Steve McIntyre has posted up an interesting article about the complaints made by Nature in its Climategate editorial, namely that scientists were being overwhelmed by freedom of information requests. As he points out, the actual number of requests made so far has been very small, a point reinforced by a brief perusal of WhatDoTheyKnow.com, the portal for many FoI requests to UK public bodies. Prior to Climategate, there were only ten FoI requests to UEA. This doesn't preclude there being requests made through other channels, but it does at least suggest that the problem is rather smaller in scale than Nature would have us believe.
But in many ways, this is besides the point. As well as the Freedom of Information Act, CRU information falls under the terms of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. These require public bodies to:
(a) progressively make the information available to the public by electronic means which are easily accessible; and
(b) take reasonable steps to organize the information relevant to its functions with a view to the active and systematic dissemination to the public of the information.
As far as I can see, the University of East Anglia, in common with many other UK universities, has failed to set up the legally mandated publication scheme. In other words, the alleged burdensome level of FoI requests has only been necessary because those scientists' have been flouting the law.
A similar point is made in the comments at CA by the economist Richard Tol:
I bet that I get far fewer requests for information (2-3 a week) than my colleagues in climate science proper. I do find these requests disruptive, because it means taking your mind of the data you’re working on and focussing on data you worked on years ago. I have a simple solution for that: I post all relevant data on my website. As the data is in the public domain anyway per the various freedom of information acts that govern my work, I might as well put the data there.
So it's simple. Publish everything as you go and you not only comply with the law but you make your life simpler in the long run.
I've put in a further FoI request to East Anglia, asking what steps they have taken to ensure compliance with the terms of EIR. In the meantime, the ecowarriors at Nature might do better to direct their ire at climatologists who flout the law rather than sceptics who are forced to use FoI to unearth the information that is being withheld.