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« Gleick confesses | Main | The Entrepreneur »
Tuesday
Feb212012

Government slaps down universities

According to an article in Times Higher Education, the government has rejected the attempt by Universities UK to have further exemptions inserted into the FOI Act that would benefit academics at the expense of the public.

Home Office minister Lord Henley said this week that he believed that “adequate protection already exists” for pre-publication research.

The Act already exempts information if it will be published in the future or if it would be commercially damaging.

Lord Henley acknowledged that “adequate safeguards must exist within information rights legislation to make sure that that position [of universities] is not undermined through inappropriate and premature disclosure.”

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  • Response
    Response: green energy
    - Bishop Hill blog - Government slaps down universities

Reader Comments (31)

Good God. Who ever would have guessed that this British government had even one Minister with a modicum of common sense?

Great news.

Feb 21, 2012 at 1:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterMique

Revkin saying that Peter Gleick has admitted to obtaining the Heartland docs!!!

Feb 21, 2012 at 1:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

Gleick confesses at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-h-gleick/-the-origin-of-the-heartl_b_1289669.html

Feb 21, 2012 at 2:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

I've tried posting a link to Huffington post where Gleick confesses, but it seems to get caught in the spam filter.

Feb 21, 2012 at 2:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

The first comment on Revkin's blog - "That scientists follow his example is long overdue." - is emblematic of the increasingly twisted ethical stance of AGW zealots.

If any one of the well-known skeptic bloggers had done what Gleick now admits to doing, I for one would be appalled, as I believe most skeptics would be.

Feb 21, 2012 at 2:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterGarry

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/20/peter-gleick-admits-to-deception-in-obtaining-heartland-climate-files/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Feb 21, 2012 at 2:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterGarry

If I may add a comment here (sorry this is OT to the original thread but this is breaking news):

I think it is NOT in the least credible that Gleick is now claiming first to have received the fake "strategy" doc from some anonymous source and THEN he (Peter Gleick) decides to try to obtain other docs.

The fake doc is so neatly tailored to highlight and capitalize upon the set of docs emailed by HI to the fake "board member" request.

It seems nearly impossible to believe that first someone cooked up that "strategy" doc and then PG just happened to obtain a whole bunch of docs that nicely filled in the details.

One has to "ask" the question whether or not PG is yet coming clean on the whole story. I seriously doubt it....

Feb 21, 2012 at 2:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterSkiphil

Ben Pile,

It seems they're not allowing comments on the story at the HuffP. Wonder why? ;)

Feb 21, 2012 at 3:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterLC

Skiphill,

Absolutely correct in your assumptions in my view. The very reason Gleik was "in the frame" was mostly due to the writing style of the forged doc and yet we are now supposed to believe it was sent to him by someone who writes the same way. Yeah, right. I firmly believe he hasn't yet told the full story. Trouble is, if HI have involved the FBI or Police, he can expect his computers to be seized now. If he wrote it, they'll likely find it.

Feb 21, 2012 at 3:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterLC

The Bishop is going to have a busy morning when he wakes!

WUWT and ClimateAudit are now on the story:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/20/breaking-gleick-confesses/
http://climateaudit.org/2012/02/20/peter-gleick-confesses/

McIntyre also has a good posting on the Heartland documents, apparently just a couple of hours before the Gleick confession:
http://climateaudit.org/2012/02/20/heartland/

Feb 21, 2012 at 3:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndrewSanDiego

Revkin's astute conclusion that Gleick's reputation is in tatters is hardly news to anyone who read his "review" of Donna's book. He so blatantly lied then that it's not surprising that he found the habit hard to break when it looked like he'd get away with it.

The cover up always gets you sooner or later.

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterMique

@LC

He'll probably delete it and reformat his computer. Then he will blame heartland for "loading him up with the memo".

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoh234

Taking Gleik at face value, he will doubtless be keen to supply Heartland with a statement of when and how he first received the initial documentation from, as he insists, an anonymous source ... email address, download link or whatever. Such information couldn't possibly incriminate Gleik and might, on further investigation, absolve him of anything he has not already owned up to.

Given the lengths he claims to have gone to in validating his anonymously sourced documentation, it goes without saying that he can't possible have deleted or lost the only information he has that might have pointed in the direction of that source - and thus, away from him.

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterthe ghost of william chaloner

@LC

He'll probably delete it and reformat his computer. Then he will blame heartland for "loading him up with the memo".

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:11 AM | Roh234>>>>

You need some specialized software tools to hide all data. Even reformatting doesn't hide everything if you have the right low level tools.

Hopefully the news of this disgusting behaviour will spread through the blogs like wildfire, and hopefully end up in the mainstream media.

Feb 21, 2012 at 4:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterRKS

From Andy Revkin:

Now, Gleick has admitted to an act that leaves his reputation in ruins and threatens to undercut the cause he spent so much time pursuing.

Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius

Feb 21, 2012 at 5:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1009530098/fracknation?ref=category

Got this off Dellingpole in the Telegraph
Come on everybody get your money out

Feb 21, 2012 at 6:10 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Don,

Interesting to see that quotation again. Prof Brice Bosnich used it only about a week ago in the "Letter to Paul Nurse" thread.

Feb 21, 2012 at 6:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Walsh

There was an alarmist called Gleick
who pretended to be someone else for a sec,
his illegal deception
showed little conception
of how his reputation would end up a wreck.

Feb 21, 2012 at 6:43 AM | Unregistered Commenterlapogus

The Act already exempts information if it will be published in the future or if it would be commercially damaging.

Two ridiculous excemptions. Commercially harmful truths are to kept secret now? And what harm comes from early drafts?


Lord Henley acknowledged that “adequate safeguards must exist within information rights legislation to make sure that that position [of universities] is not undermined through inappropriate and premature disclosure.”

Henley "acknowledges" nonsense in that case. Who decides what "inapprorpiate" and "premature" is? And how? How about the people who actually pay for the university and and research decide for themselves?


I think actually the FOI law should be changed to remove most if not all exemptions.

Feb 21, 2012 at 7:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterPunksta

It is not unreasonable to have an exception for work that is in the process of being written up for publication. Early draughts of documents are quite likely to be flawed in various ways. Nobody would want every half-baked idea they have ever had revealed to the whole world. Also rival researchers would benefit from seeing exactly what the person targeted by the FOI request was doing and how far they had got and might beat them to the goal they were aiming for, thus damaging the other person's career.

The scandal of the UAE FOI business was related to their refusal to make available the original data that their papers were based on. Similarly the problems at Queen's University, Belfast involved academics who were just sitting on tree-ring data that they did not seem to have any definite plans to use themselves and yet were still unwilling to share.

FOI will be seen as an important right if it is used in a reasonable way. If it is used in unreasonable ways there will be a backlash - as there is against the Human Rights Act because of the ridiculous ways lawyers and judges use it.

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Early draughts of documents are quite likely to be flawed in various ways. Nobody would want every half-baked idea they have ever had revealed to the whole world.

Then don't take public money. And if something is a draft, just say so, that puts things in perspective.


Also rival researchers would benefit from seeing exactly what the person targeted by the FOI request was doing and how far they had got and might beat them to the goal they were aiming for, thus damaging the other person's career.

Again, then don't take public money. The priority is not what is best for the person living off the taxpayer, the priority is what is best for the taxpayer, the public.

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterPunksta

@ Punksta

Then don't take public money.

That is a ridiculous argument. All sorts of people from dustmen to generals and judges are in receipt of public money. People who are given public money are given it in what is presumed to be the national interest and taxpayers are not a homogenous group. FOI should apply things like data supporting already published work or that is explicitly cited in support of public policy - and should not relate to work in progress until it has reached a stage where it is already being used in ways that affect the public and release of the information would not be harmful.

Feb 21, 2012 at 9:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

The THE article does not include the proposed amendment. There is a document with the amendment on the UUK web site.


Page 89, line 27, at end insert—

“( ) In section 22 (information intended for future publication) after subsection (1) insert—
“(1A) Information obtained in the course of, or derived from, a programme of research or research project is exempt information if—
(a) the programme or project is continuing with a view to a report of the research (whether or not including a statement of that information) being published by—
(i) a public authority as defined by section 3 of this Act; or
(ii) any other person; and
(b) disclosure of the information before the date of publication would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially—
(i) the programme or project;
(ii) peer review of the programme or project;
(iii) the interests of any individual participating in the programme or project;
(iv) the interests of the authority which holds the information or the interests of any party collaborating with the authority in connection with the programme or project; or
(v) the physical or mental health of any individual.””

The line in (a) about “continuing” looks designed to prevent any research data from ever being published, because almost all research programs will be continuing. The amendment would seem to imply a radical change from the current Section 22 of the FoI Act. That section reads as follows.

(1)Information is exempt information if—

(a)the information is held by the public authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date (whether determined or not),

(b)the information was already held with a view to such publication at the time when the request for information was made, and

(c)it is reasonable in all the circumstances that the information should be withheld from disclosure until the date referred to in paragraph (a).

(2)The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that, compliance with section 1(1)(a) would involve the disclosure of any information (whether or not already recorded) which falls within subsection (1).

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

(1) It's not a ridiculous argument that pubic servants should be accountable to the public. Quite the opposite.

(2) That taxpayers are not homogenous is irrelevant.

(3) Only where there is an overriding issue such as security, terrorism etc, is any state secrecy justified. Barring that, everything a judge or dustman does as part of his job should be publicly available. How else can we rationally regulate the state?

Feb 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterPunksta

mique

Who ever would have guessed that this British government had even one Minister with a modicum of common sense?
He's a hereditary, which may have something to do with it. They are not beholden to anybody for their seat except their own peers who elected them to sit when Blair did his half-hearted hatchet job on the revising chamber. If you look at his record you'll see why they elected him. It's quite an impressive record of doing the sort of mundane ministerial job that most MPs would give their eye teeth to avoid!.
Thank God some of them still exist; the UK would be in even more parlous parliamentary state without them!
Bring back a proper House of Lords, I say, instead of all these placemen.

Feb 21, 2012 at 6:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Punksta
Of course pubic servants should be answerable — public servants even more so.
But let's just apply a bit of logic here ...
Judges are not "employees", neither are they public servants.
Dustmen are employees of the local authority, not of you or me. Same applies to teachers, social workers, and traffic wardens.
Jones and his cohorts are employees of the University of East Anglia; they are not public servants.
To take this to its logical extreme, the emails that formed the basis of Climategate are not public property in the sense that every Tom, Dick and Harry (especially Harry :-)) has the right to walk into Jones' office and demand to see them. They are the property of the University since they relate to work done at the University by a University employee.
The absolute right of access to them stops there.
The justification for Climategate was not and never could be that the emails were not private and therefore we the people had an unrestricted right to read them; the leak would never have happened were it not that the people involved were playing fast and loose with the data (by which I am not implying criminality per se, merely that they were not acting in a responsible scientific manner in relation to other members of the scientific community) and that legitimate FoIA requests were being either ignored or refused on spurious grounds.
To suggest that everything a corporation bus driver gets up to from the minute he clocks on to the minute clocks out should be publicly available is bizarre. That is not "rational" regulation; that is highly irrational and another step along the road to totalitarianism.

Feb 21, 2012 at 7:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike Jackson
Judges are not "employees", neither are they public servants.

They are quite clearly both. They work for the state, and are paid by them.

Dustmen are employees of the local authority, not of you or me. Same applies to teachers, social workers, and traffic wardens.

We pay their salaries. They should thus answer to us, as should the state.

Jones and his cohorts are employees of the University of East Anglia; they are not public servants.

UEA is publicly funded. Therefore they should answer to the public.

To take this to its logical extreme, the emails that formed the basis of Climategate are not public property in the sense that every Tom, Dick and Harry (especially Harry :-)) has the right to walk into Jones' office and demand to see them.

Of course they are public property; they live off our taxes, and are supposed to be working in our interest. Don't take public money if you aren't happy being accountable to the public.

They are the property of the University since they relate to work done at the University by a University employee. The absolute right of access to them stops there.

Only in a totalitarian world. In a democratic one, everything they do in their work is public property.

The justification for Climategate was not and never could be that the emails were not private and therefore we the people had an unrestricted right to read them

Of course it is. Unless one favours totalitarianism.

the leak would never have happened were it not that the people involved were playing fast and loose with the data (by which I am not implying criminality per se, merely that they were not acting in a responsible scientific manner in relation to other members of the scientific community) and that legitimate FoIA requests were being either ignored or refused on spurious grounds.

Yes. Doesn't affect the argument at all though.


To suggest that everything a corporation bus driver gets up to from the minute he clocks on to the minute clocks out should be publicly available is bizarre.

No, this denial of yours is absolutely bizarre.


That is not "rational" regulation; that is highly irrational and another step along the road to totalitarianism.

It is the only rational regulation, since it uses information of what they are doing; you cannot regulate what you do know. And is the the only way the state can be effectively regulated, and hence they way to oppose totalitarianism (ie total and unaccountable control by the state).

Feb 21, 2012 at 11:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterPunksta

I'm glad I don't have to live under your government, Punksta.
You are precisely what Orwell was warning us against in '1984'. We do not, thank God, live in the sort of society where everyone is looking over everyone else's shoulder to see what they are doing and where children are expected to inform on their parents and neighbours on their neighbours.
If you don't understand the meaning of "representative democracy" then I suggest a good primer on the British political system might be a worthwhile starting point.
The idea that because any individual is paid for by the proceeds of taxation he is therefore personally answerable to any individual taxpayer is, as I said — and I stand by it — quite bizarre. He is answerable only to the person/organisation whose name is on the bottom of his pay cheque.
If "we" paid their salaries then "we" could decide where our tax money was spent at which point all the pacifists would demand that none of their tax money went on nuclear weapons and I could demand that none of mine went on overseas aid and you could demand that none of yours went to the University of East Anglia or that judge that made a decision you didn't agree with or Vince Cable because he's the most anti-business minister there has been for decades.
As it is the organisation that this individual is employed by may in turn be answerable elsewhere — to its shareholders in the case of a private company or to Parliament or to a Department of state in the case of public entities.
Parliament is answerable to no-one (except theoretically, the monarch). We do not send delegates to parliament; we send representatives. Which means in simple terms that we trust them to make decisions on our behalf and we if we dislike those decisions sufficiently then we have the opportunity to remove them at the next election and send someone that we believe will make the "right" decisions.
The same applies to local government.
Parliament and Ministers are the ones who distribute tax revenues in accordance with either the law as it is at the time or with established practice whatever that may be. It is to parliament and ministers that the recipients of that money are responsible.

Feb 22, 2012 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike, you quite plainly haven't the foggiest idea of what representative and accountable democracy is, nor politics in general. And there is no parallel with private organisations, as these do not occupy the privileged position in society that the state does.

Orwell spoke of government spying on and controlling the citizenry. Which is greatly facilitated by government (a) internals being hidden from the citizenry, and (b) not being directly and openly accountable to them. Which is totalitarian and what you clearly support, without understanding it - hence your finding accountability "bizarre".

(And I am quite aware how our system of government actually works, thank you, ie in the secretive and unaccountable Orwellian system you like so much).

Citizens would have little to fear under my government, since they'd be able to keep tabs on the state. And well-intentioned state workers would have nothing to fear either.

Feb 22, 2012 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterPunksta

Well, I am sorry. I didn't realise I was talking to an expert.
Obviously all my study of constitutional history and politics and my time involved in party politics and local government (and reporting thereon) over the last 40 years has been totally wasted.
Nobody has argued — least of all me — that public servants should not be accountable so can we get rid of that idea?
Next — let me know next time you are planning to hold your dustman to account personally. I will be there with camera and a first aid kit and I will then happily report on the ensuing court case.
You do not have any individual right to hold state or local government employees, or indeed anybody else's employees, to account. The fact that you are one of several million citizens whose taxes pay their wages does not establish an employer/employee relationship between you. I really can't make it much clearer.
As for "... well-intentioned state workers would have nothing to fear either", you frighten me. "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" has been the war cry of the totalitarians and leftist control freaks for as long as the democracy they detest has existed.

Feb 22, 2012 at 2:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

Obviously all my study of constitutional history and politics and my time involved in party politics and local government (and reporting thereon) over the last 40 years has been totally wasted.

Not all all. You probably think exactly like the state wants.


Nobody has argued — least of all me — that public servants should not be accountable so can we get rid of that idea?

What nonsense - you constantly argue it - you don't want us to have easy and effective ways of knowing what they are doing - information crucial for democracy to work.


Next — let me know next time you are planning to hold your dustman to account personally. I will be there with camera and a first aid kit and I will then happily report on the ensuing court case.

As already repeatedly explained, I know full well our actual system is far too totalitarian to allow anything as democratic as this.


You do not have any individual right to hold state or local government employees, or indeed anybody else's employees, to account.

Agreed, there is no effective accountability.


The fact that you are one of several million citizens whose taxes pay their wages does not establish an employer/employee relationship between you.

It is an absolute requirement in a proper democracy. This is the direction FOI takes us (nowhere far enough though).


I really can't make it much clearer.

Perhaps you can 'clarify' that water flows uphill too.


As for "... well-intentioned state workers would have nothing to fear either", you frighten me. "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" has been the war cry of the totalitarians and leftist control freaks for as long as the democracy they detest has existed.

It's the war-cry of the political classes, those in the state and those who wield the weapon of the state. I, however, am talking about containing the state, making it accountable and less able to be used as a weapon by some against others. (In general you seem quite oblivious of the unique nature of the state - its proactive aggression).

Feb 22, 2012 at 3:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterPunksta

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