In the University of East Anglia’s recent refusal of David Holland’s FOI request for documents received by IPCC Lead Author Tim Osborn pertaining to the October 2010 IPCC meeting, the University refused many items, stating that they had received “representations from the IPCC itself in which it objected to the release of some of the requested information” and “representations to our institution regarding the release of some the requested information, claiming that the release of the information would adversely affect their [IPCC] interests. They have provided reasons for their position, and where cited, we have accepted those reasons and explanations as justifiable.”
More recently, the Unversity issued a correction letter rescinding, for about half of the refusals, their reliance on IPCC representations about the dire adverse impact, observing that the documents were already public.
The University did not provide copies of the “representations” of the IPCC in which they supposedly objected to the disclosure of documents published on the IPCC website and one cannot help but wonder about what the University actually received from IPCC.
Here’s a quick review.
David Holland FOI 10-122/EIR 10-17
In the UEA’s Novemer 23, 2010 refusal of FOI_10-112/EIR_10-14 (Appendix E page 4 para 4), they wrote:
Additionally, recent guidance given to IPCC lead authors has clearly indicated that communication between lead authors is to remain confidential, and that emails and preliminary versions of work are not made public, cited, quoted nor distributed.
Holland requested “a copy of this guidance”. In addition, he added the following request:
I note that your Timothy Osborn is a lead author on the ongoing IPCC Fifth Assessment Report AR5 process and I presume recently attended the first Lead Author Meeting in China from 8 to 11 of this month. Please send me copies of all the documents he received in preparation for and resulting from that meeting, pertaining to the IPCC and the Assessment process. I am not interested in domestic correspondence concerning travel and accommodation, although I do consider any reimbursements arrangements relevant.
Most of the documents received by Osborn were on a memory stick. UEA provided some of the documents, noted that some were at the IPCC website and refused others using Reg 12(5)(a) and 12(5)(b), which they summarized as follows:
Reg. 12(5)(a), Adverse effect on international relations – Release of some information would adversely affect relations with the IPCC
Reg. 12(5)(f), Adverse effects on person providing information – Release of the requested information, would have an adverse effect on the persons providing the information
In their discussion of the refusal, the University stated that they had received specific representations from IPCC objecting to the release of some of the information:
Turning to Regulation 12(5)(a), we base this on representations received from the IPCC itself in which it objected to the release of some of the requested information. Clearly the IPCC is an international body as defined by the EIR and a number of UK-based academics are involved in the IPCC process. Release of some information in the face of the objections and representations provided to us by the IPCC would, we believe, damage the ability of UK-based academics to fully participate in this significant global initiative. Indeed, the IPCC has published guidelines, available on the web, that explicitly provide for, and demand, confidentiality of some information. To release information intended to be confidential would have a significant negative impact on relations with the IPCC generally, not just for UEA-based academics, but for all UK-based academics as well.
Regulation 12(5)(f) is cited on the basis that the IPCC WG1 Secretariat has made representations to our institution regarding the release of some the requested information, claiming that the release of the information would adversely affect their interests. They have provided reasons for their position, and where cited, we have accepted those reasons and explanations as justifiable. To release such information would significantly damage the reputation of the IPCC and its ability to work with academics from all nations.
Here is a list of the documents to which the IPCC apparently took specific exception to making public were Pachauri’s “Vision Paper” from the Venice meeting in July 2010, the proposed chapter outline for WG1 from Bali 2009 and the WG1 Style Guide:
3. IPCCE WG1 AR5 First Lead Author Meeting – Meeting Materials and Resources scanned booklet…
4) Chapter Outline Development
4. Memory stick provided to all participants
1) Background information
i) 01_Scoping Meeting (Venice_Jul10)
(a) Chairman’s Vision Paper:
(b) Policy Relevant Scientific Technical Topics to be Addressed in IPCC AR5: Compilation of submissions from Governments and Organizations –
(c) Scoping Meeting for the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the IPCC- Output from the Scoping meeting: Venice, Italy, 13-17 July 2009
ii) 02_B40 (Geneva_May10)
(a) Scoping Meeting Report: Government Comments
iii) 03_WGI-11 (Bali_Oct09)
(a) Proposed Chapter Outlines of the Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5)
(b) Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): Implementation Plan
(c) Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): Background Information
iv) 04_P-31 (Bali_Oct09)
(a) Scoping of the IPCC 5TH Assessment Report: Background, Cross cutting issues and AR5 Synthesis Report
(b) Chapter Outline of the Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): Revised version of WG-I: 11th /Doc.2 adopted by the Eleventh Session
(c) Scoping of the IPCC 5TH Assessment Report: Summary of comments on the draft scoping document
ii) WG1 AR5 Chapter template
iii) WGI AR5 Electronic Resources
iv) WGI AR5 Guide to Referencing with EndNote Web
v) Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report: Style Guide for Preparation of Chapter Drafts
The January 2010 Partial Retraction
In late January 2011, the University retracted about half of its refusals, observing that many of the refused documents had actually been published on the IPCC website.