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FOIA Exemption

February 3, 2010

Lookie here. Turns at that those of us who have been saying that not every scientist is required by law to release all of their data or their research if they’ve been FOIA’d…why, we’ve been right all along. I think it’s even true ethically speaking. It could not be the case, and it ought not to be the case, that every scientist should be required to release all information and all data if someone files a request for that information.

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8 comments

  1. That isn’t a court ruling, it’s a statement by Penn State’s law firm. The same law firm supported Penn State in claiming that coach Joe Paterno’s salary wasn’t a matter for the public and the court ruled they were incorrect and his Paterno’s salary had to be released.


  2. No kidding, Jim, but it suggests that there’s a legal question about the extent to which the researchers are subject to the FOIA request.


  3. Ben, so you are now changing from “we’ve been right all along” to “it suggests that there’s a legal question”? Do you even realize the difference?

    Penn State’s law firm stating this doesn’t make it true, it simply states their position. In fact it doesn’t really change anything. It certainly isn’t worthy of crowing “we’ve been right all along”.


    • Listen. My claim was always that there may be other extenuating factors that interfere with the absolute authority of a FOIA request. In other words, one is not necessarily obligated. Apparently, other people agree that one is not necessarily obligated.

      So no, I don’t see the difference.


  4. Curiously it is pretty clear that state universities in Colorado and Virgina ARE subject to their FOIA laws.


  5. Beyond the legal question, isn’t there an issue of the scientific process? Science is supposed to be about reproducible research. One’s data and processes need to be available for the cross-checking and examination to proceed.

    Add to that concern the one about funding from public/government money. The public paid for the research.


    • That’s a different question, it’s an interesting one, and it’s one that I think can be answered by the un-universalizability of a release of information requirement. I’ve tried to suggest this before, but as a practical matter you simply can’t universalize this principle and have science function, so it ought not to apply in all circumstances.


    • Not one’s Email and grocery list



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