Nursery cryme
Nov 16, 2011
Bishop Hill in FOI, Royal Society

Six months ago, Paul Nurse was taken to task by Maurice Frankel, the director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, for misrepresenting the scope of the Act. Nurse claimed that

I have been told of some researchers who are getting lots of requests for, among other things, all drafts of scientific papers prior to their publication in journals, with annotations, explaining why changes were made between successive versions. If it is true, it will consume a huge amount of time. And it's intimidating.

Frankel's response was that he was talking nonsense:

Deliberate attempts to "intimidate" scientists, if that is what they are, can be refused under the Freedom of Information Act's safeguards against vexatious requests. Unreasonable requests for all pre-publication drafts of scientific papers can be refused under an exemption for information due for future publication. Explanations of why changes to successive drafts were made do not have to be provided unless they exist in writing. Multiple related requests from different people, if they are co-ordinated, can be refused if the combined cost of answering exceeds the act's cost limit.

Believe it or not, Nurse is at it again! (Emphasis added)

The country's top scientist has told The Independent that he wants to review the way the FOI Act is being used by a well-organised and "zealous" minority to intimidate scientists engaged in contentious research, such as studies into tobacco use and climate change.

Sir Paul said he and many other leading scientists did not anticipate the extent to which raw scientific data and unpublished scientific manuscripts would be subject to FOI requests.

Why does somebody in such a prominent position do something so...transparent?

After Nurse's previous outburst, McIntyre wrote to ask if he could give some examples (in the comments here). I wonder if he got a reply?


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