The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the non-partisan public policy research arm of the United States Congress. Since 1914 this component of the Library of Congress has provided Congress with research and objective analysis on a wide variety of topics. As a source of non-partisan, timely, and accurate information the CRS reports are often regarded as second to none, however there has recently been criticism voiced over the lack of public access to these documents (see, for example, the 2003 Report by the Project on Government Oversight regarding taxpayer access to CRS products, and the editorial in 2/12/03 issue of Roll Call comparing the secrecy of the CRS with the CIA). This guide will provide a brief overview of CRS and some suggestions for locating the reports. It should be noted that CRS does not maintain a publicly accessible research website
CRS produces a number of document types although the most commonly requested are the reports. The purpose of a report is to clearly define the issue in the legislative context. The reports may take many forms including policy analysis, economic studies, statistical reviews, and legal analyses. A second type of CRS document is the Issue Briefs. These short documents, include issue definitions, background and policy analyses, legislation passed and pending, a bibliography of hearings, reports and documents and other congressional actions, a chronology of events, and reference sources. Other documents types include Appropriations Reports (usually released as a Long Report), Electronic Briefing Books, Info Packs and Congressional distribution memoranda. All of these documents are produced at the request of and for the use of members of Congress. They are not intended for public consumption or for dissemination to libraries. In addition to written products CRS staff also provide testimony in Congressional hearings, conduct seminars, briefings, and institutes for Congressional members and their staff, and over the past decade have even provided assistance to members and staff of foreign legislative bodies.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) does not provide direct public access to its reports, requiring citizens to request them from their Member of Congress. Some Members, as well as several non-profit groups, have posted the reports on their Web sites. Below is a listing of major collection sites that lead to more specialized collection sites.
- Congressional Research Service Reports - UNT
- Integrated, searchable access to many full-text CRS reports available on the Web since 1990. 6500 reports and counting are available from this site.
- Open CRS Network
- A project of the Center for Democracy and Technology through the cooperation of several organizations and collectors of CRS Reports, Open CRS provides citizens access to CRS Reports already in the public domain and encourages Congress to provide public access to all CRS Reports.
- The Memory Hole
- The Memory Hole had copied many reports from the Web sites of Congressmen Mark Green and Christopher Shays who provided a gateway to a CRS internal database before it was shut down.
- Thurgood Marshall Law Library
- From the University of Maryland, the Law Library maintains an online archive of reports from 1993.
- National Library for the Environment
- Browse or search 2225 CRS Reports on environmental and related topics.
- Penny Hill Press
- Penny Hill Press provides free browse-access to CRS reports issued since 1993. For full text, you have to order and pay for the report, $19.95 for students.
- U.S. State Department
- CRS Reports and Issue Briefs on a variety of topics. Emphasis on foreign relations. May browse by date (1999 to present), region, or topic. Updated frequently with recent publications.
- CRS Employment Home Page
- This site is the CRS employment page, but it does provide some background information.
- CRS Reports - from LLRX.com
- From the Law Library Resource Xchange, this site provides an historical overview of CRS and how to find publications online. Includes links to many additional sites with CRS reports.
- POGO CRS Products Report
- The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) issued a report in 2003 to promote easier public access to CRS publications. Background information about CRS is included.