Spying on competitors through FOIA?

Over the weekend, DrugMonkey posted about a researcher who received a Freedom of Information Act request for his grant application to the National Institutes of Health, apparently from a would-be competitor. The matter has been resolved, the FOIA target says:
UPDATE: The FOIA request has been rescinded. According to our Dean of Research (after contacting their Dean of Research), "the requesting individual has been counseled on the proper use of the FOIA."
But I'm curious--how common is this? Does anyone know of chemistry professors who have received FOIA requests for their grant applications?

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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3 Comments

  1. That’s interesting. I thought about doing that when I was a postdoc and deep in the mindset of competitive science. All is fair in love, war and academia 🙂

  2. That IS the proper use of the FOIA. You don’t necessarily get what you request, but requesting documents of the federal government to better understand government operations (such as what research is receiving taxpayer money) is the core purpose of the FOIA. The core purpose of the FOIA may not be compatible with research ethics or business fairness, but Congress didn’t intend it to be. Bottom line, requesting documents from the government using the FOIA is the proper use of the FOIA. All the questions of whether you should or not can be answered by your own integrity or adopting someone else’s.