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Debating Shelby

Sentiments expressed at a March 12 National Academy of Sciences workshop suggest that scientists and policy-makers remain very concerned about data access issues related to the now infamous Shelby Amendment. The amendment, a two-line provision added by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) to an omnibus appropriations law for fiscal year 1999, subjects federally funded scientific research to requests for data made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).1 Its inclusion sparked a debate between indust

Eugene Russo
Sentiments expressed at a March 12 National Academy of Sciences workshop suggest that scientists and policy-makers remain very concerned about data access issues related to the now infamous Shelby Amendment. The amendment, a two-line provision added by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) to an omnibus appropriations law for fiscal year 1999, subjects federally funded scientific research to requests for data made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).1 Its inclusion sparked a debate between industry stakeholders and scientists. The former endorsed the amendment as a means of challenging scientific studies that support costly regulations; the latter expressed concerns about increased paperwork, intellectual property searches by industry and academic competitors, unwarranted access to personal information on research subjects, and even deliberate use of the amendment by industry to reinterpret data and harass researchers.

After receiving thousands of public comments, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reinterpreted the amendment, reaffirming FOIA's...

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