FOI and First Contact

FOI Man brings you a tale of alien first contact from Scotland…

Last year Leicester City Council revealed their plans for responding to a zombie attack, and now Glasgow City Council has shown its preparedness for alien first contact. The council was asked:

“As mankind continues to advance and head out into the stars we are undoubtedly going to attract the attention of whatever lifeforms are out there. I’m curious to know what provisions have been put in place for our inevitable encounter.”

Glasgow’s Head of Information Governance, Dr Kenneth Meechan, could very easily have responded by answering that the information was not held, or claimed that the request was vexatious. But no. As he put it to me, he is “a science fiction fan [so] it’s nice to get a rare chance to mix work and pleasure”. I’m not sure whether or not the requester will be reassured that the council does not view alien contact as likely within the next five years. Aliens may be pleased to learn though that the council can assure them “a warm and peaceful welcome.” Overall, Dr Meechan concluded that contact was unlikely as “[t]he council does not own or control any radio telescopes” and because Glasgow only covers 0.00003% of the planet’s surface, making it statistically unlikely that aliens would choose to land there.

Not surprisingly perhaps, the request and its creative response attracted wide media coverage in Scotland. The Scotsman and The Herald each raised an amused eyebrow, whilst the Scottish Sun showed a picture of Mr Spock raising one whilst reporting on “wacky council number crunchers.” Ah well, you can’t win ’em all.

Last word goes to the Glasgow City Council spokesperson who told the Scottish Sun: “We like to go the extra mile to answer freedom of information requests — even if the truth isn’t out there.”

Thanks to Dr Meechan for sending me links to those articles, and for providing a bit of welcome FOI Friday fun.

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