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Frequently-asked questions on Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations Requests for Research Data
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Frequently-asked questions on Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations Requests for Research Data


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  • The graph displayed shows the frequencies for the number of requests for research data over a period of 3+ years. Out of 21 HEIs who responded, 11 reported zero requests, and 4 reported 1 request. One reported 2 requests, one reported 5 requests, 2 reported 6 requests, one reported 8 and one 9 requests.
  • This graph shows the increase in reported data requests under FoI/EIR over 3+ years. The 11 HEIS who reported requests by year reported as follows: 2 requests 2008 4 requests 2009 16 requests 2010 11 requests (to about August)
  • This graphic is simply a screen grab of the long version consultation web site as detailed in previous slide.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Frequently-asked questions on Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations Requests for Research Data Consultation Draft
    • 2. Contents
      • Background
      • How many requests for research data?
      • Freedom of Information (FoI) exemptions relevant to research data
      • Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) exceptions relevant to research data
      • The FAQ consultation drafts
      • Main information sources
      • Take-home message…
    • 3. Background
      • “ Climategate”
        • UEA/CRU FoI case resolved against UEA by Information Commissioner
        • QUB Tree Ring data FoI/EIR case resolved against QUB
        • Times Higher article by Hannah Fearn
      • FoI guidance
        • Much dates from around the time of introduction of FoI
        • Much is oriented to Records Managers
        • None for researchers
      • JISC commissioned a FAQ on FoI for research data!
    • 4. Comment…
      • The UEA case was not for research data, but for information about and communications by the researchers
      • The QUB case was eventually resolved under Environmental Information Regulations, not Freedom of Information, and largely hinged around procedural issues. It is NOT a precedent!
    • 5. The legislation…
      • Freedom of Information Act 2000.
        • Applies in UK except Scotland
      • Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
      • The Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
        • Applies in UK except Scotland
      • The Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.
      • All came into force 1 January 2005
    • 6. Summary
      • Public right to know information held by public authorities
      • Must provide response within 20 working days
        • Refusal if exemption (FoI) or exception (EIR) applies
          • May (or may not) have to confirm existence of the information
        • Otherwise provide the requested information
      • The details of exemptions are critical!
        • Always involve your FoI Practioner!
    • 7. How many requests for research data?
      • Recorded requests are very rare
      • Asked UKHE members of RLUK plus Bath University
        • 24 HEIs; 3 did not respond or give enough information!
        • 21 responses
      • Over 3+ years (2007 to mid 2010), 40 recorded requests for research data
        • Less than 2 per HEI over 3+ years
      • Comparatively, such HEIs currently receive o(100)+ FoI/EIR requests per year!
    • 8. Request distribution
    • 9. Increase of research data requests
      • 11 HEIs provided data by year
      • 2010 is to around August
        • (I.e. just over half the year)
    • 10. Useful FoI exemptions for research data?
      • Available elsewhere
      • Information requested is intended for publication
        • Scotland: in 12 weeks
        • Rest of the UK, no limit
      • Research (Scotland)
        • Information gathered in the course of research
        • Research will lead to a report
      • Prejudice to public affairs???
      • Health & Safety
      • Environmental Information
      • Personal data
      • Provided in confidence
      • Commercial interest
      • Excessive cost
    • 11. Intended for future publication…
      • Most likely exemption outside Scotland
      • Limited:
        • Intention to publish must exist when the request is made
        • Timescale of publication irrelevant (except 12 weeks in Scotland)
        • Intention must be to publish the information requested, not an article based on the information…
      • So if you have a policy to publish your research data later, eg at the end of your research, then this exemption may apply!
    • 12. Useful EIR Exceptions for research data?
      • Personal data
      • Incomplete data
      • Internal communications
      • Intellectual property
      • Confidentiality
      • Interests of the environment
    • 13. But there’s a public interest test…
      • General presumption in favour of disclosure, unless the public interest is served better by non-disclosure
        • Could be tough in controversial areas of public debate?
        • Can argue that research should be completed before data can safely be released?
    • 14. Sources of information
      • JISC Legal
      • JISC InfoNet
      • Information Commissioners
        • Information Commissioner’s Office
        • Scottish Information Commissioner
      • Ministry of Justice
    • 15. The FAQ draft
      • FAQ consultation
        • Print version draft (shortened), see handout
        • Web version (longer):
      • Comments please!
    • 16.  
    • 17. Take home messages
      • If you get a request, always consult your FoI Practioner ASAP
        • Management: listen to your FoI Practioners
      • Outwith Scotland, a policy always to publish your data may help to protect them until the time is right
      • [email_address]