Brechner FOI Project to co-sponsor NFOIC annual research competition
Jan. 9, 2024
The Joseph L. Brechner Freedom of Information (FOI) Project at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications is joining the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) in promoting research in access to government information.
The two organizations will co-sponsor the annual Freedom of Information Research Competition, which, for the past five years, has encouraged and awarded top research on the ability of the public to acquire and use civic data.
The Brechner FOI Project will provide $1,000 toward the competition prize money, matching NFOIC’s contribution for a total of $2,000 in cash awards. Brechner also will coordinate the competition, given its mission to promote research and education in freedom of information since 1977.
NFOIC launched the competition in 2019 to encourage applied research in FOI, awarding the top three papers with cash prizes, and providing a venue for the authors to present their findings at NFOIC’s annual conferences. The competition has highlighted a total of 35 studies on a variety of topics, including increasing secrecy through trade secrets, privatization, and COVID, as well as solutions to improve transparency.
“Joining forces with Brechner will increase awareness of the competition and the entries, which are always well done and interesting,” NFOIC board president Jeff Roberts said. “Trustworthy research is so important in helping advocates and policymakers find effective ways to foster government transparency and citizen participation and identify the systemic barriers to access.”
Brechner and NFOIC have worked closely during the past five years to promote FOI research. Nearly two dozen of the papers have been published in Brechner’s open-access Journal of Civic Information, and the competition was launched and coordinated by former NFOIC President David Cuillier, who was hired to direct the Brechner FOI Project in 2023.
“It is imperative that we have a good sense of the extent of excessive secrecy, and its causes,” Cuillier said. “That way we can improve the ability of people to find out what their government is up to so they can become civically engaged and improve democracy.”
Researchers can enter the 2024 competition by submitting proposals by May 1, 2024. Proposals are judged by experts and then full papers are critiqued by another panel of experts, through double-blind review, to select the winning papers. All accepted papers are presented at the fall NFOIC summit.
For more details about the competition, see the paper call.
The NFOIC, founded in 1989, helps its members protect citizens’ right to open government by ensuring state and local governments and public institutions have laws, policies and procedures to facilitate press and public access to information and proceedings.
The Brechner FOI Project, founded in 1977, educates journalists, policymakers and the general public about the law of access today and how it should work tomorrow. The Project is a source of research, expertise and advocacy about the law of gathering and disseminating news across all platforms and technologies.