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Freedom of Information Act Office

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FOIA Staff
How to Submit a
FOIA Request
NIH Reading Rooms
Reference Guide
Publicly Available
Other Public
Information Servers
Major Infomation
FOIA Policies

The NIH FOIA Staff welcomes you to the NIH FOIA Home Page. We hope you will find this site informative and that it will give you a better understanding of NIH's public information programs. We will continue to improve this site to bring you current program information.

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Susan R. Cornell, Freedom of Information Officer, NIH
Brenda J. Butler, FOIA Specialist, NIH
Connie A. Caldwell, FOIA Specialist, NIH
Catherine M. Papoi, FOIA Specialist, NIH

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The NIH FOIA office handles three different categories of requests:
  • requests for information maintained by the Office of the Director, NIH
  • requests that will involve responses from more than one NIH Institute or Center
  • requests for information that will not be released because it is protected by one or more of the FOIA's nine exemptions or three exclusions

While all requests may be sent to the NIH FOIA Office, each of NIH's separate Institutes and Centers has its own FOIA Coordinator. Requesters should direct requests for information about a specific NIH component to that component. A list of the FOIA Coordinators for each component is available at this site for your convenience.


The Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. 552, provides individuals with a right to access to records in the possession of the federal government. The government may withhold information pursuant to the nine exemptions and three exclusions contained in the Act. The Electronic FOIA ("E-FOIA") Amendments which President Clinton signed into law in 1996, amended the law in several ways, including:

  • extend from 10 to 20 business days (excluding holidays) the time agencies must respond to requests for information;
  • require agencies to make reasonable efforts to make records available in formats desired by requesters;
  • require agencies to submit the NIH FOIA Annual Report by fiscal year;
  • require agencies to make the reports available to the public by computer telecommunications or other electronic means;
  • require agencies to list their major information systems, record locator systems, and a reference guide or guide for obtaining information; and
  • require agencies to establish electronic reading rooms that include agency policies, staff manuals, opinions made in the adjudication of cases, and an index of records released by FOIA that are likely to become the subject of subsequent FOIA requests.
  • these amendments have to be implemented by specific dates.

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Guide for Submitting FOIA Requests

Before submitting FOIA requests, individuals should ensure that the information they seek is not already in the public domain. Each of NIH's components has information available in both published format and electronically. A search of the NIH Home Page can assist requesters in locating information and lists of available publications. Such a search can also help requesters identify the component(s) most likely to have responsive documents so FOIA requests can be sent to the appropriate component for response. A list of the NIH Institutes and Centers is available at this site to assist you. A list of the FOIA Coordinators for each component also is available at this site for your convenience. FOIA requesters interested in obtaining information on federally funded biomedical research projects should consult the Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP) database. This will enable requesters to identify the grant number and the component funding the research in their FOIA request.

In 1999 the Office of Management and Budget issued final revisions to Circular A110 to provide for access to data produced under grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health and other federal awarding agencies. To the extent you are interested in requesting data produced under a National Institutes of Health grant pursuant to the provisions of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Revised Circular A110, please understand that the provisions of Revised Circular A110 apply to data:

  • first produced under a new or competing continuing grant awarded after the Department of Health and Human Services amended 45 C.F.R. 74 to incorporate the changes mandated by the Revised Circular (April 17, 2000); and
  • cited publicly and officially by the Federal Government in support of an agency action that has the force and effect of law.

In addition, if the data you request are already available to the public through an archive or other source, we will not process your request under the FOIA. In that situation, we will refer you to the archive or other source.

More information regarding NIH implementation of Revised Circular A110 may be found at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/a110/a110_guidance_dec1999.htm.

With all FOIA requests, if the information you are interested in is not in the public domain, please follow the suggestions listed below when preparing your FOIA request:
  • identify the records requested (be as specific as possible, i.e., describe the subject matter of the records, and, if known, indicate the dates of the records, the places where they originated, and the names of the originating persons or offices);
  • state that the records are requested under the Freedom of Information Act;
  • include daytime telephone numbers in case additional information is needed before answering requests; and
  • forward all requests either to the appropriate FOIA Coordinator or to the NIH FOIA Office by one of the methods listed below:
  • if you are requesting data produced under an NIH grant, include the following information in your request:
    • the federal regulation or administrative order that cited the data being requested;
    • the publication and/or reference cited in the federal regulation;
    • the grant number under which the data were produced (this information can be obtained from the CRISP database;
    • a description of the data sought; and
    • a statement that the data are being requested under OMB Revised Circular A110.
  • Mail the request (mark the outside of the envelope, "FOIA Request") either to the appropriate FOIA Coordinator or to the NIH FOIA Office:
    Freedom of Information Office, NIH
    Building 31, Room 5B35
    9000 Rockville Pike
    Bethesda, MD 20892
  • OR Fax the request to the FOIA Office at (301) 402-4541.

If the requester knows which component has responsive documents, the FOIA request should be sent directly to the FOIA Coordinator for that component. A list of the FOIA Coordinators for NIH components and their addresses is included at this site.

Individuals with questions concerning their requests may call the NIH FOIA Staff at (301) 496-5633.

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Guide for Submitting FOIA Appeals
FOIA requesters may appeal the denial of information within 30 days of receipt of letters from the agency. Appeals should state the following information:

  • the reasons why the requested information should be released under the Act; and
  • why the denial may be in error.

FOIA requesters should attach copies of their original requests and response letters to all appeals, clearly mark the letters and the outside envelopes, "FOIA Appeal, " and mail appeals to the following address:

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (Media)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Parklawn Building, Room 17A-46
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857

The Freedom of Information Act provides for the agency to recover part of the cost associated with responding to a request. The Department Regulations set out the specific rules for fees and for requesting a fee waiver or a reduction in fees. Some general principles apply to all requests such as:
  • if you are going to request a fee waiver or a reduction in fees, you must do so when you file your initial request for documents.
  • you may be charged for search time even if we do not locate any documents responsive to your request or if the documents we locate are denied to you under one of the FOIA's exemptions.
  • there will not be a charge if the cost of responding to your request is less than $25.

If a determination is made that fees will be charged, the following fee schedule will be used to calculate the exact cost of search and review time:

  • if the work is performed by an agency employee Grade 1-8, you will be charged $4.50 for each 15 minutes worked.
  • if the work is performed by an agency employee Grade 9-14, you will be charged $9 for each 15 minutes worked.
  • if the work is performed by an agency employee Grade 15 or above, you will be charged $16 for each 15 minutes worked.

In addition, if you are requesting data produced under a NIH grant under the provisions of OMB Revised Circular A110, you will be charged a reasonable fee equaling the full incremental cost of obtaining the data. This fee will reflect the costs incurred by NIH, the grantee institution and the grantee investigator. These fees will be in addition to any fees assessed by NIH under the FOIA.

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The Freedom of Information Act provides that the agency will provide access to identifiable documents within our possession unless one of nine exemptions or three exclusions applies. The exact language of the exemptions can be found in the Freedom of Information Act. Additional guidance on the exemptions and how they apply to certain documents can be found in the Department Regulations implementing the FOIA.

NIH Reading Rooms

On-Site Reading Room
The NIH On-Site Reading Room (RR) contains a variety of documents that come from several of the Institutes and Centers at the NIH. The documents are indexed with an identifying number to assist users in locating the document(s) of interest. The Index of Documents is available at this site for your convenience. Documents cited with an asterisk (*) are available for viewing in the RR, which is located in Building 31, Room 5B-35. The hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m, Monday through Friday (closed on Federal holidays). A copy machine is available for users to duplicate documents of particular interest. Documents without an asterisk are presently stored off-site and can be retrieved for viewing upon specific request. Please contact the FOI Office to make arrangements to view one or more of these documents.

Index of Documents

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Electronic Reading Room
In addition, the following documents are available in electronic format at this site:

Conflict of Interest Information and Resources
Dr. Zerhouni's Letter to The Honorable Diana DeGette and The Honorable Michael Castle regarding Human Embryonic Stem Cell (hESC) Research (Download Adobe Acrobat Reader)
Dr. Zerhouni's Letters to Congress regarding review of NIH Grants on Human Sexuality (Download Adobe Acrobat Reader)
January 2004 Settlement Agreement between the National Cancer Institute and Dairy Management, Inc. (Download Adobe Acrobat Reader)
NIH Purchase Card List
This list will be updated the first week of each month. PLEASE NOTE: Many of the individuals on this list are scientists engaged in research. Many consider it very disruptive to their work to receive telephone solicitations or unannounced office visits. Please respect their need to work without interruption when marketing your products. Thank you.
Selected Institute and Center Directors' Meeting Minutes
CellPro Documents
NIH FOIA Annual Reports
NIH Telephone Directory

An NIH Search Engine is available at http://search.google.cit.nih.gov/.

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Reference Guide
How to File a Request
How to File an Appeal
Major Information Systems

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Description of Publicly Available Information
The NIH has a wealth of information available to the public both in printed form and electronically. Each of NIH's separate Institutes and Centers maintains it's own list of publications and this information can be accessed from their Home Pages. A list of the components is available. If you do not know which component has information of the subject you are interested in, you may run a search from the NIH Home Page.

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Other Public Information Servers
Government Interactive Locator System (GILS). This system locates and provides assistance in obtaining Federal public information, including NIH specific documents.
National Technical Information Services (NTIS)
National Library of Medicine
U.S. Superintendent of Documents
All documents at the U.S. Superintendent of Documents are shelved by government organization and not by subject matter. The documents include information about U.S. Government laws, regulations, statistics, maps, and bibliographies.
Records that are "promptly published and offered for sale" are not subject to the requirements of FOIA, 5 U.S.C. 552(a) (2). These published materials are not required to be placed in agency conventional/electronic reading rooms.

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Major Information Systems
MEDLINE: This database of more than 12 million references to articles published in 4600 biomedical journals is maintained by the National Library of Medicine and may be accessed free of charge on the World Wide Web. Two Web-based products, PubMed and the NLM Gateway provide this access.
CRISP: This is a searchable database of federally funded biomedical research projects conducted at universities, hospitals, and other research institutions. The database is maintained by the Office of Extramural Research at the National Institutes of Health.
PubMed: This is a comprehensive database of article titles and abstracts.
NLM Gateway: The NLM Gateway allows users to search in multiple retrieval systems at the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM.)

NIH's major information and record locator systems are identified under the Government Interactive Locator System (GILS)

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Policies and Administrative Manuals that Affect the Public
FOIA Policies
The Freedom of Information Act (5 USC 552)
Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendment of 1996
Regulations 45 CFR Part 5, Public Information
Privacy Act of 1974 (and Amendments)
Department of Justice
DOJ's Freedom of Information Act Guide, May 2002


This page was last reviewed on July 7, 2004 .

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