Breaking news from the UK: Inquiries by Jonathan Leake at The Sunday Times have revealed new developments in the Climategate affair.
I previously reported about the current predicament:
Now, news from ICO shows that they will seek a change in the law. This communications from the ICO shows what they plan to do.
The actions of scientists at the Climatic Research Unit to thwart Freedom of Information inquiries has prompted the UK Information Commissioner’s Office to seek a change in the law so that it could seek prosecutions against researchers who commit similar offences.
Graham Smith, Deputy Commissioner, said in an emailed press release:
“Norfolk Police are investigating how private emails have become public.
The Information Commissioner’s Office is assisting the police investigation with advice on data protection and freedom of information.
The emails which are now public reveal that Mr Holland’s requests under the Freedom of Information Act were not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation. Section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act makes it an offence for public authorities to act so as to prevent intentionally the disclosure of requested information. Mr Holland’s FOI requests were submitted in 2007/8, but it has only recently come to light that they were not dealt with in accordance with the Act.
The legislation requires action within six months of the offence taking place, so by the time the action taken came to light the opportunity to consider a prosecution was long gone. The ICO is gathering evidence from this and other time-barred cases to support the case for a change in the law. It is important to note that the ICO enforces the law as it stands – we do not make it.
It is for government and Parliament to consider whether this aspect of the legislation should be strengthened to deter this type of activity in future. We will be advising the University about the importance of effective records management and their legal obligations in respect of future requests for information. We will also be studying the investigation reports (by Lord Russell and Norfolk Police), and we will then consider what regulatory action, if any, should then be taken under the Data Protection Act.”
If you need anything further please contact us.
ICO Press Office
020 7025 7580
But wait there’s more!
Here’s the release on the new Parliamentary inquiry.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE
Select Committee Announcement
22 January 2010
THE DISCLOSURE OF CLIMATE DATA FROM THE CLIMATIC RESEARCH UNIT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA
The Science and Technology Committee today announces an inquiry into the unauthorised publication of data, emails and documents relating to the work of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA). The Committee has agreed to examine and invite written submissions on three questions:
– What are the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of scientific research?
– Are the terms of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on 3 December 2009 by UEA adequate (see below)?
– How independent are the other two international data sets? (footnote 1)
The Committee intends to hold an oral evidence session in March 2010.
On 1 December 2009 Phil Willis, Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, wrote to Professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor of UEA following the considerable press coverage of the data, emails and documents relating to the work of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU). The coverage alleged that data may have been manipulated or deleted in order to produce evidence on global warming. On 3 December the UEA announced an Independent Review into the allegations to be headed by Sir Muir Russell.
The Independent Review will:
1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.
2. Review CRU’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice.
3. Review CRU’s compliance or otherwise with the University’s policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act (‘the FOIA’) and the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR’) for the release of data.
4. Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds. (footnote 2)
The Committee invites written submissions from interested parties on the three questions set out above by noon on Wednesday 10 February:
Each submission should:
a) be no more than 3,000 words in length
b) be in Word format (no later than 2003) with as little use of colour or logos as possible
c) have numbered paragraphs
d) include a declaration of interests.
A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and marked “Climatic Research Unit”. An additional paper copy should be sent to:
Science and Technology Committee House of Commons
London SW1P 3JA
It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals submitting written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
Please supply a postal address so a copy of the Committee’s report can be sent to you upon publication.
A guide for written submissions to Select Committees may be found on the parliamentary website at: http://www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/witguide.htm
Please also note that:
– Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.
– Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised.
– Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
– Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.
Notes to Editors
Media Enquiries: Becky Jones: 020 7219 5693
Committee Website: http://www.parliament.uk/science