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Childish games from UEA

On Monday, the deadline passed for a request I had made for financial information relating to the Climategate inquiries. This was for (1) a report, at invoice level, of monies expended re the Climategate inquiries and (2) Copies of invoices and other documentation to go with them.

I chased the university today and received a response as follows: has come to my attention that, in order to provide a response as requested to question 2 of your request, the amount of time and money required to locate and extract the requested information will exceed the statutory appropriate limit as mandated in section 12(1) of the Act and described in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Fees and Appropriate Limit) Regulations 2004. Providing a response to this question alone would likely exceed the appropriate limit. However, pursuant to s.16 of the Act, I would ask whether you would be satisfied with just a response to question 1 of your request? We anticipate that we could provide a response to that question within the statutory appropriate limit.

So, after the deadline passes, they ask for clarification. They claim in their letter that this allows them to restart the clock, but unfortunately they forgot to tell me that within the deadline, so they breached the law anyway - you know, the one they made a formal undertaking to comply with.

I've asked for the part 1 - the invoice listing - immediately, and will assess what to do after that.

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    [...]- Bishop Hill blog - Childish games from UEA[...]

Reader Comments (33)

Is it permissible to report them to the Regulator at the same time for non-compliance within the laid-down timescale?

May 21, 2011 at 8:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterJockdownsouth

Report them now.

May 21, 2011 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

I don't buy the excuse for a minute, this is financial information and any number of accountants, auditors, VAT men and so on might ask for it at any time. Telling them it's too much trouble to get would not be wise.

May 21, 2011 at 8:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

Phil Jones has probably hidden the invoices in his famously chaotic office...along with his data.....

As he said at the HoC 'nobody has ever asked' to see them before.

May 21, 2011 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

You should also ask them if they fully complied with the Money Laundering Regulations 2003

May 21, 2011 at 8:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnoneumouse

Complain to the ICO now.

May 21, 2011 at 9:03 AM | Unregistered Commenterstopcpdotcom

Why did they not respond by releasing the information to Q1 together with the explanation for refusing to answer Q2.
It sounds as if someone has stumbled on your request quite recently (by accident) and cobbled up a reply off the top of his head.

May 21, 2011 at 9:04 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Given their past behaviour I would strongly suggest you escalate this either by going to the information commissioner or reporting them direct to the police.

May 21, 2011 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterScottish Sceptic

Rhetorical questions:

Would you spend £9,000 per annum (£45 per termtime day) to send your precious kiddiewinks to an institution so incapable of carrying out simple admin processes? Does it give you confidence that said kiddie will receive a first class education and value for money? Or is the opportunity to study in an institution led by Vice Chancellor Acton sufficient reward in itself?

May 21, 2011 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

" has come to my attention "
Should read, it has been brought to my attention that we can avoid this.

May 21, 2011 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

After rereading this, no wonder they treat the law with such contempt if you also appear to do so!

Breaking the law is not childish, it is criminal.

And if describe breaking the law as being excusable as being like the act of a child, you are suggesting that it's all just a game. It isn't a game, they are acting with criminal contempt of the laws laid down by parliament and if it happened to an Energy minister they would be forced to resign.

Someone's head should be rolling at the UEA for this!

May 21, 2011 at 9:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Haseler

The cost for complying with Q2 can only relate to the amount of redacting they intend to do. I wonder how many documents are involved and what the estimated cost will be? Do they need to produce an estimate of likely cost and how this has been estimated?

May 21, 2011 at 9:18 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu

I trust you will all distribute the details this new piece of institutional arrogance as widely as possible.
Send it to Dellers, at least.

May 21, 2011 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

O/T apologies, but i feel the game is up when an american liberal has to heap praise on the US military, in the Guardian no less. isn't it ironic!

20 May: Guardian: Jules Boykoff: US military goes to war with climate sceptics
Political action on climate change may be mired in Congress, but one arm of government at least is acting: the Pentagon
Five years later feels like a timewarp, with the political promise of 2006 suspended in a molasses haze. 2011 brought a fresh congressional crop content to ignore what the rest of the world accepts: the IPCC's scientific consensus on climate change...
Enter what some might view as a counterintuitive counterweight: US military brass. A recent report, "A National Strategic Narrative" (pdf), written by two special assistants to chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Mike Mullen, argued, "We must recognise that security means more than defence." Part of this entails pressing past "a strategy of containment to a strategy of sustainment (sustainability)". They went on to assert climate change is "already shaping a 'new normal' in our strategic environment"
For years, in fact, high-level national security officials both inside the Pentagon and in thinktank land have been acknowledging climate change is for real and that we need to take action to preserve and enhance US national security interests...
The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has been holding shambolic hearings on climate change, should invite climate-minded national security gurus to testify. Perhaps they can lob some reality into the ideological fortress of denial before whipsaw climate volatility becomes our everyday reality.

Wikipedia: Jules Boykoff: Boykoff has appeared on various radio shows, including Alternative Radio, Living on Earth, CounterSpin, The Thom Hartmann Program, and Media Matters with Bob McChesney to discuss the intersection of politics, the media, and global warming.

Julyes Boykoff's brother, Maxwell:

Environmental Change Institute, Oxford
Until the summer of 2009, Maxwell T. Boykoff was a Research Fellow in the Environmental Change Institute as well as a Department Lecturer in the School of Geography and the Environment. From 2006-2008, Max was a James Martin 21st Century Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. Through this fellowship, he was involved in both the Climate Change Research Cluster and the Environmental Governance and Climate Policy groups. He has also been affiliated with Christ Church College as a Postdoctoral Fellow and with the Smith School for Enterprise and the Environment as an Associate Research Fellow.
Max is now an Assistant Professor in the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he teaches in the Environmental Studies program...
Max's research has been mentioned in a range of outlets such as Science, Nature, the Guardian, the New York Times, Columbia Journalism Review, the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Grist, Utne Reader, La Rázon (Spain), China Meteorological Administration, and (US) National Public Radio. In addition, research Max co-authored with Jules Boykoff (Pacific University) appeared in the 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth...
.. Max is co-editing special issue for Antipode and book with Dr Emily Boyd (Leeds University) and Dr Peter Newell (University of East Anglia) exploring "What is "new" about the carbon economy?" (for 2011 publication). In 2009, Max co-edited a special issue of "Theorising the Carbon Economy" with Dr. Sam Randalls (University College London), Dr. Adam Bumpus (University of British Columbia), Prof. Diana Liverman (University of Arizona) in Environment and Planning A...
he edited a volume called The Politics of Climate Change: A Survey (Routledge/Europa) (now in paperback). This volume gathered together scholars from many disciplines - such as Professor Maria Carmen Lemos (University of Michigan), Dr Heike Schroeder (Oxford University), Dr Chuks Okereke (Oxford University), and the late Professor Stephen Schneider (Stanford University) - to examine pivotal elements shaping attitudes, knowledge, and actions on climate change.

May 21, 2011 at 9:27 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat


"Phil Jones has probably hidden the invoices in his famously chaotic office...along with his data....."

Yet when 'interviewed' by Paul Nurse, the office was immaculate.


FOI is a process not to be abused. UEA would appear to be approaching the thick end of the wedge in their apparent contempt of it.

May 21, 2011 at 9:35 AM | Unregistered Commentersimpleseekeraftertruth

It's time the ICO grew some teeth otherwise this mockery of FOI will erode it until it becomes a meaningless ghost Act loitering on the Statute and the ICO can be disbanded as serving no purpose.

May 21, 2011 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Another vote for immediate reporting - remember the 'time out' rule they got away with earlier.

May 21, 2011 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris

Regarding the deadline:

On Monday, the deadline passed for a request I had made

Are you sure you have adequately taken public holidays into account e.g. Good Friday, Easter Monday, Royal Wedding, May Bank Holiday?

Taking all these into account I calculate Thursday 19th as being 20 business days after the original request on 15 April - is that not the true deadline?

May 21, 2011 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered Commentermatthu


'Yet when 'interviewed' by Paul Nurse, the office was immaculate'.

And it bloody well should have been!

I told him straight that if he was going to be on the telly with Sirs and things that he'd better look smart and mind his Ps and Qs. In the end me and Marje went round and tidied it up for him. There were all sorts of old tapes and computer printouts an strange things called FoI requests. And they all hadn't been touched in years. So we just binned the lot so as to make it seem nice and organised.

And didn't he look good on the programme? I had the neighbours round for a nice cup of tea when he was on and I was ever so proud of him.

May 21, 2011 at 10:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterPhil Jones's Mum


Mathu has a point about the 4 bank holidays since you put in you request - they need to be allowed for towards the final deadline. But you should still be preparing your appeal for full disclosure to the Information Commissioner - assuming the formal reveiw by UEA itself of any complaint - necessary before any appeal to the IC's office can take place - is not satisfactory. You could begin by asking why it should take more than 3 working days to assemble a few invoices. The only relevant cost here is time taken to locate the requested information - redaction costs or any others relating to deciding whether information is exempt from release are not allowable in the costing of a FOI request. The 3 days is derived from the standard rate of £25 per hour utilised for costing FOIs. At 8 working hours per day - 3 working days to get to the £600 limit for individual FOI requests.
UEA has already been censured, even by the whitewash enquiries, for its handling of FOI requests and, as you say,its Vice Chancellor been forced to sign an undertaking to do better in future. Since then, the UEA, in its handling of your and McIintyre's recent requests has demonstrated what it thinks of the UK Information Commissioner's sanctions. The UEA has shown a complete contempt for the spirit and detail of UK Freedom of Infomation ligistlation, and it's time the Information Commissioner took the institution, and its FOI evading Vice Chancellor to court. Your complaint regarding your request could aid the process.

May 21, 2011 at 2:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterRational Optimist

The Rational Optimist just posted at 2:59pm is not Matt Ridley. My apologies for utilising his blog name which I've literally, and honestly only just noticed when scrolling up after posting, he was already using!

May 21, 2011 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterNot Rational Optimist -

Yes. I'd forgotten about the bank holidays, but I was notified by WhatDoTheyKnow that they were late. This looks to have taken into account the bank holidays, so they were still late.

May 21, 2011 at 4:08 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

This maysound silly and paranoid, but do you run a risk of getting an invoice listing with only the Invoice number and, perhaps, the amount with no other data about the issuer, etc?

May 21, 2011 at 9:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

Political Junkie

No, I've specified the fields I want.

May 21, 2011 at 10:10 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Why should they make the invoices available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?

May 21, 2011 at 11:46 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

That, of course, might be what UEA might be trying to say.

May 21, 2011 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered CommentersHx

I think it is important to file a full complaint with the Information Commissioner NOW, just so that they have a conviction against UEA. UEA are serial FOI offenders, and we need a record of this.

Failure to follow the Money Laundering regs? s it possible that one of the parties which issued an invoice isn't registered for VAT, or has a forged VAT number? Might explain the status problems regarding certain parties and FOI requests. While the FOIA covers public and private groups, it doesn't have a category for tax fraud long firms.

Just asking...

May 22, 2011 at 1:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterDead Dog Bounce

Ah well... I do wonder if I should FoI for "instructions on delaying and obfuscating FoI requests". I am involved in FoI with the Environment Agency (for which they charged a few pence under £1000) and we are now into the third iteration of a request, the first two being unfulfilled. The ICO are involved but the primary sanction on the miscreants seems to be a scolding along the the lines of a Monty Python "ee's not Jesus, ee's a very naughty boy" telling off, and a black dot against their name on the register.....

I would seem that a primary technique is to employ folk physically as far away as possible from the action and who are plainly not the sharpest knife in the drawer - who are plainly regarded as an asset by the delinquent bureaucrats.

Curiously, one of the first nuggets in the first tranche of documents was an email between managers saying "oo-err, they've paid the £1000" which was cc'd to a normal email account from Blackberry messaging somehow...

That civil servants and public employees should twist and wriggle in such a fashion is very telling of the culture in these organisations. Something to hide? - you bet.

Their arrogance is the thing that keeps us going :-)

May 22, 2011 at 2:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterTom

And here's a link to the Fidler interview with Oreskes.

May 22, 2011 at 4:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterkae

You know why the delays are occuring right? Climategoat

May 22, 2011 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

There is a difference between appealing the decision and filing a formal complaint about a potential violation of the act. I think you should do both.

May 22, 2011 at 3:25 PM | Unregistered Commentermpaul

Bish, jump on them (legally) as hard as you possibly can. In the crude parlance of the rough world out there, the arrogant bar stewards are 'giving you the finger'.

May 22, 2011 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

I am a retired accountant. I worked my last 7 years with a Colorado group that was a spin off of UCAR/NCAR. I can tell you that the listing should take about 5 or 10 minutes to develop and the invoices should be scanned into the financial records. The time required would depend only on the speed of the printer or to send to a file for you to receive electronically. Their accounting department does this kind of thing for management, PIs and for the various auditors many times each year. The excuse is so bogus I fear for the poor soul they asked to make it for them.

May 24, 2011 at 7:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

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