Trouble in store for academics

"Academics face a major culture shock as the Freedom of Information Act starts to make an impact in the workplace. "

According to The Times, mail sent to academics and administrators will have to be opened centrally by their university when they are away on holiday or business. Under the Act academics and their universities have 20 working days to respond to an information request.

An extension has been granted for schools under the UK Act (but not in Scotland) which extends the limit for responding to requests to 60 days over the summer vacation since there will be no-one available to receive any requests during this time.

The retrospective nature of the Act means that all universities need to have efficient data management systems in place. Steve Bailey, information and records manager for the Joint Information Systems Committee, said that staff must ensure all post is opened while they are away to ensure that no requests are missed. He said that using email out-of-office assistants could buy some time: "Some people are sensitive about having mail opened. But information you create is for the benefit of the organisation, not you as an individual."

Open your post or fall foul of new Act (The Times Higher Education Supplement, 7 January 2005)