AHRQ Publishing and Communications Guidelines

Appendix 2-C. External Linking Policy

This AHRQ policy is in addition to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Web Standards.

AHRQ links only to:

  • Other HHS agencies.
  • Other Federal agencies.
  • Nonprofit organizations that are official partners on specific projects or conferences.
  • Noncommercial resources that are specifically referenced in AHRQ-generated documents.

Review criteria for external links follow:

  • External links must not conflict with official AHRQ, HHS, or other Federal policies or regulations.
  • Links to external resources cannot imply endorsement of a specific commercial product or service.
  • Linked resources should not contain inappropriate or questionable materials that jeopardize the Agency through associated liability, potential embarrassment, or political ramifications.
  • AHRQ-funded sites link only to sites or web-based resources:
  • That are directly related to AHRQ’s mission and outputs.
  • Where the content is accurate, scientifically sound, and balanced.
  • Where sources of all content are specifically identified and references are provided for health and scientific claims.
  • Where the sponsoring organization, aims, and sources of support are clearly identified.
  • Where biases or conflicts of interest from advocacy positions, marketing, or sources of financial support are explicitly acknowledged.
  • Where privacy and confidentiality matters are clearly addressed and registration is not required.
  • Where contact information and feedback exist for both content and technical issues.
  • Where the design, reading level, and navigation tools are appropriate for the intended audience and do not present barriers to users.

OC will reassess links periodically to ensure they are still valid and linked resources continue to meet selection criteria.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires Federal agencies to perform risk assessments of external links from their sites. Contractors who manage AHRQ-funded websites must assess potential links to external sources against HHS and AHRQ linking policies and criteria and post only those links that meet selection and evaluation criteria.  

Before establishing a link to an external site, contractors must check the linking policies of the site and, as a courtesy, notify the website of an intention to establish a link.

Contractors must clearly delineate external links and provide a brief description about the content of each linked resource.

Websites may link to AHRQ sites, provided the link is not displayed in a way that would imply the Agency’s endorsement of a specific commercial product or service.

Each AHRQ-funded website must have a page that discusses the linking policy and provides a 25-word description for the site with key words that other sites can use when establishing the link. For more information, go to Linking to the AHRQ Web Site.

This appendix does not cover all possibilities. Contractors should consult their OC managing editor on cases that present issues not discussed above.

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Page last reviewed November 2018
Page originally created April 2009
Internet Citation: Appendix 2-C. External Linking Policy. Content last reviewed November 2018. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://www.ahrq.gov/research/publications/pubcomguide/pcguide2apc.html
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