One of the key recommendations of the House of Commons Justice Select Committee in its (July 2012) report into post-legislative scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was the introduction of a new exemption for research data. The Government accepted this recommendation in its official response late last year. (There is a brief analysis of the main recommendations of the Committee and how the Government has responded on our blog (http://tinyurl.com/pznfyex)).
Section 20 of the Intellectual Property Act 2014, which received Royal Assent on Wednesday 14 May, inserts a new qualified exemption. Subsection 1(a) of new section 22A provides that information is exempt from disclosure if it relates to information obtained in the course of, or derived from, a programme of continuing research that is intended for future publication. Subsection (1)(b) however, provides that the information will be exempt only if disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice a matter listed in that subsection. Public authorities will not be required to confirm or deny that they hold section 22A information if, or to the extent that, compliance would, or would be likely to prejudice, any of the matters mentioned in subsection (1)(b).
Any public authority can use this new exemption, not just universities. It mirrors the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, which has had a research data exemption (Section 27(2)) since its inception.