Our new resource describes what scientists need to know about state open records laws and how the laws can potentially be used to protect research materials.
“A Guide to Open Records Laws and Protections for Research Materials” distills the open records laws in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia into an easy-to-use reference that describes how each state’s open records law can potentially be used to protect research materials.
Open records laws are valuable tools for government transparency, enabling the public to request documents related to state and federally funded activities. However, these laws are increasingly misused to attack scientists who work on politically contentious topics in attempts to distort or undermine their research.
Our guide highlights categories of research records that may be vulnerable to an invasive open records request and lists areas where there are ambiguities. It also provides examples of how states have treated specific records in the past, and includes tips to help scientists categorize materials that may be protected from disclosure and maximize the chances that their records will remain safe.
We hope that this guide, in addition to assisting researchers, will help lawmakers realize the implications of not protecting scientific research, and write better laws.