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Guidance on the Use of Freedom of Information Requests for Research Purposes

Freedom of Information (FoI) requests legally compel public organisations to produce the information that is asked for in the request, if it falls within the legal criteria for such requests. Answering a FoI request may involve considerable resources if the information cannot easily be extracted from an organisation’s IT systems, or has not already been collated for other purposes. Organisations receiving FoI requests for information for research purposes are therefore likely to see this as a particularly aggressive form of data collection, and qualitatively different from a standard request concerning whether they are able to provide information that is important for a research project. 

Using an FoI request to obtain information for the purposes of research should only be used under the following circumstances:

  1. The information cannot be obtained via more usual and less aggressive means.
  2. The research justifies the time and cost to the organisation(s) approached (e.g. we would not expect an undergraduate dissertation to justify this)
  3. The potential future cost to any current or future relationship between the University and the organisation(s) has been considered.