Late last month, the Washington, D.C., Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier decision allowing the National Science Foundation to maintain confidentiality in its peer-review process. In 1994, Wanda and Robert Henke, engineers who own and run Lutherville, Md.-based Dynamic In Situ Geotechnical Testing Inc., brought a suit against NSF and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), challenging the agencies' right to keep private the names of grant-proposal reviewers. From 1990 to 1993 the Henkes' proposals for funds to develop a device to test how soils would respond to earthquakes were repeatedly turned down by both NSF and NIST. Low technical or business-plan scores were cited in each case. The court's latest decision centers on two points involving the Privacy Act-the basis on which the Henkes filed their original case. The judges ruled that the act protects the identity of evaluators of applications for federal contracts, and that...
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