FOIA Advisor

FOIA News: Why it's OK for taxpayers to 'snoop' on scientists

FOIA News (2015-16)Kevin SchmidtComment

Why it's OK for taxpayers to 'snoop' on scientists

By Charles Seife and Paul Thacker, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 21, 2015

If the public pays your salary, citizens have the right — within limits — to see what you're doing. That's the principle at the core of the federal Freedom of Information Act and of the many similar state freedom of information laws.

Although politicians like Hillary Rodham Clinton get the most attention when congressional inquiries and FOIA requests turn up something unsavory, it's not just civil servants or elected officials who run the risk of embarrassment. A great deal of scientific research is done on the public dime — directly funded through government grants or indirectly via academics working at public institutions — which means some scientists also are subject to transparency laws.

Generally speaking, in the last decade or so, the research community has been moving toward increased transparency, particularly when it comes to any financial entanglements that might cast doubt upon a scientist's objectivity. The backlash, however, has begun, and calls to reverse the trend are coming from some surprising places.

Read more here.