Surprise Restriction in NIH Grants

April 15, 2014 at 10:36 pm | Posted in Advocacy and Gov't Relations | 1 Comment

The NIH recently released a notice about a little known funding provision in this year’s appropriation legislation that prohibits anyone using NIH grant money from maintaining or establishing, “a computer network unless such network blocks the viewing, downloading, and exchanging of pornography.”  As the Electronic Freedom Foundation argued, provisions like this are problematic for a variety of reasons:

  1. The term “pornography” isn’t defined in the law or the mandate, which means that there is no boundaries on how it could potentially be applied.
  2. The only exemption built into the law is one for law enforcement purposes, which means that researchers studying a topic related to pornography cannot turn the filters off, which could potentially have a negative impact on their research.
  3. Pornography filters are inaccurate and have blocked sites in the past that were not pornographic in nature.

Concerned grants officers and researchers reached out to EDUCAUSE for more information about how the provision could be applied.  Some wondered, for example, if an institution would have to filter its entire network for pornography if it received any NIH funding at all.  The consensus seems to be that the provision will only be applied to “funds directly allocated in a grant or contract for the development or maintenance of a computer network.”  In other words, the provision only seems to apply to “specific, project-based networks” and not to an institution’s overall network.  Even so, a great deal of confusion continues to exist about how the provision will be applied and enforced as noted in this article from Inside Higher Ed.

[Submitted by Gary Atwood, Chair, NAHSL Govt. Relations Comm.]

 

 

 

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1 Comment »

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  1. Thanks for an interesting post Gary. It’s hard to say what someone will call pornography.


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