Oregon State University

402: Public Access to Research Data

In 1998, Congress passed a, now controversial, two sentence amendment to the budget bill ordering the Office of Management & Budgets (OMB) to revise regulations governing federal research grants to ensure that all research results and data would be publicly available through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.  The public comment period generated over 12,000 reactions.  Many in the scientific community feared that such early and unrestrained access would chill the willingness of individuals and businesses to participate in research.  Opponents of this proprietary information could not be assured confidentiality.

The OMB issued revised regulations, effective November 8, 1999, which limit public access to sensitive data that is part of federally financed scientific research projects.  The regulations redefine research data thereby providing more concise guidance on what data can be accessed under federal FOIA requests.

OMB modified the regulations in response to public comment.  Public Law 105-277 now specifically excludes from the definition of research data the following:

  • preliminary analyses,
  • drafts of scientific papers,
  • plans for future research,
  • peer reviews, or communications with colleagues,
  • trade secrets,
  • commercial information,
  • materials necessary to be held confidential by a researcher until they are published, and
  • personnel and medical information and similar information, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, such as information that could be used to identify a particular person in a research study. 

The changes set forth in Public Law 105-277  further define "published" and the term used by the federal government. 

Procurement contracts are also excluded from the scope of the revised regulations.

Questions may be directed to OSU’s legal advisor at (541) 737-2474.

Additional Information

Federal Register Online

Federal Register, October 8, 1999, Volume 64, Number 195, pages 54926 – 54930

The Office of Management and Budgets (see Grants Management)

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