FOI reference: FOI/17/02204
Date received: 10 October 2017
Date responded: 9 November 2017
Information from the Scottish Chief Scientist Office under the Freedom of Information Act regarding 'Comparison of adaptive pacing therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, graded exercise therapy, and specialist medical care for chronic fatigue syndrome (PACE): a randomised trial', GRC reference G0200434. Available here: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)60096-2/abstract
Please would you provide the following:
1. A list of any peer-reviewers, including external reviewers, involved in the grant process.
2. Copies of any and all statements on conflict of interest made to the Scottish Chief Scientist Office by any peer-reviewers, including external reviewers, and all those at the SCSO involved in the application.
3. A copy of the grant application, the final version and any earlier applications if applicable.
4. A list of the board or committee members who considered this application and decided to grant funding.
Your review request stated the following:
I would stress again that the information I am requesting concerns only the decision by the SCSO to grant funds for this trial.
I am also aware that there may not have been a board or committee, but that the decision may have been taken by an individual in the SCSO. I would like to know who. If these people or this person made a statement on any conflict of interest relating to this decision, then I would like a copy of such statement.
I am aware that there may not have been peer-reviewers or external reviewers, if not then please say so. If there were peer-reviewers either internal or external to the SCSO, then I would like a copy of any statements on conflict of interest made by these advisers.
I have now completed my review of our response to your request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA).
I have concluded that the original decision should be confirmed with modification. I will deal with the modification below. I confirm that the information you requested in points 1-4 of your original request is not held by the Scottish Government because the Medical Research Council was the lead funder of the PACE trial and undertook all attendant administrative tasks, including the application's assessment. As such, the Scottish Government did not receive any of this information.
Although it doesn't fall within the scope of your request, you may be interested in the enclosed which is email correspondence between the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) and the Medical Research Council (MRC), and the former's decision to contribute to the trial. As you will see from this correspondence the CSO's decision to contribute to the PACE trial followed on from discussions with the then Chief Scientist, Professor Roland Jung, and Professor Sir George Radda, former Chief Executive of the Medical Research Council. As you will also note from the correspondence, the application in question was considered by the MRC's Health Services and Public Health Research Board (HSPHRB), which found it to be of 'high strategic merit'. As can be inferred from the attached email correspondence, the application was received by MRC and the peer review and scoring completed before the CSO was asked to contribute to the project. This explains why the Scottish Government does not hold any of this information. As you will also see there are hand written codes on the attached email correspondence. We have conducted further searches of our records using these codes but no further information was found.
It is worth pointing out that this email correspondence was released as part of a previous FOI request in 2007. As part of that release the words 'Alpha A' were redacted because an exemption was applied under section 30(c) (prejudice to effective conduct of public affairs). The exemption was applied because it is essential for officials to be able to communicate, often in confidence, with external stakeholders on a range of issues, including the peer review process. I have, however, concluded, after consulting with the MRC, that this exemption is no longer applicable and that the information can now be released in full.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested, namely statements made by individuals about any conflict of interest relating to the decision to contribute to the trial. However, you may wish to contact Medical Research Council, whose details I have listed contact details below:
Post: Information Officer Medical Research Council
Corporate Affairs Group 2nd Floor, David Phillips Building Polaris House Swindon SN2 1ET
Tel: 01793 416387
The reasons why we don't have the information are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
The Scottish Government does not have the information you have asked for because the Medical Research Council was the principal funder of the project and handled all attendant administrative duties.
This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House