Information Studies


Access to information and information policy

In the UK, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act 1998 are significant parts of the government agenda to increase openness, transparency, trust and accountability in the public sector. Worldwide, the impact of information policy and freedom of information legislation on public services, developments in open government data and the effectiveness of public authorities in meeting their obligations are significant factors in the accountability of governments to their citizens and of concern to all.

ICARUS researchers have undertaken a number of research projects which focus on the relationship between access to information and records and information management. These include Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project on FOI The impact of the Freedom of Information Act on records management in the public sector, 2008-09, Elizabeth Shepherd (PI) and Andrew Flinn (Co-I). Pilot work for the 2008-09 project was undertaken on a British Academy Small Grant, Elizabeth Shepherd, ‘How has the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 affected archive and records management services in public bodies in the UK?’, 2005. The researchers are co-investigators in INTERPARES Trust, 2013-2018 led by UBC, a multi-national research project which will develop new knowledge on digital records kept on social media and in the cloud and on methods for identifying and protecting the balance between privacy and access, secrecy and transparency, the right to know and the right to oblivion in globally connected networks. Doctoral students have researched country case studies including Peter Sebina's work on 'Records management and freedom of information: a learning curve for Botswana', 2003-2006 and Alicia Ramirez Gonzales's doctoral study on assessing the impact of and compliance with access to public information legislation, looking at the UK, Germany and Chile, 2011-.

ICARUS researchers have published articles from these projects (including ‘Freedom of Information and records management in the UK: what has been the impact?’, Journal of the Society of Archivists, 2007 and 'Freedom of information and records management in local government: help or hindrance?', Information Polity 2011), have collaborated on the production of seminars for practitioners and academic researchers about the use of FOI with the Research Information Network, and on the book A Flinn, and H Jones (eds.) (2009), Freedom of Information. Open Access, Empty Archives? London: Routledge.