Yesterday I received this reply from NE to a request for information about our Hen Harrier study.
Dear Dr Avery,
Access to Information Request – Request Number RFI 3112
Thank you for your request for information relating the Hen Harrier study which we received on 01 September 2015.
Your request has been considered under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
Please find our response below
1. Is the study of Hen Harrier tagging completed?
No, our studies involving tagged Hen Harriers are ongoing. This year we worked closely with the RSPB-led EU Life project, landowners and other partners involved in Hen Harrier conservation. A further six nestlings were fitted with satellite tags by Natural England.
2. Has a PhD been submitted?
A PhD has not yet been submitted. As a result, we have no relevant responses in relation to your questions 3, 4 and 5.
3. If so, has the PhD thesis been examined?
4. If so, has the thesis been approved?
5. If so, in which library is the PhD lodged and where can members of the public gain access to it
6. What plans does NE have to publish the data and to publicise the results of the study?
As you may be aware, data from Hen Harriers satellite-tagged in the period 2007-2014 has already been published in summary form.
We have also published a summary report A future for the Hen Harrier in England? based on monitoring and radio-tracking data collected up to 2008. We intend to publish further reports based on a more comprehensive analysis of monitoring and tracking data collected during the course of the Hen Harrier Recovery Programme (HHRP). We have no plans to publish the raw data itself as this would compromise the locations of sensitive sites utilised by Hen Harriers including breeding sites and communal winter roosts.
7. What would be the process of obtaining copies of the data for personal scientific analysis? It has, unfortunately, taken longer than originally envisaged for data collected through the HHRP over recent years to be analysed and the results published. It remains our intention to carry out this work. However, we would be open to proposals from bona fide researchers to further utilise the large amounts of data that have been collected through the programme. Because of concerns over the sensitivity of the data (referred to above) any proposal would be considered on a case by case basis and we would require the appropriate assurances over data security. We would need to reach agreement on the nature and timing of subsequent publications to ensure that these did not compromise the data analysis that is already underway.
8. Were the locations of all Hen Harriers which ‘disappeared’ or whose satellite tags ‘failed’ given to the appropriate police authorities as information which would be relevant to possible crimes? Please supply details. Whenever data from tags fitted to Hen Harriers yielded information suggesting that a bird may have died at a particular location in the UK, this information was passed to the local Police or to staff at the National Wildlife Crime Unit and Natural England assisted with any follow-up searches on the ground. This applied to a relatively small number of birds, including two that were confirmed, through recovery and subsequent post mortem, to have been shot. The majority of the satellite-tagged birds ceased to provide data in circumstances that did not indicate a likely final resting location for the bird. This stems from the fact that the tags are solar-powered and require an average of around 48 hours to charge up between each series of locations transmitted. During this period we receive no information on the location of the bird which may travel a considerable distance from its last known location. This information has been shared with partners and has been published in summary form, but it was not always passed directly to the Police.
9. Does the £10k published cost of the study include the salary of the NE staff member most intimately involved with the work? No, this figure includes only the registration costs and university fees and does not include the costs of Natural England staff time or equipment and tags required for the study. The practical work to collect data for a PhD, including time spent locating nests, fitting tags and subsequent tracking, was undertaken as part of work on Natural England’s Hen Harrier Recovery Programme (HHRP). The opportunity was taken to use some of this data for a PhD study, with the majority of the additional time required for this contributed voluntarily by the staff member.
10. Does the £10k published cost of the study include the accommodation and subsistence costs of the NE staff member most intimately involved with the work? No, as stated above, the £10k includes only the costs of registration and university fees.
11. What are the true costs of this study to the tax-payer once NE staff time, supervision, travel, accommodation and subsistence are included?
As stated above, fieldwork and data collection has been undertaken as part of Natural England’s HHRP. The data analysis for the PhD has been undertaken outside of work by the staff member working on it and so has not involved additional costs for Natural England.