Justice Committee report on Freedom of Information

26 July 2012

Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“The research that takes place within our universities brings huge benefits to the UK but if research data is not exempt from Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation then we are in real danger of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

“We are therefore pleased the Justice Committee has recommended an exemption from FOI legislation prior to the results of the research being published.

“Releasing complex scientific results too early and out of context risks leaving our academics’ work open to damaging misinterpretation. That fact that universities are subject to FOI can deter businesses from entering into collaboration with them. Releasing research data prematurely can also jeopardise the commercial activities that contribute to innovation, economic growth and help support further research.

“The Committee are also right to recognise the importance of research to the competitiveness of the university sector and its ability to maintain its world class reputation

"The Government should now take on board the Committee’s recommendations so universities can operate efficiently and effectively in a highly competitive global environment.

“We remain committed to transparency and maximising the impact of their world-class research and the wider dissemination of peer-reviewed publications through open data is a key part of that. But openness and transparency must have limitations in order to protect our national interests, including national security and the safety of our researchers.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The comment relates to a report by the Justice Select committee into post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. On page 80 the report says: "We recommend section 22 of the Act should be amended to give research carried out in England and Wales the same protection as in Scotland. While the extension of section 22 will not solve all the difficulties experienced by the universities in this area, we believe it is required to ensure parity with other similar jurisdictions, as well as to protect ongoing research, and therefore constitutes a proportionate response to their concerns. Whether this solution is sufficient and works satisfactorily should be reviewed at a reasonable point after its introduction."

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