The leader ('The uses and abuses of freedom') is at least slightly measured, and concludes:
Scientific research, which has a value in its own right, but potentially also a commercial and social value, could be seen as the university's exclusive property. If the university and the research, however, have taxpayer funding, should the findings not be more widely available? In the end, the Information Commissioner might have to weigh the arguments – and that might be no bad thing.This brings us back to the fact that the decision appears to have been made already. I would have expected the writer of a leader to know this: have there been further developments since then? The University was given until 15 August to comply, and it isn't clear what has happened since then.
Significantly, the studies are funded by the public, and their findings are expected to (at the very least) inform public policy. Gerard Hastings' pleas that the children interviewed during these studies did not expect their data to fall into the hands of tobacco companies suggest that he hasn't fully appreciated what public funding implies. As somebody comments under the article, he should not have given assurances to subjects that would run counter to his obligations under FOI.
Significantly BMJ editor Richard Smith has also agreed that Philip Morris should see the data collected at Stirling. I agree that Philip Morris should have access too, not least because the Institute of Social Marketing and Cancer Research UK are behind the studies. Their agenda is specifically anti-tobacco, and it is hard to imagine that their research can be other than policy-led. This gives Philip Morris a legitimate interest.
Edit: The Scotsman quotes the office of the Scottish Information Commissioner:
In a statement, the office of Scotland's Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, said: "The commissioner has not ordered the university to release the information. He has found that the request was not vexatious, and ordered the university to make a substantive response to Philip Morris International.
"A substantive response could include release of the information in part or whole, or a refusal to release information with an explanation of why, under the provisions of the FOI Act, the university believes this to be the correct course of action.