Revision of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-110
Revision of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)*

Requirement and Applicability

OMB Circular A-110 has been revised to provide public access under some circumstances to research data through FOIA. The revised requirements apply to data that are: (1) first produced in a project that is supported in whole or in part with federal funds, and (2) cited publicly and officially by a federal agency in support of an action that has the force and effect of law (i.e. regulations or administrative orders). This requirement applies only to data first produced under new or competing renewal awards issued on or after April 17, 2000. It applies to data collected by institutions of higher education, hospitals, and non-profit institutions. It does not apply to data collected by commercial concerns.


Research data is defined as the recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings. It does not include such things as preliminary analyses; drafts of scientific papers; peer reviews; plans for future research; communications with colleagues; physical objects (e.g., lab samples, audio or video tapes); trade secrets; commercial information; materials necessary to be held confidential until publication in a peer-reviewed journal; information protected under the law (e.g., intellectual property); personnel and medical files and similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute unwarranted invasion of personal privacy; or information that could be used to identify a particular person in a research study.

Published is defined as when either of the following occurs: (1) research findings are published in a peer-reviewed scientific or technical journal; OR (2) a federal agency publicly and officially cites the research findings in support of an agency action that has the force and effect of law.

Process Overview

All official requests under FOIA must be made directly to the designated FOIA coordinator within the federal agency that supported the research project. The federal agency then sends a letter to OSR with a copy to the PI notifying them about the request. If the data are already available to the public through an archive or other source, the requestor is directed to that public source. If not, the federal agency asks the grantee institution to provide data that are consistent with the definition of research data noted above and deemed responsive to the request. Personal identifiers and other information not required to be released are removed prior to sending the data to the federal agency. The information is then provided to the requestor by the federal agency's FOIA coordinator.

Financial Consideration

A-110 provides for the requester to be assessed a reasonable fee to cover costs incurred in responding to the request. The fee will include both the costs to the federal agency and to the grantee institution. The grantee institution will be asked to estimate the cost of providing the data. This information will be communicated to the requester by the federal agency. The federal agency FOIA coordinator is responsible for collecting the fee.


PIs should not respond directly to requests from individuals or organizations other than the federal agency that sponsored the activity. All legitimate FOIA requests come directly from the federal sponsoring agency to OSR.

This requirement applies only to research data first produced under new or competing awards issued on or after April 17, 2000.