Tuesday, May 27, 2008

FOI research opportunity

The Scottish Information Commissioner and Strathclyde University have been awarded an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Collaborative Doctoral Studentship to explore civil society’s uptake of freedom of information legislation.

The Commissioner’s own interest in this area stems from the comparatively low level of appeals received by his office from those within civil society, with voluntary or campaign organisations accounting for only 4% of the appeals received by the Commissioner in 2007/2008. In light of this, the Commissioner is keen to explore civil society’s interaction with FOI.

Details of the post are as follows:

University of Strathclyde / Scottish Information Commissioner ESRC PhD Studentship (Sociology)

'Public Communication, Democracy and Citizenship: Assessing Civil Society Uptake of Freedom of Information'

The Department of Geography and Sociology at the University of Strathclyde has been awarded an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Collaborative Doctoral Studentship in partnership with the Scottish Information Commissioner for the topic 'Public Communication, Democracy and Citizenship: Assessing Civil Society Update of Freedom of Information'.

The doctoral researcher will undertake an analysis of the ways in which civil society groups have used freedom of information and access to documents provisions as part of their policy and campaigning work.

The aims of the study will be to:

1. Systematically map the use (or non-use) of FOI and associated legislation by a wide range of civil society organisations;

2. Examine the practice and strategy adopted by civil society organisations on FOI and how this fits with wider priorities in the organisation;

3. Contribute to academic debates on transparency, accountability and participative governance with particular reference to continuities and differences between accountability and transparency regimes in Scotland and England (and other devolved territories in the UK);

4. To contribute to policy debates on the role of civil society groups in enabling (or alternatively inhibiting) developments in transparency.

The award will run for three years from 2008-2011. The Doctoral award includes the full payment of fees to the University plus a basic maintenance grant. The annual standard rates of maintenance paid by the ESRC will be in the region of £14,300. There is a Research Training
Support Grant of £750. In addition the Commissioner will provide financial and in kind support towards the costs of fieldwork and other activities.

The deadline for applications is Friday 13 June 2008.

Further details, including details of the essential/desirable characteristics and full details of how to apply, can be obtained from Strathclyde University's website at http://gs.strath.ac.uk/.

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