It never pays to withhold information. The University of East Anglia has rightfully been sharply criticised by the Science and Technology Committee of Britain’s House of Commons for doing so.

As The Economist points out today, the criticisms of the first of three different reports on the “climategate” e-mails expected over the next few months over prima facie evidence that the Freedom of Information Act had been breached “were aimed more at the university authorities than at the scientists. The university, it found, had supported the scientists in non-disclosure, rather than helping them follow the act’s procedures”:

“If a small number of FOIA requests had been dealt with properly early on, it seems possible that the large number of requests last year (over 100) might have been averted, or could, perhaps, have been rejected as vexatious … The MPs’ most striking prescription is that climate science should hold itself, and be held to, a higher standard than heretofore when it comes to openness and transparency.”

By not offering that transparency, the University of East Anglia has ensured that headlines such as this one in The Daily Mail appears:

“Climategate university condemned for ‘unacceptable culture of secrecy”

And this BUT gets buried in the third paragraph down:

“But it cleared researchers at the university’s Climatic Research Unit of wrongdoing and said there was no evidence they manipulated data to strengthen a case for man-made global warming.”

For a brief moment, scientists such as those from East Anglia had the world’s ear. That moment has passed. Now, as their research is exonerated, no one’s listening.