NFOIC Announces FOI Research Competition Winners

News Release

For Immediate Release –   March 27, 2019 


Daniel Bevarly, Executive Director
National Freedom of Information Coalition 352-294-7082


Twelve winning research papers have been accepted to the first National Freedom of Information Coalition FOI research competition. The papers will be presented April 12, 2019, at the NFOIC National FOI Summit in Dallas. In all, 18 one-page proposals were entered.

Authors were invited to submit a one-page paper proposal, which were reviewed by a team of three judges, including two scholars and one FOI coalition leader. Proposals included a one-paragraph abstract/summary, a paragraph outlining the proposed methodology, and a paragraph explaining the relevance of the potential findings for government agencies, FOI advocates, and access practitioners (e.g., journalists, citizens, record custodians).

Proposals could encompass any research methodological approach (legal, survey, experimental, content analysis, etc.), to provide insights of practical value for those who work day-to-day in access to government information. Topics included issues regarding access to public records and meetings, court transparency, access to public employees and elected officials, open data and technology, and other related matters.

Judges rated the proposals based on importance, relevance to practitioners, and strength of methodology. Thirteen proposals were selected for presentation. Twelve authors submitted full papers by March 18 (one author dropped out). Another set of 12 blind reviewers rated the 12 papers for selection of the top 3, which receive prizes of $500, $300 and $200.

The top paper will be published in the University of Florida’s new Journal of Civic Information, which welcomes submissions from all researchers. Papers will be available on the NFOIC web site after April 12 for those that authors wish to make public (some will want to submit them to journals, which preclude publication elsewhere). Those interested in copies of the papers can also contact the authors directly.

The top three papers to be presented in a panel session at the National FOI Summit on April 12th are:

  1. “Countering the Privatization of Public Records: How Trade Secrets, Purported Competitive Harm and Third-Party Interventions Keep Government Business in the Dark,” by Amy Sanders, University of Texas-Austin, and Daxton “Chip” Stewart, Texas Christian University ($500 prize)

  2. “The Effects and Efficacy of Online Public Records Request Portals for Agencies,” by Alexa Capeloto, City University of New York ($300 prize)

  3. “SLAPP-ing Back: Are Government Lawsuits Against Records Requesters Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation?” by Patrick C. File and Leah Wigren, University of Nevada, Reno ($200 prize)

Additional winning papers (in author alphabetical order) to be presented in a peer-to-peer poster session at the NFOIC summit Welcome Reception on the evening of April 12 include:

  1. Access to Government Officials in the Age of Social Media, by Katie Blevins, University of Idaho, and Kearston Lee Wesner, Quinnipiac University

  2. ‘Drag This Out’: Fixing FOI Searches, a Tantalizing Solution to Improving FOI Delays, by Nate Jones, National Security Archive

  3. A Constitutional Right to Public Information, by Chad Marzen, Florida State University

  4. Privacy vs. Transparency: Tracing Home Address Exemptions in State FOI Laws, by Jodie Mozdzer Gil, Southern Connecticut State University

  5. Out from the Curtains of Secrecy: Private University Police Records and State Open Records Laws, by Josh Moore, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

  6. ‘Opening the State House Doors’: Examining Trends in Public Access to Legislative Records, by Ryan Mulvey and James Valvo, Cause of Action Institute

  7. Social Media Use and Political Engagement: A Social Network Analysis of Individuals’ use of Twitter to Discuss Freedom of Information in the United States, by Kayla Schwoerer, Rutgers University

  8. Assessing Badgers’ Right to Know: Auditing Wisconsin Public Record Law, by A.Jay Wagner, Marquette University

  9. Washington State’s Public Records Act: A Battle in the Legislature and Beyond, by Peggy Watt, Western Washington University


The National Freedom of Information Coalition is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes press freedom, litigation and legislative and administrative reforms that ensure open, transparent and accessible state and local governments. It was founded in 1989.