Posts Tagged ‘Information World Review’

Article: Academic use of freedom of information

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Right to know under attack
Information World Review, by Heather Brooke
27 Nov 2006

  • Of the 250 freedom of information requests received by the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority since January 2005, 87 have been from academics or students. This growing field of academic research will be killed off if the government gets its way.
  • Government proposals have aroused “great concern” among researchers.

Just as researchers are beginning to use the Freedom of Information Act for serious investigative research, the government has announced changes that will block all but the silliest and simplest requests.

Under the changes, proposed by the Lord Chancellor, lawyers, academics, campaigners, businesses and journalists would be grouped according to their “legal body”. Each legal body would be restricted to asking a limited number of questions within a two-month period. The proposals would also make it much easier for public bodies to refuse information requests on cost grounds.

“If introduced, these changes would have major implications for researchers using the Act and would probably serve as a disincentive to use,” said Steve Wood, senior lecturer in information management at Liverpool John Moores University.

The new aggregating powers will mean that once one university academic has made a request that uses up the cost allowance, all other academics from the same university could be refused access for the next two months.