Congress Passes Zika Funding BillCongress passed and President Obama signed a 10-week continuing resolution, which includes $1.1 billion for Zika virus research.
The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) notice of proposed rule making published in the Federal Register of February 4, 1999, outlining how the OMB intends to implement P.L. 105-277, which includes a provision directing the OMB to amend Circular A-110 "to require all Federal awarding agencies to 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..." (FOIA).
The ASM is the largest single life science Society in the world with over 42,000 members, including scientists and science administrators in academic, industrial and government institutions, working in a broad spectrum of subdisciplines, including medical and clinical microbiology, applied and environmental microbiology, virology, and molecular biology. The ASM shares in a widespread belief that the OMB proposal leaves many issues unresolved and creates others that require clarification. To attempt to work under what has been proposed would be burdensome and disruptive to the work of many microbiologists and others engaged in federally funded research and clinical studies. The ASM understands that the 1980 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Forsham vs. Harris concluded that data generated by a federally funded research program are not "agency records" subject to public disclosure under the FOIA if the data have not yet been obtained by the agency. Consistent with this interpretation, the ASM supports H.R. 88, which has been filed by Congressman George Brown to amend P.L. 105-277 by striking the provisos that require data produced under federal grants be made available to the public under the FOIA. H.R. 88 would obviate a need for the rule making now proposed by the OMB.
The ASM supports amendment of P.L. 105-277 as called for by H.R. 88 knowing fully that the subject of public access to research data is a concern that deserves and demands further consideration. Indeed, the ASM believes it best to start anew with Congressional briefings and/or hearings to identify need and consider how that need may best be satisfied. The ASM is willing to participate in a thoughtful study of how, with a minimum of disruption of the research and regulatory communities, measures may be crafted that will satisfy the public's right to know. A careful consideration of the question of disclosure of research results with the full involvement of interested parties, offers far more promise than further disagreement over current proposals.
The OMB proposed rule change is a laudable effort to minimize the impact of implementation of a section of P.L. 105-277 that is unacceptable to the research community. In drafting the proposed rule change, the OMB demonstrated great sensitivity to many of the research community's concerns, and focused on issues that are subject to interpretation. These issues, as enumerated below, should be addressed and can serve as the basis for briefings and/or hearings that may result in reassuring guidelines for measures that respect the public's right to know without attacking, disrupting or delaying federally funded research that is designed to serve the public good.
The ASM thanks you for this opportunity to comment on an issue of momentous concern to the research community, and strongly urges your consideration of the items presented above.