February 16, 2015

Who's behind the provision in Scott Walker's budget that empowers the UW to keep its research secret?

John Fauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wants to know. He asked Walker's press secretary and got the answer "I will refer your question to the UW, thanks!" He asked the director of the office of research policy in the office of the vice chancellor at UW and got the answer "I really don't know... We do support the idea, but I don't know how the process began."

Maybe it's a secret, the origin of the desire to keep secrets. But, come on, track down the answer!

Fauber proceeds to talk to Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. Readers of this blog may remember that name from the old blog post "How stupid/evil was Bill Lueders's attack on Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser?"

So, anyway, Fauber proceeds to talk to Lueders, and Lueders brings up the "UW Psilocybin Pharmacokinetics Study" — research, using healthy volunteers, looking into the usefulness of psilocybin in the treatment of anxiety in cancer patients. (Here's Michael Pollan's recent New Yorker article looking very favorably at this area of research.)

Fauber quotes Lueders: "The university could be getting test subjects whacked out of their gourds on psilocybin declaring that all records related to this research are exempt from the law unless or until the results are published."

How about actually finding out who proposed the secrecy and why?

ADDED:  On February 5th, in a post written by Lueders, the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council issued an "action alert" on the proposal:
This is the third attempt in recent years to shut off public access to records of university research. The first prior attempt occurred in May 2013. University officials asked the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee to insert language into the budget to shut down access to records of UW-Madison research. They were not successful. A memo to lawmakers circulated as part of this effort specifically cited the UW's desire to avoid having to respond to requests for research involving the use of animals, an area of study that even defenders believe raises ethical questions that warrant public awareness and discussion....

Current law already allows state universities, like any state or local public authority, to deny access to records if they can make the case that the harm from release outweighs the presumption that the public is entitled to access....
So the idea has been around for a few years. That makes Fauber's lead-off sentence seem a bit overheated: "No one seems to want own up to a provision in Gov. Scott Walker's biennial budget..." And it's not as if the University is disowning the the idea:

Under Wisconsin law, access to records can be denied if the university shows the harm of doing so outweighs the presumption of public access.
In a prepared statement, UW said the provision was needed for several reasons, including "to protect our competitive advantage in grant seeking and research, as well as our leadership position in academic technology transfer.... While we cannot point to a specific instance of lost intellectual property or misappropriated research, we seek to optimize our role as an economic engine for the State of Wisconsin...."
It's also expensive to deal with these requests:
[The UW's statement said that the] UW got a records request from USA Today in October, seeking all open and closed session minutes for its Institutional Biosafety Committee. It said fulfilling the request consumed an employee's entire time for nearly 31/2 months.

29 comments:

Mark said...

I am sure they will blame it on a drafting error again.

No one takes responsibility in the Walker administration. The buck never stops with Walker. Ever.

SteveM said...

It may be to ensure that any inventions are not publicly disclosed more than one year prior to the filing of a patent application on that invention, which would render the patent claims directed to that invention invalid under 35 USC 102(b).

MaxedOutMama said...

And also there may be something about animal testing, given the controversy you just touched on lately.

dbp said...

At least with human testing, some level of secrecy could be from compliance with HIPAA.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Who's behind the provision in Scott Walker's budget that empowers the UW to keep its research secret?

I wonder if the research involved routers.

tam said...

I would suspect that it was due to the shutdown of the cat research project at UW. I wonder if the photos of the test subjects that PETA published would be off-limits under the new policy.

Meade said...

"Maybe it's a secret, the origin of the desire to keep secrets. But, come on, track down the answer!"

John Doe Investigation #3!

Curious George said...

"Mark said...
I am sure they will blame it on a drafting error again.

No one takes responsibility in the Walker administration. The buck never stops with Walker. Ever."

"I will refer your question to the UW, thanks!"

That doesn't trigger a defense against your Pavlovian idiocy whenever Walker is mentioned? Or this?

Vice chancellor at UW "I really don't know... We do support the idea, but I don't know how the process began."

Curious George said...

"Mark said...
I am sure they will blame it on a drafting error again.

No one takes responsibility in the Walker administration. The buck never stops with Walker. Ever."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hfYJsQAhl0

Roger Sweeny said...

In any well-run organization, the meeting minutes are kept in a computer file that is easily accessed. Printing them out (or sending them as an email attachment) shouldn't take more than a few hours.

I'm assuming the three and a half months was what it took to decide what to release and what to "redact."

Either that or the UW has some major management problems.

Titus said...

Can you marry Walker Helen? You suck on his cock constantly

Meade said...

"Can you marry Walker Helen?"

Walker is already married, Titus. But if he wasn't, even you could marry him. (That is, if you weren't already married.)

David said...

[The UW's statement said that the] UW got a records request from USA Today in October, seeking all open and closed session minutes for its Institutional Biosafety Committee. It said fulfilling the request consumed an employee's entire time for nearly 31/2 months.

Really? Three and a half months of work? That could be true only if (1) the minutes were a mess and had not been kept properly or (2) they spent a huge amount of time figuring out what to redact.

Three and a half months to recover the minutes of one committee? Whatever caused that, it was their own fault.

Biff said...

"UW got a records request from USA Today in October, seeking all open and closed session minutes for its Institutional Biosafety Committee. It said fulfilling the request consumed an employee's entire time for nearly 31/2 months."

It might be worth asking why it would take 3 1/2 months to assemble the meeting minutes of a single committee.

Gahrie said...

No one takes responsibility in the Obama administration. The buck never stops with Obama. Ever.

FTFY

Biff said...

David, you beat me to the punch!

Gahrie said...

You suck on his cock constantly
You say that like it is a bad thing.....

Kind of curious for a flamer...

garage mahal said...

If Scott Walker wants secrets maybe secrets are a good thing. And what about Obama.

BarrySanders20 said...

Garage,

It is the university that wants the protection.

They have significant commercial interests in keeping some research from public disclosure. Figuring out how to draft a law that prevents abuse of the privilege (covering up embarrassment or stupidity or simply avoiding scrutiny or controversy) is the hard part.

Curious George said...

Who did it? Moot. The draconian 2.5% budget cut is going to destroy the UW ability to do research anyway. At least that's what ARM and MM said.

Michael K said...

"No one takes responsibility in the Walker administration."

Especially when they are accommodating a request from the university and did not expect that the left would use it as a fishing expedition. I suspect animal research is part of the reason.

Carol said...

Animal research, and maybe the fact that academic shrinks love to fuck with people's heads...witness Ted Kaczynski's experience at Harvard.

Ann Althouse said...

"Really? Three and a half months of work? That could be true only if (1) the minutes were a mess and had not been kept properly or (2) they spent a huge amount of time figuring out what to redact."

Are you taking into account that "Under Wisconsin law, access to records can be denied if the university shows the harm of doing so outweighs the presumption of public access"? It's not a matter of "figuring out what to redact," but showing that you've rebutted the presumption. That sounds rather difficult, don't you think?

Care to retract your statement?

Laura said...

"You say that like it is a bad thing....."

Unless the appendage under discussion is bifurcated, Helen's dedication to her task would make it unavailable for other MANipulations.

Titus said...

Do you wear a Walker For President tanky?

Mary, I think you want to do Walker, even if he had a hideous bald spot.

He needs to change up the dew. Shorter cut which won't highlight that hideous ball spot on the top of his head. It can e done.

tits.

richard mcenroe said...

UW Prof tells cheering students: "Democracy cannot work as it currently stands!"

http://tinyurl.com/lotywhq

In solidarity with that sentiment, planting season is coming up here in Texas. Please send me two bespectacled UW intellectuals for use as farm hands. I promis to treat them in an historically appropriate, undemocratic fashion.

The Cracker Emcee said...

'Do, Titus. God, you're white.

Zach said...

Publishing research before it's done is legally and ethically questionable. Part of publishing is a researcher officially vouching for their work -- the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," so to speak. If the person who generated the data is not vouching for it, it's not really ready for other people to read.

The patent issue mentioned earlier is a very valid concern, as are other questions of priority and the desire to increase the impact of research by doing additional work before releasing it.

In "How I killed Pluto (and why it had it coming)," Mike Brown tells a story of suspected plagiarism, where someone skimmed the coordinates of a planet with an orbit beyond Pluto's from a conference abstract. They made perfunctory observations and claimed discovery for themselves. Now Brown, who put several years into writing the software necessary to find this planet and was delaying publication in order to make really good observations using a top of the line telescope, couldn't claim discovery, name the planet, or place his really good article in a top rank journal. So instead of a career highlight and a minor piece of immortality, he's got a nasty little priority dispute that can't help but make everyone involved look grubby and mean.

Zach said...

I should say, "apparently skimmed the coordinates...".

Brown can't prove anything, but the sequence of events are certainly consistent with that theory.

And Brown isn't the real victim of the story -- he has tenure at Caltech. The real victims are the grad students and postdocs who should have had an article on the cover of Science or Nature to point to when applying for jobs, but ended up in second place on their own discovery.