‘New Tasks are Facing the Laboratory’
On June 17th an international seminar on ‘Information Law and Politics’was held at the HSE Faculty of Law and a Research Laboratory on Information Law was unveiled.
The creation of the Laboratory on Information Law was a result of the collaboration between the Laboratory for Legal Studies of the HSE Center for Fundamental Studies and the student research club ‘Law in Information Society'.
Maria Yudkevich, HSE Director for Academic Development, addressed her opening speech to the staff members of the newly created laboratory:
—This is the second research laboratory at the HSE Faculty of Law. Our university has a tradition of creating economic and sociological laboratories. Now it's your turn. We are very glad that you already have a well-coordinated team of teachers and students. This is very promising.
Evgeniy Salygin, Dean of the HSE Faculty of Law, also addressed the seminar participants:
—I am happy to be here at the opening of the laboratory. I witnessed the building of this creative team, when the experienced and dynamic lecturer, Irina Bogdanovskaya, joined us, and the problems of information became interesting for researchers and students, and a team of like-minded people was brought together. This resulted in the creation of a laboratory. I would like the achievements of the laboratory to be actively used in the education process, and the laboratory's activity to overcome the limits of the faculty, the university and Russia.
After the official opening of the Laboratory of Information Law, the work of the international seminar began, where problems of access to scientific information as well as information on the activities of governmental bodies were discussed.
The seminar was chaired by Irina Bogdanovskaya, Professor of the Department of the Theory of Law and Comparative Law and Head of the Laboratory for Legal Studies of the HSE Center for Fundamental Studies. In her opening speech she said that the creation of the knowledge society needs further development of legal studies.
—In this changing world, the whole organizational system of academic interaction is changing - she said. National legal cultures are interacting more and more closely. In such circumstances, it is important to develop cooperation with foreign colleagues. In our field, we are just at the beginning of this path. And I am glad to introduce our first speaker - Paul Uhlir, Director of International Scientific and Technical Information Programs at The National Academies, USA.
Paul Uhlir started his presentation entitled ‘New paradigms for open knowledge environments'with the following statement:today we live in a situation when interdependencies between information exchange technologies, the organization of society and informational flow management institutions are undergoing major changes. Qualitative and quantitative differences between the information in conventional media and the newest digital ones are considerable. Digital information is filling the world;it is a kind of tsunami, one which you cannot avoid. You have to adjust to the new circumstances of the information exchange and try to benefit from it. Really, in the modern world the speed of data transfer has increased and the price of information transportation has fallen down;interactive online communication has become possible. All these changes speed up the process of worldwide distribution of knowledge. And this fact, in its turn, demands a new organization of informational flows'management.
The speaker moved on to talk about search systems. International cooperation is rapidly expanding. Most of all it involves economics, culture and of course the spheres of science and education. In this situation of rapid growth of the volume of information, it is important to focus efforts on creating various search systems (it is becoming harder and harder to find the necessary information in the information flow).
Speaking about the problem of limitation of access to information, P. Uhlir believes that such limitations lead to numerous negative consequences. In terms of science, limitation of access to information leads to an increase in the price of research and the probability of duplication. Limitations are barriers for innovative activity, since information cannot be implemented as industrial technologies etc. Generally, the effectiveness of research and educational processes decreases. This means that it is necessary to strive for the maximum open access to information.
According to P. Uhlir, information should be available by default. Only some exceptions are possible, those connected with secrets of state, national security, personal privacy and commercial confidentiality.
After the report the Faculty's guest answered questions from the audience, many of which were connected with legal regulation in the sphere of access to information. Paul Uhlir said that he did not cover these problems in his report. The issues of information are resolved by different laws. They include intellectual property law, copyright and commercial law. In the speaker's view, a solution of the problem may be setting different levels of information protection.
‘Access to the information on the activities of executive organs provides for general democratic principles of equality and freedom of speech and leads to a decrease in the level of corruption, since the executive activities become open. Open information allows a decrease in the time and price of searching for information for citizens, participants of economic relations and so on, and promotes social, economic and scientific development'- said N.Danilov in the beginning of his presentation.
Upon the launch of ‘e-government'in Russia, the number of visitors to the websites of government bodies of different levels almost doubled in 2009. In some cases, seasonal activity of users is registered. In particular, the number of visits to the website of the Ministry of Education and Science sharply increases during the period of final and entrance exams, and tends towards zero during the rest of the year. In spite of a large number of positive changes, the speaker drew the audience's attention to a number of problems regarding access to information. According to N.Danilov, we lack governmental policy in the sphere of provision of access to information, there is a lack of qualified staff and there is no system of training such staff. In addition to this, the unified information center gosuslugi.ru is obviously not perfect, and the websites of executive organs often publish information spontaneously and not in time, the information is poorly structured and the websites are not developed enough. Users are often not informed about the existence of certain websites.
Another problem is not less topical:as a response to an inquiry, the government can do as much as give a link to a document published in media or on a website. But the users can lack access, for example, if those people live in a village without a library and internet access. Frequently the required information is deleted from the archive after some time, and the link does not lead to the information.
During the discussion of the report, another question arose:the issue of access to information on court activities and publication of judicial decisions. Alexander Chaplinskiy, HSE postgraduate student, spoke about this problem in his report. The participants of the discussion were united in their opinion that courts of general jurisdiction, publishing their decisions, are subject to the norms of the law on the protection of personal data.
Summarizing the seminar, Irina Bogdanovskaya thanked Paul Uhlir for the fact that he at last had managed to reach Russia (his first attempt failed because of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano erruption) and all the other participants - for their active work. She said that the seminar made obvious the fact that there are new areas demanding comprehensive research, which means new tasks are facing the Laboratory,
Andrey Shcherbakov, HSE News Service