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CRE-National Academy of Sciences (et al.) Dialogue on Data Access

The CRE acknowledges that implementation of the data access provisions of P.L. 105-277 involves a number of complex issues, but we believe that these issues are not insurmountable and can be solved. In addition, CRE believes that the benefits to be gained from public access to federally funded data (e.g. verification of scientific results, higher quality public debate, etc.) outweigh the effort to open this process. This view was borne out by the discussion at the AAAS-Federal Focus Data Access symposium, at which there seemed to be a general consensus as to the need for data access legislation (although the form of such legislation was a matter of debate).

Others organizations, such as the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), have carefully laid out potential concerns associated with the data access law. This function is extremely valuable because a comprehensive listing of the problems requiring resolution will benefit the regulatory implementation process. Merely voicing opposition to the new statute, however, does little to resolve the outstanding concerns. Instead, we believe that NAS and other scientific groups should undertake efforts to craft solutions to these implementation issues.

In an effort to engage the scientific community in a partnership to achieve a workable implementation of the data access law, the following letter, which announced the CRE website, was sent to the President of the National Academy of Sciences. Similar letters were sent to other key organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of American Universities, the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the Council on Government Relations.

April 8, 1999

Dr. Bruce Alberts, Ph.D.
The National Academy of Sciences
2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20418

Dear Dr. Alberts:

As you know, the Fiscal Year 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Act directs the Office of Management and Budget to amend OMB Circular A-110 to require that "Federal awarding agencies ensure that all data produced under an award will be made available to the public through the procedures established under the Freedom of Information Act."

I recently reread your January 26, 1999 letter to OMB Director Jacob Lew concerning OMB's revisions to Circular A-110. Your letter presented a very succinct analysis of some of the problems you perceive with the legislation and OMB's proposed implementing regulations.

In light of the Academy's interest in this and other science-related issues, I would like to call your attention to the website recently established by the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness (CRE). The website is designed to provide a forum for information and analyses on a variety of regulatory issues, with particular emphasis on the data access and data quality statutory provisions. We invite the Academy to participate in the operation of the website, which is located at

Center for Regulatory Effectiveness

The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness was established in 1996 at the time of the passage of the Congressional Review Act. Its purpose was to provide Congress with independent analyses of agency regulations. CRE has grown beyond this initial purpose and is now a nationally recognized clearinghouse for methods to improve the federal regulatory process.

CRE has no members, but it receives, from time to time, financial support, services in kind, and work product from associations and private firms. Consequently, at any one time, CRE benefits from the input or advice of literally hundreds of small and large firms.

The CRE Website and the Data Access Issue

The CRE website is designed to provide information and analyses on a variety of regulatory issues. CRE staff use such analyses as the basis for discussions with federal agency officials. The ultimate goal of the organization is to encourage rational regulatory policy. CRE welcomes public comment on any of the issues addressed on its website. In addition, we solicit advice on emerging regulatory issues that warrant particular attention.

The CRE website devotes considerable attention to the data access issue. The discussion outlines the basis for CRE's interest in this issue, the statutory background for data access, and some of the issues that have arisen in the course of OMB's proposed revisions to Circular A-110.

As you may know, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Federal Focus, Inc. co-sponsored a symposium on the data access issue on February 26, 1999. Panelists from a wide range of concerned organizations participated. A complete transcript of the AAAS -Federal Focus Symposium is available on the AAAS website (which is linked to the CRE website). We will soon post on our website an analysis of the issues raised at that symposium.

CRE plans to continue performing its clearinghouse role in the weeks and months to come. We will add new papers and analyses to the website as they become available. In doing so, CRE will attempt to answer questions the scientific community has raised regarding access to federal research data and OMB's implementation of the new statute.

Invitation to the National Academy of Sciences

I would like to invite the Academy to take advantage of the CRE website and to participate in its activities. We would very much appreciate your comments about the site. In particular, we are interested to learn whether the materials that CRE filed in response to the OMB request for public comment provide answers to your concerns on data access. We would also like to know what additional information would be of interest to you. Finally, we would welcome any materials you would care to provide to CRE.

We believe that there is a way to address your concerns regarding public access to federally sponsored research data. For this reason, we would like to engage in a public dialogue with you and your members so that we can get some of the best minds to move forward on solving the problems. We believe that a national policy on access to federally funded studies is inevitable. Consequently, we are extending an open invitation to research experts. Their views, which can be transmitted to CRE via email, will be posted on our website.

I will be calling you in the next few days to set up a time to meet and discuss CRE, our website, and NAS's participation in it.


Charles J. Fromm
Executive Director

Similar letter sent to following five individuals:

Dr. Mark S. Frankel
Director, Scientific Freedom,
Responsibility and Law Program
American Academy for the Advancement of Science
1200 New York Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20005

Dr. Nils Hasselmo
Association of American Universities
1200 New York Avenue
Washington, DC 20005

Dr. Michael J. Jackson
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814

Dr. Gregory J. Anderson
American Institute of Biological Sciences
1444 Eye Street, N.W.
Suite 200
Washington, DC 20005

Dr. Milton Goldberg
Council on Government Relations
1200 New York Avenue
Suite 320
Washington, DC 20005