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Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides the public the right to request access to records from any federal agency. According to the FOIA, agencies should withhold information only if they reasonably foresee that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one of the nine FOIA exemptions or three law enforcement exclusions

Office of Inspector General

The NSF Office of Inspector General (OIG) was established in 1989 by the Inspector General Act, as amended. By law, the OIG is organizationally independent from NSF, with the Inspector General reporting directly to the National Science Board and Congress. The OIG promotes effectiveness, efficiency, and economy in the administration of NSF’s programs; detects and prevents fraud, waste, abuse, and whistleblower reprisal within NSF or by individuals who receive NSF funding; and identifies and helps to resolve cases of research misconduct.

Making a Request for OIG Records

The OIG maintains records relating to OIG-specific operations, including investigations, audits, and any other OIG activities. Although we are linked to NSF's FOIA program and follow its regulations, we handle requests for OIG records independently. All requests for OIG records should be submitted by email (preferable method) or mail to:

National Science Foundation
Office of Inspector General
Attn: FOIA Officer
2415 Eisenhower Avenue
Alexandria, Virginia 22314

FOIA Requests 

Your request must be in writing, clearly describe the records sought, and state your willingness to pay applicable processing fees. You will not be charged if applicable fees are less than $25, but you may wish to include a maximum dollar amount you are willing to pay. Please see NSF's FOIA regulations, 45 CFR 612, for additional details.  

Privacy Act Requests  

For records about yourself, your request must be in writing and either notarized or submitted under 28 U.S.C. §1746, Unsworn declarations under the penalty of perjury. You should include your agreement to pay applicable fees for duplication, and if applicable, search time. For OIG records, search fees would only apply to records maintained in the OIG’s system of records for investigative records that are exempt from first-party access under Privacy Act exemptions (j)(2) or (k)(2). Please see NSF’s Privacy Act regulations, 45 CFR part 613, for additional details. 

Processing Times

As provided for in the FOIA, agencies have 20 business days to respond to a properly submitted FOIA request. Under unusual circumstances, as defined in the FOIA, agencies may take an additional 10 business days to respond. Please see NSF's FOIA and Privacy Act regulations for details regarding processing times.

Requests for OIG Investigative Records

Investigative records that are identifiable to another person are protected from public disclosure under Exemption 7(C) of the FOIA, unless the requester provides the other person’s written consent to disclosure, or sufficiently articulates a public interest that overrides the other person’s privacy interests. 

Examples of successful records requests:    

"Closeout reports for all research misconduct cases closed during [a particular time period] or on [a particular date]."

"Certain information about the case discussed on pages [page numbers] of the [date and/or number] NSF OIG Semiannual Report to the Congress."

Note regarding exclusions: Congress provided special protection in the FOIA for three narrow categories of law enforcement and national security records (“exclusions”). The first exclusion protects the existence of an ongoing criminal law enforcement investigation when the subject of the investigation is unaware that it is pending and disclosure could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings. The second exclusion is limited to criminal law enforcement agencies and protects the existence of informant records when the informant's status has not been officially confirmed. The third exclusion is limited to the FBI and certain national security records. Records falling within an exclusion are not subject to the requirements of the FOIA. Thus, when the OIG responds to your request, it will be limited to those records that are subject to the FOIA.

Publicly Available Reports and Investigative Case Closeout Memoranda

Many records are available through our website. Before public posting, our audit reports, top management challenges reports, and semiannual reports to Congress are reviewed to ensure the redaction of any sensitive information. 

Additionally, most, if not all, our investigative Case Closeout Memoranda are publicly available, with redactions applied to protect sensitive information, such as the names of subjects or witnesses. A Case Closeout Memorandum summarizes the matter we investigated and the outcome of the case once the investigation has been closed. 

OIG FOIA Public Liaison

Jennifer Kendrick, Assistant Counsel to the Inspector General, is OIG's FOIA Public Liaison. She can be reached at 703-292-7100 or by email at foiaoig@nsf.gov. Under the FOIA, the liaison is "responsible for assisting in reducing delays, increasing transparency and understanding of the status of requests, and assisting in the resolution of disputes." 5 U.S.C. § 552(l).

References and Links

NSF's FOIA and Privacy Act webpage

NSF's FOIA Regulations, 45 C.F.R. part 612.

NSF's Privacy Act Regulations, 45 C.F.R. part 613.

NSF's Public Information Handbook.

Department of Justice Guide to the FOIA.

FOIA.gov, the federal government's central website for FOIA.