University Defends Against Climategate Criticism

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

The University at the centre of the Climategate emails scandal denies it broke information laws

The University whose stolen emails sparked the Climategate scandal has defended itself against criticism from the Information Commissioner.

The Climatic Research Unit, at the University of East Anglia, has been accused of obstructing requests for its climate change data made by critics of the theory of man-made global warming. Yesterday, based on information gleaned from emails which were released by hackers in November, the Information Commissioner said the Unit had broken the rules of the Freedom of Information Act – but was immune from prosecution because the offence was more than six months old.

Apparently the Commissioner did not bother to tell the University of its conclusion. “The University learnt yesterday that the Information Commissioner’s Office (the ICO) had made a statement to the media regarding the University’s handling of requests under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act. We have not received any further information from the ICO although we are urgently trying to contact them,” said the vice-chancellor, Professor Edward Acton.

“The ICO’s opinion that we had breached the terms of Section 77 is a source of grave concern to the University as we would always seek to comply with the terms of the Act,” Professor Acton continued. “During this case we have sought the advice of the ICO and responded fully to any requests for information.”

The University’s handling of requests under the Freedom of Information Act is part of an independent review being carried out by Sir Muir Russell, along with accusations that the group tampered with data and obstructed the academic peer-review process.

Professor Acton clearly believes the ICO has jumped the gun and should wait for the Muir Russell inquiry to report: “I look forward to receiving his report and as I have said before it will be published and I will act accordingly if he finds there is indeed substance in these allegations.”

A spokesperson for Sir Muir Russell said his review panel would be announcing its work plan and personnel shortly and would be liasing closely with the ICO and sharing information when appropriate.