Volume II of the Report of the UK Science and Technology Committee – here – contains supplementary answers by the University of East Anglia that have thus far not attracted commentary. The University’s answer to a question about the July 2009 FOI requests was untruthful in important respects.
The Committee asked:
When it emerged, last July, that the CRU were facing “an unprecedented, and frankly administratively overwhelming, deluge of FoIA requests” [UEA memo, Para 3.7.4] did the University provide extra resources to assist the Unit? If so, what resources were offered?
The University’s answer (with the critical sentences bolded by me):
Within the University’s Information Services Division (ISD) additional support was provided to the University’s Information Policy Compliance Manager (IPCM) who handles FOI requests. This included rescheduling workloads to allow him to concentrate on the CRU FOI requests and diverting secretarial support to provide additional resource. Given the high volume of requests received, the Director of Information Services (DoIS) also took an active role in the first stage of a number of requests, thus providing additional support to the IPCM. (Should any cases where the DoIS was directly involved in the first stage be appealed then we have arranged for the PVC Academic to adjudicate to ensure impartiality). ISD also fast-tracked the merging of the Security Policy and Compliance team to ensure that a fully trained back-up to the IPCM was available.
Alongside the IPCM providing significant support to staff in CRU in dealing with requests, the Science Faculty provided additional administrative support, including that of the Director of Faculty Administration, the most senior member of the Faculty’s administrative staff.
It should be noted however that the specialist nature of many of the requests required scientific knowledge and understanding of the subject area in order to provide the details. Despite the additional administrative resources provided, the requirement to respond to the 61 requests received in July 2009 impacted considerably upon the work of CRU.
I’ll discuss two issues arising from the University’s answer:
1. Was “scientific knowledge” required in order to answer the July 2009 FOI requests?
2. Did the requirement to respond to the 61 requests in July 2009 “impact considerably upon the work of CRU”?
Was “scientific knowledge” required in order to answer the July 2009 FOI requests?
In a word, no.
Contrary to the University’s statement to the Parliamentary Committee, the July 2009 FOI requests did not require “scientific knowledge” in order to respond.
The 61 or so July 2009 FOI requests arose out of the University’s untruthful statement that confidentiality agreements with national meteorological services prevented them from providing the station data that they had just sent to Peter Webster of Georgia Tech to a “non-academic”. (In November 2009, the University conceded that this answer was untrue, though they continued to refuse on other grounds.) As a result, CA readers asked the University for copies of confidential agreements with various named countries. For example, here is my FOI request for five confidentiality agreements (see here)
I hereby make a separate FOI request in in respect to the confidentiality agreement(s) upon which you based your decision for the following countries: Canada, United States, Australia, U.K., and Brazil:
1. the date of any applicable confidentiality agreements;
2. the parties to such confidentiality agreement, including the full name of any organization;
3. a copy of the section of the confidentiality agreement that “prevents further transmission to non-academics”.
4. a copy of the entire confidentiality agreement,
Thank you for your attention.
The other FOI requests were similar – only for different countries.
One obviously doesn’t need “scientific knowledge” to provide the date of a confidentiality agreement or a copy of the confidentiality agreement. The University’s testimony to the Committee that “scientific knowledge” was required to respond to these FOI requests was completely untrue.
Did the requirement to respond to the 61 requests in July 2009 “impact considerably upon the work of CRU”?
Again, in a word, no. The Climategate Letters themselves provide proof.
On July 29, 2009 (991. 1248902393.txt), Phil Jones wrote to Tom Peterson of NOAA saying:
Anyway enough of my problems – I have a question for you. I’m going to write a small document for our web site to satisfy (probably the wrong word) the 50 or so FOI/EIR requests we’ve had over the weekend. I will put up the various agreements we have with Met Services.
A “small document for our website”.
The document was indeed “small” (1257 words) and four “agreements” (none of which was on point as to the supposed clause pertaining to non-academics.) The “small document” is online at CRU here. It was reported at CA on August 11, 2009 here, here and here (among others).
Other than “small document”, CRU merely sent a form letters to the 61 requesters refusing their requests and directing them to the webpage.
Contrary to the assertions of the University, the requirement to respond to the 61 requests received in July 2009 did not “impact considerably upon the work of CRU.”
Thus, in two critical respects, the University’s supplementary answer to the Parliamentary Committee was untrue. In Gavin’s Schmidt’s terminology, this was a “good way to solve a problem” i.e. a trick.
Postscript – Jones Lobbies IPCC
A Climategate letter (998. 1249045162.txt) shows that Jones concurrently (in late July 2009) got:
“IPCC Secretariat and Thomas [Stocker?] to raise the FOI issues with the full IPCC Plenary, which meets in Bali in September or October. Thomas is fully aware of all the issues we’ve had here wrt Ch 6 last time, and others in the US have had.”
We don’t know precisely what Jones was lobbying the “IPCC and Thomas” to do – there are no further details in the Climategate Letters – but somehow I doubt that Jones was lobbying for improved disclosure. Definitely a dig-here.