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« UVa versus Cuccinelli redux | Main | UKRIO on retractions »

ICO rules against Hoskins

David Holland writes:

The Information Commissioner has just issued Decision Notice FER0239225 on my complaint against the University of Reading for its refusal to disclose information relating to the IPCC Fourth Assessment process.

It is broadly similar to that issued in relation to the University of East Anglia, in particular confirming that such information is subject to the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 which has fewer opportunities for refusal.   As a result of the Information Commissioner's intervention some 368 emails were disclosed.   One issue in this case is that employee concerned, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins had not given the University’s Information Officer the opportunity to examine the emails that he held in order to determine if they should have been disclosed, until the Information Commissioner contacted Reading.

The Information Commissioner continues to investigate similar complaints against the MOD/Met Office and the University of Oxford.   Professor Myles Allen of Oxford had made his attitude to Freedom of Information requests very clear at the Royal Institution debate on Climategate on 14 June 2010.  

Oxford has recently added a novel defence to its refusal to disclose, which the Commissioner is considering, and which I will dispute should it be seriously entertained.   Oxford is arguing that Professor Myles Allen took extended unpaid paternal leave while undertaking his duties as an IPCC Review Editor and thereby undertook his work for the IPCC on a “personal basis”.   The IPCC shows Allen’s affiliation as Oxford and he copied the pro forma Review Editor’s Report onto University letterhead before sending it to the IPCC Working Group.   His IPCC duties ran from at least 17 November 2005, when he was appointed, to 4 January 2007, when he submitted his Review Editor’s Report.

The ICO's ruling is attached below.

ICO ruling on Holland's Reading FOI request

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Reader Comments (21)

Its no real No surprise , academia as still not woken up to its legal requirements under the FOI or EIR. They got so used to operating as a little club that expects it words to be treated like they come straight from god. That they still work as these regulations don’t exist, or apply to them and so things would actual be lot worse for them if more people asked these sorts of questions. But they show no signs of learning any lessons on this front , and you can see why some of them are so keen on getting these regulations watered down for those in academia.

Oct 21, 2010 at 9:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Congratulations! Few people possess the perseverance that you have demonstrated. Let us hope that this endeavor will illuminate additional IPCC shenanigans.

Oct 21, 2010 at 9:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterDrCrinum

So a defence to FOI requests is breeding ?

Should we plan for an excess of little professors before long ?

Oct 21, 2010 at 9:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterChris

I wonder if Osford thinks that email which is sent during lunch break should be exempt from FOI as well.

Oct 21, 2010 at 10:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterTroubleWithTribbles

Wow! Persistence pays off for David Holand, well done.

So when do we find out whether they were trying to hide anything of significance?

First Reading, now Oxford, it may resemble an "Inspector Morse" plot soon

Oct 21, 2010 at 11:08 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

So he was mponlighting during 'paternity leave'? This could get legally interesting.

Oct 22, 2010 at 12:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

My heart felt con graduations to David. He is a dogged and persistent bloke. We need more like him.

Oct 22, 2010 at 1:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

"Oxford has recently added a novel defence to its refusal to disclose, which the Commissioner is considering, and which I will dispute should it be seriously entertained. Oxford is arguing that Professor Myles Allen took extended unpaid paternal leave while undertaking his duties as an IPCC Review Editor and thereby undertook his work for the IPCC on a “personal basis”.

Not that novel, actually.

But of course, I'm sure David remembers that gambit as well. I wonder if those expense reports for travel reimbursement ever turned up.

Oct 22, 2010 at 1:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn M

Atomic Hairdryer

mponlighting during 'paternity leave'? This could get legally interesting

Yes indeed, mponlighting is a serious deed, so serious we rarely hear about it.

But assuming that you missed one of the "o"s he was still in the employ of the university although not receiving pay whilst on leave. In my book, assuming that the activities were at all "academic" and could go to his CV, it is certainly consistent with his appointment to the University and if he use ANY university resources, be it a letter head, title, or mention of the University such as the fact he is employed by the university he is using the aegis of the university to promote his position and hence covered.

In short, claiming ANY affiliation makes us an agent of that organization and subject to its restrictions. For example, if he had writing an article saying some nasty things about a particular race, they would have no problem in firing him for it. The reverse is also true. He is a member of the organization even though not receiving pay. He was still receiving other benefits from the position and should he even mention that he is a professor at XYZ university, they are stuck with it. As is he.

GO FOR IT DAVID!!!!! By the way, having worked with him, he is the classic bull dog. He's going to take a bite out of someone for this, for sure.

Oct 22, 2010 at 1:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Having had a second think about Professor Myles Allen having an "extended" unpaid leave for whatever reason from Oxford, I realized that as a professor, his is not just an employee, such as an account manager. He has an APPOINTMENT to a chair of some sort. True, he is paid money to be a teacher, and perhaps do administrative work, but he is appointed to do "Academic Research" and bring fame to the university in which he holds a chair. That is an integral part of his position. That has not change as he was still doing "academic research" for the IPCC, but while still a professor at Oxford.

This is in some ways very similar to the way senior military officers hold rank, except better. For one thing, professors hold tenure. They have academic freedom (or at least use to) and generally hold the position for life, assuming good behavior.

Thus whether or not he was actually being paid or not for teaching and doing administrative work has nothing to so with his position of being a professor at the university, and if he used the aegis of the university in any way (particularly by noted that he is a professor at the university) it still puts him under whatever restrictions that the university may have placed on it.

In short, he has more than a day job, he is a professor. There is -- or at least once was -- a real difference.

In many ways, he is an officer of a corporation, with the same privileges and responsibilities of such, which includes being permitted to walk on the grass of the commons areas, if I remember correctly.

I will give you another fine point to consider, I do not have a Ph. D., I "hold" a Ph. D. which was conferred on me by a university. There is a legal fine point in there which we usually miss, but is nevertheless still there.

In short, I think David needs to ask Oxford just what is Professor Myles job title and what is his job description. Pay is only a small part of it.

Oct 22, 2010 at 2:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Don Pablo, Myles Allen does not hold a statutory chair at Oxford. He is University Lecturer in Physics and Fellow of Wolfson College. Some of your comments would still apply given the peculiar structure of Oxford, but I would advise caution in making any assumption about the way in which Oxford patterns map onto those at more modern universities.

Oct 22, 2010 at 8:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterOxbridge Prat

Even on extended leave he was employed by Oxford, his contract of employment still applied eg if he was made redundant (difficult for a prof I know) then he could have taken them to an industrial tribunal. If any action he took during this time brought the University into disrepute then they could impose sanctions whether he was being paid or not. Nice try but

Oct 22, 2010 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterjohnH

Re Don Pablo

In short, claiming ANY affiliation makes us an agent of that organization and subject to its restrictions.

Not sure paternity leave is relevant anyway, or if IPCC work could be considered 'in a personal capacity'. It may just muddy the waters a bit regarding who to send FOI or EIR requests to. As I understand it, I thought IPCC delegates were nominated or approved by their sponsoring nations rather than being more formally seconded to the UN. If so, then the laws of the sponsoring nation should still apply, and they're working on behalf of that nation, not in any personal capacity. If they were UN acredited for the duration, then that could get more complicated and no idea if the UN has it's own FOI/EIR laws. Or if not, why not?

Nice interpretation from the ICO though-

The Commissioner’s view, in line with the purpose expressed in the first recital of the Directive, is that “any information…on…” will usually include information concerning, about or relating to the element or elements in question. In other words information that would inform the public about the element or elements under consideration and would therefore facilitate effective participation by the public in environmental decision making is likely to be environmental information.

And surely encouraging effective public participation is a good thing for climate science. One reason I and I'm sure many others are sceptical is because of the obessive secrecy and paranoia shown by some climate scientists. More transparency should reduce scepticism. I also have some sympathy for scientists though, given FOI or EIR could be abused. There is protection for pre-publication work but the current definition is rather open-ended.

Oct 22, 2010 at 9:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, the contract of an employee who is on unpaid Parental Leave will remain in existence.

Also the ICO has already stated that you cannot interpret and act on FOI laws in a narrow and limited way.

It is difficult to see how the Oxford university's stance on this issue is in anyway credible.

Oct 22, 2010 at 10:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

There has been so much secrecy and cover-up by the main UK AGW alarmists, that it is no wonder that more and more people are becoming sceptical and contemptuous of these people. People who hide things usually do the hiding for a very good reason. There are no doubt lots more skeletons and misdeeds to be uncovered. Thanks are due to David Holland (and many others, we know who they are!) for being so assiduously persistent.

Oct 22, 2010 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

As we know, this was a key period in the defence of actions associated with defending the IPCC procedures. When do we see the 368 emails to see what light they cast?

Oct 22, 2010 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterCameron Rose

The University of Reading emails are in an 80 MB zip file:
It expands to a 160 MB Outlook file which needs the latest version of Outlook or you can view them using a viewer you can download in free trial mode from:

When I first asked for them, the Reading emails would have been interesting. One of the emails was discussed at ClimateAudit when they were first released:

However, the most significant point for me was that it confirmed that Professor Hoskins did hold the email and attachment that the TSU sent him changing the deadline. He said he remembered receiving it, had not deleted it, but did not hold it.

We now know from Russell Evidence Item 120 that Jones, Overpeck, Solomon, Manning and other LAs and REs made the decision at the Bergen LAs meeting in June 2006 to change the deadline that let Wahl and Ammann be cited. What I think really scared all WGI participants into refusing to release anything is that they had no idea who might have said what. The email the ICO recently winkled out of the MOD is a case in point:

I think it shows what a scam the deadline change was. Why would the LAs make a rod for their own backs by inviting REs to send more comments when they already had more work than they could handle. In this Email 3 days after inviting REs to send extra comments, Overpeck is telling the the LAs to ignore them!

I have also asked CRU a few more questions at:

Oct 22, 2010 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Small but important Ooops!
In the penultimate paragraph above, written in haste, for RE (Review Editor) read ER (Expert Reviewer)
LA is, of course, Lead Author. In the earlier paragraph RE is correct.

Oct 22, 2010 at 10:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Maybe the next defence will be that writing IPCC reports is a hobby / passtime and therefore should be exempt.

Good thing no-one really actually takes them seriously anymore ;-)

Oct 22, 2010 at 11:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrianMcL

On a more serious note the ECJ have already held in a case brought in respect of entitlement to childcare vouchers whilst on maternity leave that the employment contract continues unaffected.

As defences go, "I'm hopeless because i'm on pat leave" is actually sexist and if they advance it they'll be doing men everywhere a disservice. Shame on them.

Still at least his employer will be able to prove that they didn't have any financial relationship with him and the disclosure of the necessary bank statements to support their allegation of non defrayal of salary costs should be helpful to their case.

And maybe interesting too, unless they get it suitably redacted.

Oct 22, 2010 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrianMcL

@David Holland, Oct 22, 2010 at 9:51 PM:

While your URL for the 78MB Outlook pst file is technically correct, I needed to replace the "#" with the ASCII-Hex equivalent, "%23", to get it to download using my browser (Firefox), to wit:

Thanks, though, for the link.

Oct 25, 2010 at 1:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterOldUnixHead

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