Freedom of information laws are used to harass scientists, says Nobel laureate
Freedom of information laws are being misused to harass scientists and should be re-examined by the government, according to the president of the Royal Society.
Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse told the Guardian that some climate scientists were being targeted by organised campaigns of requests for data and other research materials, aimed at intimidating them and slowing down research. He said the behaviour was turning freedom of information laws into a way to intimidate some scientists.
Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics said the intention of many of those making freedom of information requests was to trawl through scientists’ work with the intention of trying to find problems and errors. “It’s also quite true that these people do not care about the fact that it is causing a serious inconvenience,” he said. “It is being used in an aggressive and organised way. When freedom of information legislation was first contemplated, it was not being considered that universities would be landed with this additional burden.”
Evidence of the aggression first began to emerge when personal emails and documents were stolen from the University of East Anglia’s (UEA) servers in November 2009 and leaked on to the internet. Climate sceptics seized on the contents as evidence that apparently showed scientists were colluding to keep errors in their research hidden and prevent rivals’ research from being published at all