Letter from 17 Congress Members to OMB Director
Mr. F. James Charney
Dear Mr. Charney:
I am writing to comment on the proposed revision to OMB Circular A-110 published in the Federal Register on August 11, 1999. Specifically, I am writing to express concern about the unintended but negative impacts of applying Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rules and regulations in the academic setting.
I know that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is constrained by the statutory direction mandated by Congress in last year's omnibus appropriations bill. While I have strong reservations about the wisdom of that action, I understand that you have to comply with it.
My hope is that as OMB develops regulations to comply with the new policy, great weight will be given to the comments and recommendations you receive from the academic community and from institutions of higher education.
My specific comments include the following, which closely track those you have already received from the University of Colorado:
While the application of FOIA to research findings used in developing federal policy may be a good mechanism for public scrutiny and accountability, I am troubled by the potential for nuisance requests, invasion of privacy, harassment of researchers, and the serious erosion of academic freedom and the basic integrity of the scientific process. Congress may well conclude that last year's action attempted to solve a small problem, but may have created a bigger one.
I urge you to use great caution in developing these new regulations and to do so with an eye toward protecting the academic process.