Monday, July 27, 2009

Attention, legal beagles!
Could this happen in the UK?

I am an assistant professor (about 3 years into starting my lab) at a research university. On Monday of this week, I received an email from a freedom of information act specialist saying that a secretary at another research university had requested a copy of my recently funded R01 and that I had 5 days to comply. I called the secretary (who was requesting for an anonymous physician) and explained to her that there was a ton of unpublished data and a research plan for the lab that I thought when writing was confidential. I then offered to send her the grant in its entirety without government involvement if she would have the physician send me an email promising to keep it confidential. I should point out that I am very good about sharing reagents and have given out my grants (funded R01, R21, R03 and foundation grants) to others with the agreement that they stay confidential. Two days after my phone call (and subsequent email), this secretary sent a very curt email saying that they "preferred to go through the freedom of information act."

The same bloke adds in comments:
"Also, it actually makes you wonder if the lab notebooks filled with data generated with NIH money are also subject to the FOIA."

Over here, the EPSRC publish a synopsis - usually a 1-3 paragraph lay summary of the research that you contribute with your proposal  - on each successful application. Do the other RCs do the same?

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