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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)


The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. 552 

provides individuals with a right to access records in the possession of the Federal Government. The government may withhold information pursuant to the nine exemptions and three exclusions contained in the Act.

In order to obtain copies of your medical records, please contact the Medicolegal office at (301) 496-3331 and indicate that you need a copy of the “Authorization for the Release of Medical Information” form.



There are certain reasons and occasions that records can be withheld. However, the reasons must be listed within one of the following exemptions of Subpart F. If the reason(s) for withholding the information cannot be supported by one of these exemptions, then the information cannot be withheld; and the information is required to be released to the requester.

FOIA exemptions seek to protect many different interests.  There are nine exemptions, protecting the following types of information.

  1. National defense and foreign policy
  2. Internal personnel rules and practices
  3. Records exempted by other statutes
  4. Trade secrets and confidential commercial or financial information
  5. Internal memoranda
  6. Clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
  7. Law enforcement
  8. Regulation or supervision of financial institutions
  9. Geological or geophysical information and data, including maps, concerning wells

How to Make a FOIA Request


Before submitting a request under FOIA, individuals should try to determine whether the information sought is already in the public domain and whether it is or may be held by the Office of Research Facilities (ORF).

There are no special forms needed for making a request but your request must be in writing.

  •          Write “Freedom of Information Act Request” on the envelope or on the subject line of your fax.
  •          Include a daytime telephone number in case we need to contact you.
  •          State your willingness to pay the applicable fees or provide a justification to support a free waiver.
  •          Indicate the fee category which you believe your request should be assigned.
  •          Describe the records you are seeking as clearly and precisely as you can.  If your request is vague or too broad, we may ask you to be more specific, and this can delay the processing of your request.
  •          If requesting information involving a contract with the NIH, include the contract number, approximate date, type of contract, and name of contractor, if available.

Contracts Related Documents

If you are requesting a copy of an awarded contract with associated documents, you should understand that NIH routinely redacts certain information from these documents before they are released. More information about these routine redactions can be found at this site: Information for Requesters who Request Contracts or Contract Related Documents. 

Where to Make a FOIA Request

You can submit your request by e-mail, fax (301) 402-4541  by mail, or you may complete the on-line request form below.


NIH/OD/Office of Research Facilities

31 Center Dr.

Building 31, 5B35

Bethesda, MD  20892

Tel: 301-435-7481


On-line E-FOIA Request Form   Adobe Acrobat (PDF) - PDF (262KB)

Image of On-Line-E-FOIA Form

NIH On-Site Reading Room

The NIH On-Site Reading Room (RR) contains a variety of documents that come from several of the Institutes and Centers at the NIH. 

The documents are indexed with an identifying number to assist users in locating the document(s) of interest. The Index of Documents is available at this site for your convenience. Documents cited with an asterisk (*) are available for viewing in the RR, which is located in Building 31, Room 5B35. The hours of operation are 10:00a to 4:00p - Monday through Friday (closed on Federal holidays). 

A copy machine is available for users to duplicate documents. Documents without an asterisk are presently stored off-site and can be retrieved upon request. Please contact the NIH FOIA Office to make arrangements to view one or more of these documents.

 Payment of Fees

It is important to note that FOIA allows agencies to recover part of the costs associated with responding to requests. Department of Health and Human Services regulations describe specific rules for fees, requesting a fee waiver, and reducing fees.

This page was last updated on Jul 11, 2013