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University told to hand over tree ring data

Daniel Cressey

pine tree.jpgThe UK’s information watchdog has told a university it has to release the tree ring data at the centre of a long running freedom of information fight.

Douglas Keenan, an independent researcher, has been attempting to get Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) to give him data including the width of rings and the location of trees used by its climate researchers (see: Keenan’s website). The university refused and Keenan appealed to the Information Commissioner (see: Climate researcher vs FOI, part two, Nature).

Now the Commissioner has ruled that all the grounds cited by the university for withholding the data are not valid. “The Commissioner requires QUB to disclose the withheld information … within 35 calendar days of the date of this Notice.” it says in a ruling dated 29 March (pdf).

The ruling also states that there were “a number of procedural breaches” in the handling of Keenan’s request.

“This has taken three years, but it is worth it,” said Keenan in an email. “It is an important victory for FoI [Freedom of Information] on research data. Also, for global warming studies, the data is extremely valuable for reconstructing temperatures over past millennia."

“The University has received the Information Commissioner’s Decision Notice on this matter and is considering its position,” QUB said in a statement.

Image: photo by Steve & Jemma Copley via Flickr under creative commons.

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