Public Requests for Research Records

Faculty and department personnel should not respond directly to requests from the public for university research records. Requests for records should be forwarded to the campus office responsible for issues related to the type of request, listed below, so that the appropriate procedures will be followed. These offices will coordinate with university counsel as necessary.

These requests often involve interpretation of the several laws and policies that govern the release of information. Regulations such as the California Public Records Act, the federal Freedom of Information Act, and the California Information Practices Act provide for public access to certain records, but at the same time provide exemptions for the protection of personal privacy. Only certain records, or portions of records, are publicly available, and inquiries must be specific and in writing.


Forward requests related to research protocols to:

Animal Care and Use Committee, 2-8855, acuc@berkeley.edu

Committee for Protection of Human Subjects, 2-7461, ophs@berkeley.edu


Forward requests related to projects supported by grants or contracts to:

Sponsored Projects Office, 1608 Fourth Street, Suite 220, 2-2925, plfmiller@berkeley.edu


For requests from the media, contact:

Media Relations, 2-3734

Faculty are also advised to contact Media Relations if sensitive or potentially inflammatory issues are involved. Faculty are invited to call Media Relations to discuss how best to answer questions from reporters and for interviewing tips.


Policy and Law on Access to Records

University of California


Federal

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides for public access to records of Federal agencies. Under the FOIA, Federal agencies must make agency records available to the public, unless the records fall into certain narrow exemptions.


How to Respond to a Freedom of Information Act Request

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), is a federal freedom of information law that requires the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government upon request. Federal sponsors are required to provide copies of funded proposals and related materials when a FOIA request is received.

When a FOIA request is submitted to a federal agency, an agency representative will contact the Principal Investigator (PI) of the funded project and SPO. The agency representative typically will indicate the date that a response is due. The SPO Contract and Grant Officer (CGO) assigned to the PI’s unit/department will then contact the PI to determine if any information in the materials requested needs to be redacted.

If you are contacted about a FOIA request, follow these steps:

  1. Do not contact the federal agency representative that made the request.
  2. Notify the SPO CGO if you need more time to respond to the FOIA request so SPO can obtain an extension.
  3. Review the information requested and determine if any part of it should remain confidential based on the exemptions below. Note: You may wish to consult with other project personnel about information that needs to be redacted.
  4. If you do not wish to redact any of the information in the materials requested, please let the CGO know, and the CGO will inform the agency representative that you do not wish to redact any of this information.
  5. If you do wish to redact information in the materials requested, notify the SPO CGO.
  6. The executive director of SPO will then contact you about preparing a response. This response must come from the University, so do not submit any materials directly to the federal agency representative without going through SPO.

Preparing Redacted Materials

If you plan to redact all or part of any of the requested materials:

Option 1:

  • Provide the executive director of SPO with a PDF of each of the materials requested with the redacted sections highlighted.

Option 2:

  • You may use Acrobat Pro DC to redact sensitive information before submitting the information to the director of SPO. To use this option, see the Adobe Acrobat guidance on removing sensitive content from PDFs.

For both options, include a list of the page numbers and lines on each page to be redacted or that have been redacted.

Provide a rationale for each redacted section based on one the exemptions below.

FOIA Exemptions

  • Exemption 3 - to protect information required by other statutory authority to be withheld (i.e. patent pending material contained in funded grant proposals; technical proposals that have not been set forth or incorporated by reference in contracts between NSF and contractors (The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997 (Public Law No. 104-201), Section 821(b)).
  • Exemption 4 - to protect trade secrets and commercial or financial information received from a source when release would cause harm to the competitive position of submitter.
  • Exemption 5 - to protect the agency’s internal deliberative process in areas of decision making, recommendations, and legal advice.
  • Exemption 6 - to protect personal information about individuals when release would result in an unwarranted invasion of privacy (SSN, home telephones, home emails, personal financial information).
  • Exemption 7 - may be used by the Office of the Inspector General to protect investigative records.

The executive director of SPO will submit this password protected information to the federal agency representative on your behalf.


State of California

The California Public Records Act (California Government Code Section 6250 et seq.) declares that access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in the State, that public records are open to inspection at all times during regular office hours, and are subject to inspection and copying by every person except as provided in the Act.

The California Information Practices Act of 1977 (California Civil Code Section 1798 et seq.) established certain requirements for the collection, maintenance, and dissemination of any information that identifies or describes an individual. The IPA is an omnibus-type statute that is intended to balance the competing interests of access to public records held by the State government and the right to privacy of individuals.