There has been more controversy over access to research information through FOI today. The University of Stirling has protested against the tobacco giant Philip Morris making FOI requests for details about its research, a large scale study into the effects of smoking involving 6,000 people between the age of 13 and 24. The Scottish Information Commissioner did not uphold the appeal by the University (see the decisions here and here). The information has not yet been released.
This is the latest example of FOI being used to access ongoing research data following on from the UEA Climate gate scandal. This was recently discussed at a series of workshops across the UK.
The concern is that, as with the data on climate change, exposing certain parts of the study or having access to the raw data before the findings are analysed can be used by those with an agenda to misrepresent or undermine research. One of the academics has claimed the release would have enormous implications for academic freedom and has raised concerns over protecting the privacy of those involved. Interestingly, unlike FOI in the UK, the Scottish FOI Act contains an exemption for research that is ongoing, though it appears it has never been used.