Freedom of Information (FoI) and Environmental Information (EIR) legislation provides the public a right to access information held by a UK public authority, which includes most universities, colleges, or publicly-funded research institutions. The information requested could include your research data, which must be provided unless an exemption or exception allows your institution not to disclose it. The request could be addressed to anyone in the organisation, and there are only 20 working days to respond.
We assume that you are a researcher who works for, or with, or in, a university or research institution, and you are concerned about requests for your research data under either Freedom of Information legislation, or Environmental Information Regulations, all of which came into force in 2005. These both differ slightly in Scotland versus the rest of the UK (the EIR differences are not significant for this document).
We also assume there are one or more FoI Practitioners in your institution. There will usually be a central Freedom of Information Office (sometimes part of the University Secretary’s or Registrar’s office, sometimes a Records Management Office). These officers are important and will be crucial in responding to any request.
You should ALWAYS involve a FoI Practitioner unless you are simply supplying information in response to a request as part of “business as usual”. Of course, we assume in the latter case that you will have taken due note of any constraints imposed by your ethical clearance, Data Protection etc before agreeing to release any data.
Remember, this FAQ is not advice; it is simply guidance aiming to help you have a better-informed discussion with your requester or FoI Practitioner, or to consider steps you might take in advance.