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FOIA News: FOIA Covers Confidential Files Sent to NIH, Grants Official Says

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin SchmidtComment

FOIA Covers Confidential Files Sent to NIH, Grants Official Says

By Jeannie Baumann, Bloomberg BNA, May 16, 2016

Business plans and other confidential information shouldn't be submitted to the NIH in a conflict-of-interest report because it could be made available to the public, the agency's grants compliance director advised May 12.

Any information provided to the National Institutes of Health is subject to the Freedom of Information Act, which is why Diane Dean of the agency's grants program recommended not submitting any confidential information to the agency. It's also why the NIH's financial conflicts of interest policy says research institutions should submit only key elements of a plan to manage conflicts of interest—such as the role and duties of the investigator and any safeguards to ensure objectivity in the research—but not the plan itself.

“Once we have it, it's subject to FOIA. We can try to protect it but we can't guarantee it,” she said during an NIH regional seminar in Baltimore. “If you've got sensitive information like that, don't send it to us.”

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