Harassing climate scientists

The attorney general of Virginia sued the University of Virginia about a year ago for access to materials related to Michael Mann's research when he was on the faculty there. The Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences adopted a statement urging the Attorney General either to justify his suit or to end it.

A judge threw out the suit. But that's not the end of it.

In January, the American Tradition Institute Environmental Law Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request "documents, including e-mails Mann exchanged with other scientists while employed at the university". Since the University of Virginia is a public institution, it must comply with the request, and it will provide the material by mid-August.

Here's part of what the Washington Post's editorial board has to say about the FOIA request:

Going after Mr. Mann only discourages the sort of scientific inquiry that, over time, sorts out fact from speculation, good science from bad. Academics must feel comfortable sharing research, disagreeing with colleagues and proposing conclusions -- not all of which will be correct -- without fear that those who dislike their findings will conduct invasive fishing expeditions in search of a pretext to discredit them. That give-and-take should be unhindered by how popular a professor's ideas are or whose ideological convictions might be hurt.
The board of AAAS agrees:

Scientific progress depends on transparency, the Board said, but "the sharing of research data is vastly different from unreasonable, excessive Freedom of Information Act requests for personal information and voluminous data that are then used to harass and intimidate scientists."
Let me repeat that last phrase. It captures my feelings precisely:

The sharing of research data is vastly different from unreasonable, excessive Freedom of Information Act requests for personal information and voluminous data that are then used to harass and intimidate scientists.


On a related note, Tamino has an excellent post describing the difference between what a real climate skeptic would be and what nearly all of those who call themselves skeptics really are -- people who cannot or will not accept scientific evidence. His particular example concerns the extent of Arctic sea ice, but the same pattern applies to many other examples of "skpeticism" concerning climate change.