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.
Flight Lieutenant Joseph Pasquini has found huge discrepancies between the data he collected following the UK’s biggest nuclear test blast at Christmas Island in the Pacific on 28 April, 1958 and those those issued by the MoD and the Atomic Weapons Results Establishment, the Independent reports.
Pasquini said: “I made several Freedom of Information requests and looked at the readings officially given and they were utterly false. My records for the MoD and AWRE are inaccurate. I didn’t say anything for 50 years because I was sworn to secrecy by the Official Secrets Act, and not even my wife knew what I knew. But people need to know the truth about what happened.”
Freedom of Information legislation abused to intimidate researchers
Freedom of information laws are being used as tools of intimidation against scientists and university researchers, forcing them to reveal unpublished manuscripts, according to an article in the Independent. Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, criticised the way scientists involved in contentious research such as tobacco use and climate change are pressured to disclose part of their work.
Last September, the Independent reported that Stirling University was fighting an FoIA request by tobacco giant Philip Morris International, which sought access to thousands of confidential interviews with British teenagers as part of the university’s investigation.
Health Secretary ordered to release NHS reforms Strategic Risk documents
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has been told by the Information Commissioner to disclose the Strategic Risk Register for the NHS reforms under the FoIA after a 12-month battle. The Daily Mirror reports the request was logged by Labour’s former Shadow Health Secretary John Healey.
Local councils cash in millions of pounds from parking services
A FoIA request filed by the Co-operative Motor Group has revealed a steep rise in the amount of money local councils make from parking services. As The Telegraph reports, local authorities have received an extra £184 million from parking charges in the years 2008 to 2010, compared to 2007.
UK Schools don’t know where their food comes from
Only 30 per cent of local education authorities know the country of origin of school food, a FoIA request by the Countryside Alliance Foundation has revealed according to the Telegraph.
Sure Start Centres funding slashed all across UK
The Sunday Mirror’s FoIA investigation into English local councils’ spending on Sure Start Centres showed that 90 per cent will reduce their funding next year. Sure Start Centres were set up by Labour in 1998 with a pledge to tackle child poverty, give children the best possible start in life and provide a lifeline to young mums as a place to meet other parents.