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ICO waves stick at climate boffins over FoI compliance

University staff trained on small print of the act

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The Information Commissioner's Office has made its first move to force a public sector organisation to improve its compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

It has required the University of East Anglia (UEA) to sign a commitment to further improve the way it responds to FoI requests.

Until now, the ICO has only required undertakings from organisations for data protection breaches.

The move follows the disclosure of emails from the university's Climatic Research Unit in November 2009, which showed an apparent reluctance to respond to valid requests for information about its involvement in ongoing climate research.

While the ICO found that the university already had relevant policies and procedures in place, it has required it to ensure that staff receive adequate training on the requirements of the FoI Act.

UEA has also committed to a review of its present systems for the archive, storage and retrieval of emails with emphasis on reducing the prevalence of localised procedures.

Christopher Graham, the information commissioner, said: "I am pleased that the University of East Anglia has already taken steps to address our concerns and am confident that they will build on this to further improve compliance.

"This is the first occasion on which we have sought formal undertakings to secure compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. Our tougher enforcement strategy makes it clear that public authorities will face similar action if they fall short of their responsibilities to promote openness and transparency."

This article was originally published at Kable.

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