The presentations to the UK Parliamentary Committee are online and many are very interesting.
Take a look at the submission by UK Information Commissioner Richard Thomas here who adhere nicely to the policy issues. Here is part of his testimony – testimony that is far more compelling than the flaccid prevarications coming from the likes of Ralph Cicerone and Gerry North:
3.2 … The public must be satisfied that publicly-funded universities, as with any other public authority in receipt of public funding, are properly accountable, adopt systems of good governance and can inspire public trust and confidence in their work and operations. The FOIA, by requiring transparency and open access, allows the public to scrutinize the actions and decisions taken by public institutions. Failure to respond or to respond properly to FOIA requests undermines public confidence in public institutions. The fact that the FOIA requests relate to complex scientific data does not detract from this proposition or excuse non-compliance. The public, even if they can not themselves scrutinize the data, want to ensure that there is a meaningful informed debate especially in respect of issues that are of great public importance currently and for generations to come.
3.3 It can also be said that failure to fulfill FOIA obligations undermines the development of public policy. The CRU is a leading climate research centre and its work has been incorporated into the assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
3.4 Where public policy is based on science, the public expect the science to be the best science available and that the scientists imparting that science act impartially. Scientists must adopt high standards of ethics and scientific integrity, and allow their work to be peer reviewed, subject to appropriate safeguards of intellectual property rights.
3.5 This is especially the case in new areas of science such as climate change research, where it is clear the results are directly influencing the development of public policy. (Indeed, FOIA makes special provision for the easier disclosure of statistical data where the section 36 exemption could otherwise apply – see section 36(4)). Access to the original data, computer models and an explanation of the analytical methods used is necessary to ensure that results are reproducible. Any attempts to limit peer review, to omit or distort scientific data or to limit access to data sets, models or methodologies used and thus frustrating any review of the science would lead to legitimate questioning of the conclusions asserted. In the wider context of public sector transparency, there is a risk that attempts to withhold the disclosure of information without good reason will increasingly be characterised in terms of “something to hide.”