel, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard,
Suite 1265, Arlington, VA 22230. You must make your appeal in writing
and it must be received by the Office of the General Counsel within ten
days of the receipt of the denial (weekends, legal holidays, and the
date of receipt excluded). Clearly mark your appeal letter and the
envelope ``Freedom of Information Act Appeal.'' Your appeal letter must
include a copy of your written request and the denial together with any
written argument you wish to submit.
[Note this language -- if you want to take a denial to court you MUST
first go through the appeals process]
(c) When appeal is required. If you wish to seek review by a court
of any denial, you must first appeal it under this section.
That's FOIA in a nutshell. Again, best of luck, and let me know if
you need any additional information.
search strategy: Visited the NSF website and searched on Freedom of Information.