UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and its component institutions, including the BGS, are regarded as public authorities for the purposes of meeting these two pieces of legislation.
As part of UKRI, the BGS is committed to meeting its obligations under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004, both of which came into operation in January 2005.
Under FOI, the BGS will disclose, on request, information it holds about its organisation and operation, although there are a number of exemptions under which information may be withheld.
The environmental information that the BGS holds is exempt en bloc from disclosure under FOI and instead is dealt with under EIR instead. Under EIR we will disclose, on request, environmental information we hold, but again there are a number of exceptions under which information may be withheld.
About FOI and EIR
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 gives you, as an individual, a general right of access to all types of recorded information held by public authorities, including the BGS. It sets out exemptions to that right and places obligations on public authorities such as us.
Under the Act, any member of the public can apply for access to information held by public sector bodies and you are entitled to get information by making a request in writing to us (unless the information is exempt under the Act). You will have the right:
- to be told by us whether we hold the information you are requesting
- (if we do) to have us pass that information to you
We will do our best to meet the time limit laid down in the Act for dealing with a request for information — that is, within 20 working days. You will have the right to appeal to the Information Commissioner if you think we did not deal with your request in line with the Act.
Much of the information on our organisation and structure is freely available, but we may charge a fee for processing some FOI requests and these charges are explained in the NERC publication scheme.
The environmental information held by the BGS is exempt under FOI, because the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 apply instead.
The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) give you a general right of access to environmental information held by public authorities, including the BGS. As with the FOI, the EIR set out exceptions to that right and place obligations on public authorities such as the BGS. Under EIR, any member of the public can apply for access to environmental information held by public sector bodies.
Requests for environmental information under EIR can be made verbally or in writing (hard copy/electronic) and the BGS will respond in writing. We may contact you if a request is considered too general, to try to determine what information is required.
The time limit for us to deal with your request for information is 20 working days. We can make a reasonable charge for providing you with environmental information under EIR. Information on our charges can be obtained through BGS Enquiries.
Under EIR, there are a number of exceptions, which may mean we cannot provide you with the environmental information requested. If this happens, we will explain our decision in a refusal notice. This may involve an explanation of the reasons why it is in the public interest to withhold the information.
If we do not hold the information you request, we will do our best to forward your request (with your permission) to another public authority that does hold it.
If you are dissatisfied with the way we deal with your request, you can apply to our internal complaints procedure, through:
The Complaints Officer at NERC
North Star Avenue
You must apply in writing within 40 working days of receipt of our refusal notice. We will respond to your complaint within 40 working days and, if you are still dissatisfied with our response, you have the right to appeal to the Information Commissioner.
How the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004 and the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018 work together within the BGS.
Many requests to the BGS for environmental information are made as FOI requests. Section 39 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 then exempts environmental information held by the BGS from being dealt with under FOI and provides it should be dealt with under EIR.
Requests for personal information, where the applicant is the subject of the information, are dealt with under DPA, which can be obtained via HMSO.
In effect, the three pieces of legislation work together, with EIR enabling access to scientific/environmental information held by the BGS, DPA enabling access to personal information of which the applicant is the subject, and FOI enabling access to all other BGS information (such as its structure and organisation).
Contact BGS Enquiries for further information. Please note that, whereas requests for information under the FOI Act must be made in writing, under EIR we can accept recorded requests made verbally.