Freedom of information - what it means for researchers
Freedom of information (FoI) legislation is highly relevant to researchers in Higher Education: as creators of information and/or data, they need to comply with the requirements of the law with regards to allowing access to their research outputs; and as users, they might make use of FoI as a means of obtaining information and/or data.
FoI is taken to include the Freedom of Information Act, the related but distinct Freedom of Information Act in Scotland, and the Environmental Information Regulations, the latter founded on a European Directive.
The RIN has been engaged in examining the relevance of FoI to higher education research under two headings:
- During 2008 and 2009, we promoted a debate on the usefulness of FoI as an investigative tool for researchers, particularly in certain disciplines such as public health and contemporary history. This debate, structured around two workshops organised in London and Glasgow, underlined the lack of awareness among researchers (as opposed to, say, journalists) of the potential represented by FoI as a means of securing information from public sources. More information about these activities here.
- During 2011, in partnership with such organisations as JISC, the Information Commissioner’s Ofﬁce and The National Archives, RIN is working to help the research community meet the challenge of addressing the requirements of FoI legislation, as well as take advange of the opportunities that this represents. In the ﬁrst instance, a series of regional workshops will be held in the spring to give researchers an opportunity to debate about their views and concerns. More information about this initiative here.
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