File this one under “it was bound to happen…”
A cross-party group of MPs has recommended a change in the law to prevent unpublished research data being released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The exemption should be introduced to “protect ongoing research”, the Justice Committee said in a report, Post-Legislative Scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, that was released yesterday.
Universities UK has been campaigning for such a change to the act on a number of grounds.
It has argued that researchers could use information gained from an FoI request to “scoop” data from rivals and beat them to publication, undermining the incentive for research.
It has also warned that businesses could use the act to access valuable research being conducted by commercial competitors and universities before patents can be taken out.
UUK has also raised the prospect that data could be released and then misinterpreted and misused by the public before it has been subjected to scholarly analysis and peer review.
Scotland has a specific exemption for pre-publication research.
Paul Gibbons, a Freedom of Information campaigner and author of the FOI Man blog, said that he thought there was “no real need” for a new exemption because “existing exemptions could be utilised” to protect research. Nevertheless, he added: “I can’t see it doing much harm.”