Public Access to CRS Reports (2015 update)

The publicly funded reports you can’t read” is a recent piece over at Politico that provides a bit of background on some recent legislation that would make these wonderful reports available to the public.

The last time I noted the ongoing push to open up CRS reports, in 2012, I highlighted two points that are still true today:

Cover – CRS Report R41664

1) CRS reports are outstanding sources. These reports are:

  • usually fairly brief (under 30 pages);
  • written in plain English;
  • meticulously researched; and
  • heavily footnoted.

If you are looking into a federal legislative history question or a public-policy issue that is of interest to Congress, you would be remiss if you didn’t check for a CRS Report. If you don’t find a  report, noting that absence in your research log makes you look like you know what you’re doing, research-wise. And if you do find one, it’s guaranteed to clarify your issues and lead you to other sources.

UCI community members can search for CRS Reports in ProQuest Congressional.

2) Most CRS reports are not freely available. ProQuest Congressional does indeed include a comprehensive set of non-classified CRS reports, starting with 1916. But this access is subscription-based—you’re out of luck if you’re not a member of the UCI community. Various legislative efforts over the years have tried to change that. So if you’ve found CRS reports valuable in the past, and if you’d support making them more widely available, this is a great time to contact your representative and let him or her know.