Let me review the request situation for readers. There are two institutions involved in the present round of FOI/EIR requests: CRU and the Met Office. Phil Jones of CRU collects station data and sends his "value added" version to the Met Office, who publish the HadCRU combined land-and-ocean index and also distribute the CRUTEM series online.

I requested a copy of the "value added" version from the Met Office (marion.archer at metoffice.uk.gov) which has been refused for excuses provided in my last post. On June 25, 2009, learning that Phil Jones had sent a copy of the station data to Peter Webster of Georgia Tech, I sent a new FOI request to CRU ( david.palmer at uea.ac.uk) requesting the data in the form sent to Peter Webster. This too was refused today.

We now have a new excuse to add to our collection of excuses - each excuse seemingly more ridiculous than the previous one.

My most recent request was as follows:

Dear Mr Palmer,
Pursuant to the Environmental Information Regulations, I hereby request a copy of any digital version of the CRUTEM station data set that has been sent from CRU to Peter Webster and/or any other person at Georgia Tech between January 1, 2007 and Jun 25, 2009.

Thank you for your attention,

Stephen McIntyre
The full response was as follows. (I've included full address particulars for readers that may wish to follow up):
Dear Mr McIntyre


Your request for information received on 26 June 2009 has now been considered and it is, unfortunately, not possible to meet all of your request.

In accordance with Regulation 14 of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 this letter acts as a partial Refusal Notice, and I am not obliged to supply this information and the reasons for exemption are as stated below:

Exception Reason
Reg. 12(5)(f) - Adverse effect on the person providing information Information is covered by a confidentiality agreement

Regulation 12(5)(f) applies because the information requested was received by the University on terms that prevent further transmission to non-academics

Regulation 12(1)(b) mandates that we consider the public interest in any decision to release or refuse information under Regulation 12(4). In this case, we feel that there is a strong public interest in upholding contract terms governing the use of received information. To not do so would be to potentially risk the loss of access to such data in future.

I apologise that not all of your request will be met but if you have any further information needs in the future then please contact me.

If you have any queries or concerns, or, if you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request please contact me at:
University of East Anglia
Telephone: 0160 393 523
E-mail: foi AT uea.ac.uk

You also have the right of appeal against the decision. If you wish to appeal please set out in writing your grounds of appeal and send to me at the same address as noted above.

Subsequent to our determination of your appeal, you also have a further right of appeal to the Information Commissioner at:
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Telephone: 01625 545 700

Yours sincerely
David Palmer
Information Policy and Compliance Manager
University of East Anglia
This is the first time that we've heard that their supposed confidentiality agreements merely restrict "further transmission to non-academics". A couple of observations on this. I'm sure that CRU will soon receive a similar request from someone to whom this excuse does not apply.

However, aside from that, there are other troubling aspects to this refusal. If there actually are confidentiality agreements, I would expect the relevant language to be framed in terms of "academic use" as opposed to guild membership i.e. I'd be surprised if the language were framed in terms of institutional affiliation as opposed to use. I've published relevant articles in peer reviewed literature, acted as an IPCC reviewer, been cited in IPCC AR4, been invited to present to a NAS panel - my use of data is "academic" by any legal standard.

Secondly, over at the Met Office, they say "it cannot be determined which countries or stations data were given in confidence as records were not kept." But over at CRU, they purport to "know" nuanced details of the contractual language of the confidentiality agreements - clauses that have the effect of justifying the refusal of the data.