Dates: 24-25 August 2021 (mornings only)
Format: Online via Microsoft Teams
Theme: Resilience: FOI & EIR During and After the Pandemic
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Practitioners' Conference, hosted by the University of Dundee's Centre for FOI in collaboration with the Scottish Information Commissioner, is specifically aimed at those working in FOI for a Scottish public authority, and provides them with practical advice and opportunities for discussion as well as the latest updates and developments in the field.
This year's event reflected on these extraordinary times - during which the importance of transparency and access to information is clearer than ever while those working in FOI are having to adapt to changes in ways of working and the legislation itself - and looked forward to other developments expected in the coming months. On a similar note, due to the continuing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the event took place online this year, which reduced the costs involved for delegates and opened it up to those who may not normally be able to attend in person. However, the conference is specifically aimed at FOI practitioners operating under the Scottish legislation.
The conference programme also had a new look, with the event split into two half-day sessions comprising a mix of presentation, authority case studies and facilitated discussions:
- Day One (Tuesday 24 August, 9:30am-12:30pm) looked back on FOI during the pandemic, including an opening address from the Scottish Information Commissioner and a summary of the impact of Covid-19 on FOI in Scotland and case studies of how some authorities responded.
- Day Two (Wednesday 25 August, 9:30am-12:30pm) focused on the future, with discussions around new approaches to proactive publication and examples of authorities' FOI improvement projects.
Opening session speakers were:
- Daren Fitzhenry, Scottish Information Commissioner
- Gerry Hendricks, Head of FOI Unit, Scottish Government
- Professor Colin Reid, University of Dundee
- Lynn Wyeth, Head of Information Governance and Risk, Leicester City Council, and doctoral researcher at De Montfort University, Leicester
In addition the programme featured case studies of FOI during the pandemic by Police Scotland, Care Inspectorate, East Renfrewshire Council, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Grampian and NatureScot. The conference also heard about FOI improvement projects by Highland Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, the Scottish Police Authority and NHS Fife.