Freedom of Information - judgement on confidentiality clause at a university

16 December 2010

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Category: Policy Issues

primates–monkey.jpgRecently, a tribunal ruled that under the Freedom of Information Act a university can be said to 'hold' project licences (irrespective of how they are actually stored at the university) and that section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) would not prevent disclosure of information from the project licences.

An updated briefing document by UAR gives details of the long-running case, and is available on our Freedom of Information page. The university is considering its position and an appeal has not been ruled out.

Understanding Animal Research supports progress towards increasing openness and transparency by those involved in animal research. We have made considerable progress in recent years, for example allowing journalists, MPs or schoolchildren to visit laboratories.

However, universities must be careful about sensitive and confidential information. We believe this ruling is of concern as it reveals that universities are not protected by section 24 of ASPA.

Project licences for animal studies are long and complex documents, containing confidential information about researchers and their intellectual property. It was never intended by either applicants or the Home Office that this level of detail should be handed over to animal rights groups.

The UK already makes summaries of project licences available on the Home Office website. It is one of only three countries in Europe to do so.