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Service Federal Research Division

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What exactly is a revolving fund?

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s existing glossary of budgetary terms, a revolving fund “charges for the sale of products or services and uses the proceeds to finance its spending, usually on a self-sustaining basis.” In more general terms, FRD funds itself through the work it takes on for its clients.

2. When might an agency partner with FRD?

Agencies that contract FRD for its research, analysis, and translation services turn to the division for a variety of reasons. However, there are three common drivers of collaboration:

  • A history of outsourcing research and analysis as FRD is a cost-effective alternative to academic or private-sector vendors;
  • Intermittent research needs since many federal clients lack the time or specialized skills needed to conduct such work; and
  • The desire for an unbiased, nonpartisan perspective, which FRD upholds as a central tenet of its work.

FRD’s structure as a federal revolving fund also enables clients to avoid the need for a formal solicitation. As a result, the procurement of services and obligation of funds can take as few as five days!

3. Can you tell me more about FRD’s research process?

Of course! While researchers often begin by consulting items within the Library’s extensive collections, along with open-source materials, project work also can include interviews, surveys, and site visits. Some efforts further involve the cleaning or creation of data workbooks, which are delivered to clients alongside related reports. Additionally, more recent collaborations have sought personal testimonials and family photographs to complement the research findings.

4. How does FRD charge for its work?

It is best to contact the division directly with any questions related to the financing of a potential project, but some basic questions are answered below.

  • How are project costs determined? FRD develops cost estimates based on the project’s requirements as part of the proposal process. These estimates come solely from the direct and indirect labor costs associated with completing the project. As a cost-recovery, fee-for-service organization, FRD does not follow a profit-motive business model.
  • What is the average cost of a research project? As each project differs in scope, there are no average costs to consider. That said, FRD does offer competitive hourly rates that are determined when assigning staff to the effort. By law, FRD cannot make a profit or take a loss so all funding goes to pay the salaries of the employees working on the project.
  • When does FRD bill agencies? Agencies are billed for the full value of the project immediately after the funding documents are signed. These obligated funds, which can roll over from one fiscal year to another, are deposited through the Federal Research Program. Staff then charge their time to a specific project code during the period of performance. Clients receive a monthly financial update on the status of work against the agreed-upon budget.

5. Is FRD a part of the Congressional Research Service?

This question is asked a lot, but no. Unlike FRD, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) receives appropriated funding and works directly with lawmakers to meet their various research needs. However, division staff do communicate with CRS employees and stay apprised of current CRS research to more fully support FRD’s own clients.

6. Does FRD provide research services to the public?

FRD, by law, can only provide its services to U.S. or D.C. government agencies or to approved federal contractors. All other interested parties, either American citizens or international visitors, should consult the Library’s website or contact the Library directly. Academic researchers also can reference the Library’s "Ask a Librarian" feature for more information about using its collections.

For additional information related to the above questions, as well as more detail on the types of support FRD can provide, please see the following document written by the division’s educational outreach and marketing specialist.

Fee-Based Research Services Offered by the Library of Congress (PDF, 340KB)

Contact Us

Comments, questions, and suggestions related to The Federal Research Division and this website can be sent to us online.


Federal Research Division
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave SE
John Adams Building, LA 5281
Washington, D.C. 20540-4840
Phone: 202-707-3900
Fax: 202-707-3920