INFORMATION COMMISSIONER AND TRIBUNAL DECISIONS - NEXT FOI CASE LAW UPDATE 6TH JUNE 2024. RESERVE YOUR PLACE NOW!

UEA climate emails report

The Review found an ethos of minimal compliance (and at times non-compliance) by the CRU with both the letter and the spirit of the FoIA and EIR.  We believe that this must change and that leadership is required from the University‘s most senior staff in driving through a positive transformation of attitudes.  Public trust in science depends on an inherent culture of honesty, rigour and transparency.  The requirements of FoIA and EIR must not be seen as impositions.  They are a necessary part of the implicit contract between the scientist and broader society.  Such an open culture will also lead to the best science.

The Review offers the following recommendations for action within the UEA:

  •  Change fundamentally the perception that responsibility for FoIA/EIR compliance lies with administrative staff. University senior staff need to make clear their commitment to a culture of honesty, rigour and transparency, plus the supporting processes and resources.
  • Review the resourcing and standing of the FoIA/EIR/DPA compliance and  request handling processes.  Our findings have highlighted significant problems in the areas of: imbalance of authority; lack of effective challenge at appeal; over dependence on single individuals; inadequate escalation processes and limited strategic oversight.  
  •  A concerted and sustained campaign to win hearts and minds.  This should include: promotion of the University‘s formal publication policy; incorporating more information on FoIA/EIR/DPA responsibilities in the induction processes for new staff members; developing a rolling awareness campaign to focus the attention of established staff, particularly in the context of the changing landscape e.g. Queens University judgment (see paragraph 34); and issuing annual reminders of the importance of transparency and of key FoIA/EIR/DPA responsibilities;
  •  Once the improved awareness measures and processes are in place, to run a programme of independent, external, tests with requests for information to verify the continuing effectiveness of these operations.  This is a special case of the more general recommendation on ‗Audit processes‘ given in the Governance Chapter.

As a final comment we find that a fundamental lack of engagement by the CRU team with their obligations under FoIA/EIR, both prior to 2005 and subsequently, led to an overly defensive approach that set the stage for the subsequent mass of FoIA/EIR requests in July and August 2009.   We recognise that there was deep suspicion within CRU, as to the motives of those making detailed requests.  Nonetheless, the requirements of the legislation for release of information are
clear and early action would likely have prevented much subsequent grief.

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