Freedom of Information Act
This Act is applicable to information in the possession of the government and does not require recipients of federal funds to permit public access to their records. Federal agencies generally have twenty (20) working days to respond to a FOIA request, but this period may be extended another ten (10) working days when they have need to contact a third party, such as an awardee, i.e., Stevens.
The Act provides that information is made available to the public by:
- Publication in the Federal Register;
- Providing an opportunity to read and copy records at convenient locations; or
- Upon request, providing a copy of a reasonably described record.
The Act is applicable to information in the possession of the government and does not require recipients of federal funds to permit public access to their records. Federal agencies generally have 20 working days to respond to a FOIA request, but this period may be extended another 10 working days when they have need to contact a third party, such an awardee.
The Act has nine exemptions:
- Classified national defense and foreign relations information
- Internal agency rules and practices
- Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another law
- Trade secrets and other confidential business information
- Interagency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges
- Information involving matters of personal privacy
- Certain information compiled for law enforcements purposes
- Information relating to the supervision of financial institutions
- Geological information on wells
While colleges and universities generally are not themselves subject to the provisions of the FOIA, materials produced by them and forwarded to the government may be subject to FOIA requests. The following are types of material that agencies generally will release:
- Application information after the initial award has been funded
- Notices of grant awards or information included in those notices, such as project title, grantee organization, principal investigator or program director and amount of award
- Interim and final progress reports
- Financial reports and
- Final report of any audits, surveys, review, or evaluation of awardee performance that the awardee has received
Federal agencies will generally disclose to the awardee that a FOIA has been received and who has made the request and will confirm whether the awardee believes any of the exemptions to FOIA apply. Awardees generally have 10 working days to respond to the federal agency.
Most federal agencies will deny access to the following records or documents
- Pending or disapproved applications for new awards
- Financial information pertaining to a specific individual, such as salary information
- Information subject to the provision of the Privacy Act of 1974
- Information of a confidential nature (personal, medical, or otherwise) that, if disclosed, would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
- Opinions expressed in interagency correspondence of government officers, employees, or consultants (including advisory bodies)
- Information that, if released, would adversely affect patent or other valuable commercial rights
All internal (internal to the university) requests for the provision of information should observe Stevens’ processes. Any request for research, or research-related, information from an external source should be directed to:
- The Office of General Counsel
- Stevens’ Internal Audit
- The Office of Sponsored Programs