NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REPORT
FOR OCTOBER 1, 2009 THROUGH SEPTEMBER 30, 2010
I. BASIC INFORMATION:
A. Point of Contact:
Jensen, NSF FOIA Officer
B. Electronic Address for report: The FY 2010 FOIA Report for the National Science Foundation (NSF) will be available as one of the choices under the References section of the FOIA page on the NSF web site: https://www.nsf.gov/policies/foia.jsp.
C. Paper Copies of report: Paper copies can be requested from the Point of Contact listed above.
II. HOW TO MAKE A FOIA REQUEST:
NSF policy is to make the fullest possible disclosure of information and records to any requester, without unnecessary expenses or delay. NSF’s “Public Information Handbook” is available electronically as one of the choices under the References section of the FOIA page on the Foundation’s web site: https://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=nsf07135.
There are four basic agency requirements for making a FOIA request:
(1) the request must be in writing (mailed correspondence, fax, or email) and include the requester’s mailing address;
(2) the envelope and letter content must identify the request as a FOIA request;
(3) the request must provide enough detail to allow identification of the requested records; and
(4) the request must include agreement to pay fees chargeable under NSF’s fee schedule.
A. Agency Components:
Requests for records of the agency should be sent to the NSF FOIA Officer, Office of the General Counsel, Room 1265, 4201 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22230. Phone: 703-292-5065, Fax: 703-292-9041. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Requests for documents maintained by the Office of the Inspector General should be addressed directly to the OIG, FOIA, Room 1135, 4201 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22230 . Phone: 703-292-7100. Email: email@example.com
B. Why some requests are not granted:
Requests for records may not be granted if the records do not exist; if records have been transferred to the ownership of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); if records contain predecisional information that if released would cause harm to NSF’s decision-making processes; if records contain personal and/or proprietary information; if records contain information compiled for law enforcement purposes; or if the requester asked for information specifically prohibited from disclosure by other statutes.
III. ACRONYMS, DEFINITIONS, AND EXEMPTIONS:
Agency-specific terms and acronyms:
a. Administrative Appeal – a request to a federal agency asking that it review at a higher administrative level a FOIA determination made by the agency at the initial request level.
b. Average Number – the number obtained by dividing the sum of a group of numbers by the quantity of numbers in the group. For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the average number is 8.
c. Backlog – the number of requests or administrative appeals that are pending at an agency at the end of the fiscal year that are beyond the statutory time period for a response.
d. Component – for agencies that process requests on a decentralized basis, a “component” is an entity, also sometimes referred to as an Office, Division, Bureau, Center, or Directorate, within the agency that processes FOIA requests. The FOIA now requires that agencies include in their Annual FOIA Report data for both the agency overall and for each principal component of the agency.
e. Consultation – the procedure whereby the agency responding to a FOIA request first forwards a record to another agency for its review because that other agency has an interest in the document. Once the agency in receipt of the consultation finishes its review of the record, it responds back to the agency that forwarded it. That agency, in turn, will then respond to the FOIA requester.
f. Exemption 3 Statute – a federal statute that exempts information from disclosure and which the agency relies on to withhold information under subsection (b)(3) of the FOIA.
g. FOIA Request – a FOIA request is generally a request to a federal agency for access to records concerning another person (i.e. a “third-party” request), or concerning an organization, or a particular topic of interest. FOIA requests also include requests made by requesters seeking records concerning themselves (i.e., “first-party” requests) when those requestors are not subject to the Privacy Act, such as non-U.S. citizens. Moreover, because all first-party requesters should be afforded the benefit of both the access provisions of the FOIA as well as those of the Privacy Act, FOIA requests also include any first-party requests where an agency determines that it must search beyond its Privacy Act “systems of records” or where a Privacy Act exemption applies, and the agency looks to FOIA to afford the greatest possible access. All requests which require the agency to utilize the FOIA in responding to the requester is included in this report.
Additionally, a FOIA request includes records referred to the agency for processing and direct response to the requester. It does not, however, include records for which the agency has received a consultation from another agency. (Consultations are reported separately in Section XII of this Report.)
h. Full Grant – an agency decision to disclose all records in full in response to a FOIA request.
i. Full Denial – an agency decision not to release any records in response to a FOIA request because the records are exempt in their entireties under one or more of the FOIA exemptions, or because of a procedural reason, such as when no records could be located.
j. Median Number – the middle, not average, number. For example, of 3, 7, and 14, the median number is 7.
k. Multi-Track Processing – a system in which simple requests requiring relative minimal review are placed in one processing track and more voluminous and complex requests are placed in one or more other tracks. Requests granted expedited processing are placed in yet another track. Requests in each track are processed on a first in/first out basis.
i. Expedited Processing – an agency will process a FOIA request on an expedited basis when a requester satisfied the requirement for expedited processing as set forth in the statute and in agency regulations.
ii. Simple Request – a FOIA request that an agency using multi-track processing places in its fastest (non-expedited) track based on the low volume and/or simplicity of the records requested.
iii. Complex Request – a FOIA request that an agency using multi-track processing places in a slower track based on the high volume and/or complexity of the records requested.
l. Partial Grant/Partial Denial – in response to a FOIA request, an agency decision to disclose portions of the records and to withhold other portions that are exempt under the FOIA, or to otherwise deny a portion of the request for a procedural reason.
m. Pending Request or Pending Administrative Appeal – a request or administrative appeal for which an agency has not taken final action in all respects.
n. Perfected Request – a request for records which reasonably describes such records and is made in accordance with published rules stating the time, place, fees (if any) and procedures to be followed.
o. Processed Request or Processed Administrative Appeal – a request or administrative appeal for which an agency has taken final action in all respects.
p. Range in Number of Days – the lowest and highest number of days to process requests or administrative appeals.
q. Time Limits – the time period in the statue for an agency to respond to a FOIA request (ordinarily twenty working days from receipt of a perfected FOIA request).
3. Nine FOIA exemptions:
a. Exemption 1: classified national defense and foreign relations information.
b. Exemption 2: internal agency rules and practices.
c. Exemption 3: information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.
d. Exemption 4: trade secrets and other confidential business information.
e. Exemption 5: inter-agency or intra-agency communications that are protected by legal privileges.
f. Exemption 6: information involving matters of personal privacy.
g. Exemption 7: records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes, to the extent that the production of those records (A) could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings, (B) would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication, (C) could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, (D) could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, (E) would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or would disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions, or (F) could be reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual.
h. Exemption 8: information relating to the supervision of financial institutions.
i. Exemption 9: geological information on wells.
IV. Exemption 3 Statutes
A. Exemption 3 Statutes Relied upon to Withhold Information
V. FOIA REQUESTS
A. Received, Processed and Pending FOIA Requests
B. (1) Disposition of FOIA Requests - All Processed Requests
B. (2) Disposition of FOIA Requests - "Other" Reasons for "Full Denials Based on Reasons Other than Exemptions" from Section V, B (1) Chart
B. (3) Disposition of FOIA Requests - Number of Times Exemptions Applied
VI. ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS OF INITIAL DETERMINATIONS OF FOIA REQUESTS
A. Received, Processed and Pending Administrative Appeals
B. Disposition of Administrative Appeals - All Processed Appeals
C. (1) Reasons for Denial on Appeal - Number of Times Exemptions Applied
C. (2) Reasons for Denial on Appeal - Reasons Other than Exemptions
C. (3) Reasons for Denial on Appeal - "Other" Reasons from Section VI, C (2) Chart
C. (4) Response Time for Administrative Appeals
C. (5) Ten Oldest Pending Administrative Appeals
VII. FOIA REQUESTS: RESPONSE TIME FOR PROCESSED AND PENDING REQUESTS
A. Processed Requests - Response Time for All Processed Perfected Requests
B. Processed Requests - Response Time for Perfected Requests in Which Information Was Granted
C. Processed Requests - Response Time in Day Increments
Requests Granted Expedited Processing
D. Pending Requests - All Pending Perfected Requests
E. Pending Requests - Ten Oldest Pending Perfected Requests
VIII. REQUESTS FOR EXPEDITED PROCESSING AND REQUESTS FOR FEE WAIVER
A. Requests for Expedited Processing
B. Requests for Fee Waiver
IX. FOIA PERSONNEL AND COSTS
X. FEES COLLECTED FOR PROCESSING REQUESTS
XI. FOIA REGULATIONS
XII. BACKLOGS, CONSULTATIONS, AND COMPARISONS
A. Backlogs of FOIA Requests and Administrative Appeals
B. Consultations on FOIA Requests - Received, Processed, and Pending Consultations
C. Consultations on FOIA Requests - Ten Oldest Consultations Received from Other Agencies and Pending at Your Agency
D. Comparison of Numbers of Requests from Previous and Current Annual Report - Requests Received, Processed, and Backlogged
1. Provide the number of requests received and the number of requests processed during the fiscal year from last year's Annual Report and the number of those received and processed during the fiscal year from the current Annual Report.
3. Starting with the Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2009, provide the number of backlogged requests as of the end of the fiscal year from the previous Annual Report and the number of backlogged requests as of the end of the fiscal year from the current Annual Report.
E. Comparison of Numbers of Administrative Appeals from Previous and Current Annual Report - Appeals Received, Processed, and Backlogged
1. Provide the number of administrative appeals received and the number of administrative appeals processed during the fiscal year from last year’s Annual Report and the number of those received and processed during the fiscal year from the current Annual Report.
3. Starting with the Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2009, provide the number of backlogged administrative appeals as of the end of the fiscal year from the previous Annual Report and the number of backlogged administrative appeals as of the end of the fiscal year from the current Annual Report.
F. Discussion of Other FOIA Activities (Optional)
1. The Foundation’s computer processing costs have gone down considerably this FY; however, processing costs have increased due to the increase in FOIA requests from the previous FY.
2. NSF’s backlog consists of 1 case which is pending consultation with a number of other agencies and all 23 other cases from a single frequent requester who insists on a FOIA Case number for each request. This single requester filed 59 requests in FY 2010. In accommodating this requester this has skewed NSF’s backlog figure.
3. The majority of NSF FOIA requests are for copies of funded grant proposals. In each case submitter notifications are required. This FY NSF processed for release 815 proposals, an increase of over 100 proposals from the previous FY. This is a dramatic increase of FOIA processing for a small agency.