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Landmark Information Tribunal decision forces university to disclose animal testing data

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) has won a landmark case against Newcastle University at the Information Tribunal, The Independent reports.

After a legal battle that began in 2008, the tribunal ruled that the public interest in revealing the information BUAV had requested under FoIA, outweighed any potential danger to scientists’ safety or the university’s commercial interests.

BUAV had originally requested information about highly invasive brain experiments on macaques which involved implanting electrodes into the animals’ brains to record activity while they were forced repeatedly to undergo various tasks.

The campaign group also raised the fact that according to the UK legislation, animals should not be used where non-animal methods can give the desired information and believes Newcastle University could replace the macaques with human volunteer studies using non-invasive imaging machines such as Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

The University has already spent £230,000 opposing the requests and is expected to resort to the Court of Appeal, arguing the licences are exempt under the Animal Scientific Procedures Act.

The tribunal’s decision will have an impact on research transparency at all British universities and it follows calls from Sir Paul Nurse for the FoI Act to be reviewed in order to protect scientific research.

But Michelle Thew, Chief Executive of the BUAV has responded to Sir Paul Nurse’s comments with a letter to The Independent saying:

“You highlight the fact that the Freedom of Information Act applies to universities, not just central and local government. And so it should – universities are publicly funded and engage in important and sometimes controversial research, which may influence public policy.”

City of London refuses to open up to FoIA

The City of London will remain the only local authority in the UK not accountable to public scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act, as its talks with Occupy London have hit a dead end. The Guardian reports City has rejected Occupy’s calls for more transparency in order to leave St Paul’s and instead, it is restarting eviction proceedings.

Householders can wait up to a decade in allotments’ waiting lists

FoIA requests logged by the University of Leicester to 216 councils across England have revealed householders applying for an allotment may end up waiting for over a decade. The Telegraph and The Daily Mail also report 32 of the councils providing information had closed their waiting lists altogether.

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