Freedom of Information

03 December 2012

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

“We are pleased the Government is planning to introduce a dedicated exemption to the Freedom of Information Act for research and we look forward to working with them.

“This smart decision will allow universities to operate efficiently and effectively in a highly competitive global environment.

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

“We remain committed to transparency and maximising the impact of world-class research. The wider dissemination of peer-reviewed publications and improved access to our data is a key part of that. But the desire for openness and transparency must be balanced by the need to protect our national interests, including national security, the integrity of academic research and the safety of our researchers.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Government position can be found at Government Response to the Justice Committee’s Report: Post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000
    Paragraph 47 says:
    “However, the Government recognises that the adoption of a qualified exemption for research would provide additional clarity and reassurance, both to Higher Education institutions and non-public sector research partners. We accept that despite the wide applicability of existing exemptions, the lack of a dedicated research exemption can at least give the impression that FOIA does not provide adequate protection. On  balance, therefore, the Government is minded to amend FOIA to introduce a dedicated exemption, subject to both a prejudice and public interest test, as recommended by the Committee. The Government shares the Committee’s view that this would constitute a proportionate response to the concerns expressed. The Government also agrees that such a measure should be reviewed at a suitable point after introduction.”

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