Freedom of Information in the UK and its Implications for Research in the Higher Education Sector
AbstractFreedom of information legislation came into effect in the UK in 2005. All universities that receive block grants from the Higher Education Funding Councils in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are subject to the legislation. Recent cases where universities have received requests for data and other information generated by researchers, working in areas such as climate, have given rise to controversy and widespread concern in the research community. This paper examines some of those concerns, relating to responsibilities for the ownership and holding of information, for data and records management, and for the handling of requests under the legislation. It also considers the implications relating to personal data, and to information that may affect the commercial interests of universities operating in a competitive environment, or the interests of the many other organisations which may be involved in research partnerships with universities; and it outlines concerns about the possible impact on quality assurance, peer review, and scholarly discourse. Finally, the paper emphasises the need for support and training for researchers so that they become more aware of the legislation and its implications, and how to deal with requests when they arise.
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